Destin—Some final thoughts on the annual SEC Spring Meetings, which officially end this afternoon:
Like it not, the SEC is headed into a new, and better, era: Competitively it was another great year for the SEC with national championships in football (Florida), women’s track and field (Tennessee), women’s gymnastics (Georgia) and men’s swimming and diving (Auburn). The league may pick up a few more championships before the spring sports are done.
The SEC has won three straight national championships in football and four of the last six. Florida, the defending champ, will be a consensus No. 1 when the 2009 season begins and gives the league a real chance to make it four straight titles.
But last night when the SEC held its annual awards banquet, Commissioner Mike Slive said that the conference, which a year ago celebrated its 75th anniversary, is headed “into a new and exciting era.”
A big reason for that optimism about the future is the two new television contracts with CBS and ESPN which will begin this fall. Those two contracts alone will pump almost $3 billion (yes, that’s Billion with a B) into the conference over the next 15 years.
Let me put that number into perspective: Later on today the SEC will announce another record for shared revenue from televised football, basketball, and bowl games. A year ago that figure was $127.2 million, or about $10.6 million per school. There will be nice little bump in that today.
But year from today, after the new TV contracts kick in, each school could be receiving in the neighborhood of $17 million or more each.
So while schools in other conferences are going to quit printing media guides and are asking employees to take furloughs, the SEC is going to get an unprecedented infusion of cash.
“Naturally our members are excited about the kind of opportunity this presents,” Slive said. “But we also know that we have to be smart with the resources we have. Nobody is recession proof.”
If you’re a fan of the SEC all this means that the future looks good. If you’re a competitor of the SEC, you know this league is not going to be backing down.
Utah, Boise State to the Rose Bowl? It could happen soon: Over the course of the week I found out that there is an interesting little nugget in the new BCS contract with ESPN, which will begin after the 2010 regular season.
In past contracts if the Rose Bowl lost one of its traditional partners, the Big Ten or Pac-10 champ, to the BCS championship game, it could simply fill with another Big Ten or Pac-10 team that qualified. That’s how a 9-3 Illinois team got to Pasadena two years ago.
But in the new contract, I’m told, there is an interesting clause: The first time in the deal that the Rose loses one of its champions to the BCS title game, that opening will be automatically filled by a Coalition (non-BCS conference) team if one has qualified.
For example: Let’s say Southern Cal wins the Pac-10 and qualifies for the BCS championship game in 2010. And let’s say Utah or Boise State goes undefeated again the wins the Mountain West or WAC. That team, if it doesn’t get into the big game, would automatically go to the Rose, where no Coalition team has played before.
What’s the significance of this, you ask? It is another way that the BCS is increasing access of the five Coalition conferences to all of the games in system. Should the BCS get sued and hauled back before Congress, it is another way it can counter the claim that the Coalition schools don’t have enough access.
Mark your TV calendars: The complete football television picture in the SEC won’t be clear until the league’s preseason media days on July 22-24 in Hoover, Ala. ESPN officials told me they will make a complete presentation then that will make it clear where you can find your favorite games on Saturday.
But just to review: In the new TV deals, CBS will get the first pick from the inventory of games on a given Saturday. The big change is that the rest of the games will belong to ESPN, which is paying the SEC $2.25 billion over the next 15 years for that right. ESPN will place those games on their various platforms (ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPN Classic, ESPN.360 on the internet). The games it cannot televise will go to other outlets such as CSS and FOX Sports South.
CBS has already locked in some dates and times. CBS will begin its ninth year with the SEC by televising Tennessee at Florida on Sept. 19 at 3:30 p.m. Given what has happened since Lane Kiffin got to Tennessee, there may be some interest in that game.
CBS has a pair of doubleheaders planned on Oct. 10 and Nov. 14. Nothing is set in stone but you can pretty much bet that the prime time (8 p.m. Eastern) game on Oct. 10 will be Florida at LSU. I’ll be surprised if the early game (3:30 p.m. Eastern) isn’t Alabama at Ole Miss.
As announced earlier, CBS has moved the Alabama-Auburn game to Friday, Nov. 27, the day after Thanksgiving. It did that in order to get wider exposure for the game and so that it could also broadcast Florida State at Florida on Nov. 28. If CBS had not made that move, one of those games would have gone to ESPN.
There are some special kids in this league: One of the things that never gets mentioned on the sports pages and sports blogs is that there some incredible kids playing college sports. When you become a mom or dad you start to notice these kinds of things. So bear with me a moment while I get off topic. After all, it is Friday and so I invoke by own rule to stray from the subject of football.
Last night the SEC honored 24 male and female athletes for academic excellence. Two received the Boyd McWhorter scholarships of $15,000 which will be applied to post-graduate study. The female winner was Tennessee swimmer Christine Magnuson, who won two silver medals in the 2008 Olympics while carrying a 3.68 grade point average.
The male winner was Ole Miss tennis star Bram ten Berge, who came to Oxford from his home in the Netherlands. “I knew I wasn’t going to be a pro but I had a chance to get an education by playing tennis,” he said. “We don’t have that in my home country.” Ten Berge graduated with a 3.97 GPA in the Classics and, based on his academic performance at Ole Miss, is headed to Michigan on a full fellowship that will allow him to get his Master’s and Doctorate degrees.
Christine Magnuson made an interesting point to commissioner Slive last night. There were a bunch of Olympians from the SEC in Beijing. Had the SEC been a country, she said, it would have finished fourth in the medal count with a total of 51 behind only the United States (110), China (100), and Russia (72).
Thanks for a great year. See you in July: The end of the SEC meetings also marks the end of the season for Mr. College Football. After visiting with you five days a week since mid-March, I’m going to take a break for a while and return on July 6. If something big happens in college football I’ll jump back in for a day and we’ll chat.
Before I go I really want to thank you ladies and gentlemen. Wherever I travel people say nice things about this blog and the interest in it. I simply tell them that I blog with the most knowledgeable college football fans in the world who are very passionate about their sport. You don’t always agree with me and you shouldn’t. You keep me on my toes. I like that and I appreciate that. It makes me better.
When I get back we will be only three weeks away from SEC Media Days in Birmingham. If you thought Lane Kiffin-Urban Meyer was fun down here, can you imagine what it will be like in front of 700 media people in July?
Be safe. And don’t forget the sunscreen.