Mike Slive, the former Southeastern Conference commissioner who guided the league through a period of unprecedented success and prosperity, died Wednesday. He was 77.
The Southeastern Conference said Slive died Wednesday in Birmingham, where he lived with his wife of 49 years, Liz. The conference didn’t provide the cause of death.
Slive retired in 2015 after 13 years as commissioner. He was battling prostate cancer at the time he stepped down.
Slive replaced Roy Kramer as SEC commissioner in 2002 and helped clean up a conference that was beset by NCAA compliance issues. Soon after the SEC became the most powerful conference in college football, winning seven straight national championships and landing television contracts with billions.
He played a pivotal role in the creation of the College Football Football.
Slive oversaw a remarkable era of success in the SEC while helping shape the landscape of college sports as a national leader in college sports. Along the way he developed friends inside and outside the business of college athletics that lasted a lifetime.
The hallmark of this golden age of the SEC remains a remarkable seven consecutive Bowl Championship Series national titles in football. In all, the SEC won 81 national championships in 17 of its 21 sponsored sports during Slive’s tenure as SEC Commissioner. Through on-field success along with innovative initiatives, the brand of the SEC grew to new proportions under his direction.
“Commissioner Slive was truly one of the great leaders college athletics has ever seen and an even better person,” Alabama football coach Nick Saban said in a statement. “He was a wonderful friend to me and someone who I respected tremendously. Mike changed the landscape of the Southeastern Conference and helped build our league into what you see today. He was instrumental in growing college football and in the creation of the College Football Playoff. The professionalism he displayed throughout his career was second to none. He was an advocate for all of our universities and placed the utmost importance on the well-being of student-athletes. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family in this difficult time.”
His impact was felt far beyond the footprint of the SEC. The founding commissioner of two conferences – the Great Midwest Conference and Conference USA — he was also the founder of a law firm which assisted NCAA institutions in compliance matters, a Director of Athletics and a member of numerous leadership committees during the course of his career.
“We express our deepest sympathies to the Slive family,” Alabama athletics director Greg Byrne said in a statement. “Commissioner Slive was one of the most impactful leaders to positively shape college athletics, and so many universities, athletic departments and student-athletes have benefited from his leadership and vision. He will be deeply missed, and his legacy will be everlasting.”
A memorial will be held Friday at 11:30 am at Temple Emanu-El, 2100 Highland Avenue South in Birmingham, preceded by a private graveside service.