Mike Slive is a smart guy.
The SEC Commissioner proved that again Wednesday.
The occasion was the kickoff of the league's football media days. The event was Slive's annual state-of-the-conference speech. The subject matter had to do with this locomotive that has been sitting on the tracks at the NCAA's home office in Indianapolis.
Slive is sharp enough to know that train is about to leave the station. He's shrewd enough to know he'd like to be in the lead car.
So Slive punched up his address with proposals.
He proposed multi-year scholarships. He proposed establishing high school progress rates. He proposed that instead of going by the end result, high school academics be fully analyzed. He proposed creating a new category for "intentional" recruiting violations. He proposed eliminating the ban on text messages. He proposed a streamlined NCAA rulebook.
Slive also called for the required 2.0 GPA to be raised to a 2.5 GPA — with a trade-off. Prospective student-athletes who did not achieve a 2.5 could enroll in school, but not compete in athletic competition as freshmen.
Will all this be adopted by other conferences, much less Slive's own?
Probably not. And yet, Slive is the man who ignored a 12-0 vote from league coaches in favor of oversigning at the SEC Spring Meetings and persuaded league presidents to pass legislation outlawing the practice.
This is what mattered Wednesday: The commissioner placed himself and his league in a position to shape the debate at a time when change is unavoidable.
Mark Emmert has said as much. He has called a presidents retreat for next month. A "few new tweaks of the rules won't get the job done," said Emmert on the NCAA Web site this week.
Wednesday, Slive beat the retreat to the punch. He wrapped his talk around four major points: (1) redefine benefits/scholarships, (2) strengthen academic requirements, (3) modernize recruiting and (4) improve NCAA enforcement.
"Slive didn't say it, but all these proposals add up to this: The SEC fully supports early recruiting," tweeted John Infante, assistant director for compliance at Loyola Marymount University who writes for the Bylaw Blog.
To Infante, raising the required grade point average from a 2.0 to a 2.5 is not as monumental a change as establishing yearly high school progress targets.
"By far," said Infante when I asked him on Twitter.
To that end, Slive believes coaches should have more contact with recruits and high school personnel.
"If you are going to hold freshmen in (high school) accountable for their academic performance," said Infante, "you have to let college coaches talk to them."
With help from university personnel, coaches could advise prospective recruits on "which classes to take, whether to retake a class, how many classes, etc.," Infante said.
Here's the base problem: There is too much money in college athletics. Too much of it is going to coaches, athletic directors and conference commissioners. Where there's money there are those willing to bend or break rules to get that money. Where there is money, there is often corruption.
The answer isn't what John Calipari recently proposed. The six BCS conferences breaking away from the NCAA under the guise of "helping" student-athletes financially only allows those conferences an even bigger piece of the pie.
The answer should include a combination of realism and fairness. Right now, too much of the NCAA's approach is either unrealistic or unfair. Mike Slive might not have the answers. But, being a smart guy, he wants a voice in the discussion.