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DESTIN, Fla. – If it sounded like an ultimatum, it was. If it sounded like something new, it wasn't.

But when SEC commissioner Mike Slive said Friday that if the Power Five conferences don't get autonomy, "the next move would be to go to a Division IV," it was a reminder that as decision time draws near, the powerbrokers in college sports are intent on getting what they want – and concerned they might not get all of it.

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At various points in the last year or so during the push by the SEC, ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12 for the power to make their own rules – giving them the ability, among other things, to provide athletes with unprecedented benefits and resources like full cost of attendance scholarships – Slive and his fellow commissioners have taken out a verbal hammer.

They've suggested that while they want to work within the NCAA and to remain within Division I, they might be forced to take more extreme measures, including a separate subdivision or even a complete breakaway from the NCAA. If Slive's statements at the conclusion of the SEC's annual meetings at the Sandestin Hilton didn't break new ground, they were evidence that, in his eyes at least, the process has reached another critical juncture.

An official comment period on the draft proposal for change runs through late June. The steering committee for governance, which came up with the proposal, is scheduled to consider the feedback in July and then to forward a final proposal to the NCAA Division I board of directors, which will vote on it in August. It would then go to a vote of the full membership of Division I during the NCAA's annual convention in January.

At least two issues remain important sticking points for the Power Five: A proposed supermajority voting requirement, and limits on the Power Five's autonomy in the areas of rule interpretations, rule waivers and rule enforcement.

The supermajority would require approval of two-thirds of the 65 schools (plus 15 voting student-athlete representatives) and four of the five conferences to enact legislation.

RELATED: Supermajority controversy

When the draft proposal was released in April, several powerbrokers told USA TODAY Sports the requirement, if unchanged, could cripple the entire concept of autonomy. Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott called it "a red-flag concern," a sentiment echoed this week by many SEC presidents and athletic directors. The Power Five's working counterproposal, endorsed by the SEC, is for a 60 percent threshold (for the 65 schools and 15 student athletes) and approval by three conferences.

"There needs to be a threshold that shows a mandate (when a rule is passed)," said Slive, who added that a simple majority would be too low. "But you don't want a threshold so high that you can't create change."

Slive said he is "optimistic" autonomy will be approved. South Carolina president Harris Pastides, a member of the steering committee for governance and the Division I Board of Directors, said he is, too.

"There needs to be a little tweaking," Pastides said. "I don't think there's any huge hiccup."

But Florida president Bernie Machen said he is "pessimistic," given the hurdles that still must be cleared, that autonomy will win final approval in a form acceptable to the Power Five.

In a letter dated April 21 and sent to Wake Forest president Nathan Hatch, who chairs both the steering committee on governance and the Division I Board, Machen outlined his "serious concern" over both the supermajority requirement and the lack of authority that would be given to the Power Five to implement and manage the rules they pass. Machen, who provided the letter Friday to USA TODAY Sports, wrote that if those elements were not changed, it would "appear to limit the effectiveness intended when autonomous decision making was envisioned."

In the latter area, Machen wrote that the steering committee's proposal "essentially negates the (Power Five's) ability to fully implement autonomy," and that it was "critically important" that they have "exclusive authority to interpret, waive and enforce legislation adopted through the autonomy process" – meaning it would make no sense to have the ability to pass rules, but not to implement and manage them.

On Friday, Machen characterized approval of autonomy as an urgent issue because of the external pressures the NCAA is facing. On June 9, the O'Bannon case against the NCAA is scheduled to begin – and that's only one of several suits faced by the organization, not to mention the recent push at Northwestern for the football players to form a union.

"We've got these lawsuits coming down the pike at us," he said. "If we don't get (autonomy), I think there will be a real – I don't want to use the 'c' word – but there will be some real difficult times for the NCAA and the five conferences."

Machen clarified that he meant "crisis," and suggested, "the whole collegiate model is at risk."

It has been a very profitable model, especially for the SEC. His comments came shortly before an announcement that the SEC would divide total revenue of $309.6 million among its 14 schools this year. It's the highest total in league history, nearly double its haul just five years ago ($165.9 million), and with there's no reason to doubt it will continue to increase – unless, as Machen said "the whole thing (goes) up in smoke" because of those external pressures.

"We would love to be part of the NCAA Division I," Machen said, "but we're in a squeeze here. There are now six lawsuits that name our conference and specifically have to do with the whole cost of attendance (issue). … Yet we would like to make changes and yet we can't because the NCAA doesn't allow us to. We're really caught between a rock and a hard place. We would desperately like some flexibility."

Slive said he thinks ultimately, the effort for autonomy will be achieved.

"From Day 1, we have said we believed the NCAA is the appropriate umbrella organization for intercollegiate athletics," Slive said. "Everything we've done is in the context of the NCAA. We want to be in the NCAA and we want to be in Division I. It is certainly my hope that's how this all works out."

But he didn't back away from the ultimatum, either.

"I think what I've said today and the way I've said it pretty much sets the tone," he said. "If in August the board (of directors) rejects the steering committee's recommendation, you should call me up."

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