Southeastern Conference commissioner Mike Slive offered a thinly veiled warning about the culture of honoring athletes and sports programs over all else in his opening remarks at Media Days on Tuesday in Hoover, Ala.
"No one person, no matter how popular, can be allowed to derail the soul of an institution," said Slive, who did not name Penn State or Joe Paterno specifically but referenced "last week's headlines."
The SEC had its own negative publicity in the offseason, including the scandal that led to the firing of Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino and the Sporting News report that Florida became an undisciplined and unchecked environment under Urban Meyer, citing records of 31 arrests during his six seasons and heated incidents involving players and coaches that weren't reported.
Slive said the SEC "must be ever vigilant on all issues of integrity."
The league continues to be an unabashed success on the field, including national champions six straight seasons.
The SEC tripled revenue distributed to schools since 2002, when Slive became conference commissioner, and adds two schools to the conference in August -- Texas A&M and Missouri. Slive spent 20 minutes talking to the 700 media members in attendance, quoting Shakespeare and Churchill and noting the league's immense progress since he arrived.
The conference did not have a minority head coach when Slive was hired -- it now has three minorities as football coaches, eight basketball coaches.
The SEC Network, which currently reaches 80 million homes in syndication, but the objective to join the Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12 with a national network is on Slive's frontburner.
There are contractual obstacles to clear, including the final two years of the conference's national broadcast contract with CBS and ESPN.
"I'd love to say more," said Slive, who identified the expanded TV plan Project SEC. "You'd love for me to say more. I won't say more."
In the shorter term, Slive is zeroed in on the Champions Bowl, a unique entity in that it is owned by conferences -- the SEC and Big 12 -- and is designed to complement the postseason structure to be established after 2014. The first Champions Bowl is scheduled to be played Jan. 1, 2015.