By Michael Smith, Sports Business Journal
Mike Slive spent 25 years as a conference commissioner, and for many of those years he was the most influential figure in college athletics. But the last eight months of his life might have left more of a lasting impression than the three previous decades.
It was during those final days that Slive, suffering from prostate cancer that would eventually cause his death at age 77, established the foundation in his name to combat the disease.
Auburn coach Bruce Pearl sports the colors for prostate cancer awareness during the Mike Slive Invitational last November.
This week will mark one year since Slive’s death on May 16, 2018. It also marks a milestone for the Mike Slive Foundation for Prostate Cancer Research. Founded in September 2017 — September is prostate cancer awareness month — the foundation has raised $500,000, and it’s just getting started.
“Everything we’re doing is really a tribute to his legacy,” said Anna Slive Harwood, his daughter and president of the foundation. “When I have a conversation with someone, whether it’s a commissioner or a benefactor or anyone, and I ask them to get involved, they launch into a story about what my dad did for them at some point in their career. And then they answer, ‘Yes. How can I help?’ It’s just been amazing.”
Slive and his daughter talked at length about the foundation’s priorities. Its events would be based in Birmingham, Ala., where he lived as SEC commissioner since 2002, but the grants issued by the foundation would be distributed beyond local cancer researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
After Slive’s death last year, the foundation planned a more formal launch in September with an evening celebration in Birmingham called “I’m With Mike” that auctioned off a range of items and experiences. SEC Network host and Slive’s friend Paul Finebaum emceed the gala. Among the items were a ticket package to the SEC football championship, a package to the College Football Playoff national championship and a behind-the-scenes tour of the SEC Network.
“Just stuff that people weren’t used to seeing at other events like that,” Harwood said. The event was the catalyst to $240,000 in donations in that first month.
The foundation turned that promising beginning into a growing slate of fundraiser and awareness events. Auburn and Alabama-Birmingham played a men’s basketball game under the Mike Slive Invitational name in November. The Invitational is coming back next basketball season with two teams to be determined. The foundation also teamed with Conference USA on a “Block Cancer” awareness initiative in February that had players wear blue warmup shirts and coaches wear blue ties for prostate cancer awareness. A 5k race in June rounds out the activities, but one or two more ideas are being discussed.
Anna Slive Harwood, the daughter of longtime college power player Mike Slive (right), keeps his memory alive through the Mike Slive Foundation for Prostate Cancer Research.
The money raised for research grants is a noble pursuit, but the foundation has bigger long-term goals. It is working with UAB to create a Mike Slive prostate cancer care center that could be replicated across the country. The center could be a stand-alone building, or it could be a floor or a wing in a hospital where prostate cancer patients go for treatment.