What hath Mike Slive wrought? Stay tuned., ctd.

Judging from some of the comments I received in response to yesterday’s post, it’s apparent that I didn’t do a good job of making my point, so let me take another stab at it.

Think about this for a minute:  CBS has had the SEC contract as primary broadcaster since 1996 and the Florida-Tennessee game is the only league contest CBS has shown all 16 years.  Not the Iron Bowl.  Not the Cocktail Party.  Not Tennessee-Alabama.  Not Georgia-Auburn.

The reason for that isn’t that the game has been an instant classic every time.  Or that the fate of nations has been riding on it.  Or even that both teams have been highly ranked coming in.  No, there’s a simpler explanation.

CBS hasn’t been presented with a choice before.

For better or worse, Florida-Tennessee became the signature contest announcing the start of the SEC season on CBS.  I hesitate to call something like that a tradition (although there are plenty of events of shorter duration which insist on having that label applied to them), but it’s certainly something that’s become engrained in the rhythm of the SEC season.  And just like that, it’s gone now.

Is it the end the world?  Hardly.  Rather, it’s more a sign of things to come, which is why I referred to it in my post as a canary in the coal mine.  There’s a certain fly-by-the-seat-of-their-pants quality to how this round of SEC expansion has proceeded that’s unusual in the context of how the conference has generally done big things.

The last time the conference expanded, it took far more radical steps – divisional play and a championship game – than we’re seeing this go ’round, albeit both moves had money grabs at their hearts.  Despite that, the ’92 changes came off as more purposeful and structured than what is happening today.  (And I think that’s one reason the earlier metamorphosis was so successful.)

Do you have the feeling that anyone from the SEC involved in the decision-making process has a clue about what the conference is trying to carry out with the new 14-school regime, other than to remake the TV contracts into something worth bragging about again?  I sure don’t.

Keep in mind that this first bit of fallout from expansion comes before they’ve renegotiated the deals with the networks.  The conference has to do this out of sheer expediency.  Imagine what people like Mike Slive and Michael Adams (Mark Bradley’s new trailblazer, if you’re looking for recommendations) are capable of when they’re in full whore mode.

Now if all you care about is having a few more games on the tube, this probably isn’t particularly troubling.  Congrats, you’ll feel good when they sell the new setup as a win-win for all.  But for those of us who see some of the SEC’s soul – its history and identity, in other words – being bartered away for good with what appears to be very little thought given to the process, it’s disconcerting.

They’ll waive the shiny toy of expansion’s novelty at us for a while  (I can hear it now:  Georgia-Missouri, a new SEC tradition!), but what’ll be left after the novelty wears off?  Aside from those new TV contracts, that is.

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29 Comments

Filed under SEC Football

29 responses to “What hath Mike Slive wrought? Stay tuned., ctd.

  1. Hogbody Spradlin

    Agreed, in hindsight, that this round of expansion was rushed. At least the Missouri component. It seemed like Texas A&M had been wanting out from under Texas and in with the SEC for several years.

    But, I think there’s something valid to the notion that if the SEC had not expanded it could have become boxed in, and the product become tired looking. Can’t say why; it’s just instinctive. And yes, I admit that’s a money issue.

    • orlandodawg

      If it took hindsight to confirm that this expansion was rushed, that would be excusable, but it was pretty clear that the powers-that-be were hell-bent on expanding quickly even before the invitations were extended. The only thing we’ve learned in hindsight is that they never had a plan.

  2. TennesseeDawg

    It’s a free for all money grab so I’m not surprised Adams is involved. The product be damned as long as they can grab the cash now. They are diluting CFB and anything short of a nationwide backlash by the fans is not going to stop it.

  3. Go Dawgs!

    The SEC had decided that money is more important than anything else in the conference. Florida-Tennessee opening the meat of the SEC schedule is hardly a cherished tradition, but it’s still a game that I always looked forward to every year. Man, when I was in school from ’98-’02, we always made sure to either take a break from the tailgate or have a TV there to watch that game, because DAMN they had some good ones. Oh well.

    • Go Dawgs!

      Hey, at least they’ll still be playing the game, though. Probably can’t say that for an ACTUAL traditional rivalry that we all hold dear to our hearts.

  4. Anyone outside of Birmingham would agree the SEC botched this round of expansion. TAMU was a no-brainer purely because of demographics, a large alumni base, fertile recruiting ground, and a tradition akin to most of the schools (even a couple of long-time, natural rivals in Arkansas and LSU). I still scratch my head about Missouri. It seemed this was about the St. Louis and Kansas City TV markets and nothing more. The natural expansion should have been to the east to keep balance and tradition. When I think about it, Clemson probably was the best natural fit except they don’t add significant eyeballs to a TV contract. Clemson has everything else that TAMU brought to the table including natural, long-time rivalries with Georgia and South Carolina.

    We’re eventually going to give up UGA-AU, Bama-UT, and LSU-UF for what? A couple of million per year and more Gatorization of home schedules. Ugh.

    • Cojones

      Clemson doesn’t open up an SEC recruiting ground because it already is in place. I agree with the reasoning on A&M, but Va Tech would have been the Easternizing team of choice, both from competition and the Va/D.C recruiting market.

  5. Skeptic Dawg

    Is it possible that the SEC powers that be actually had plans for a 16 team conference and were caught off guard with 14? I find it hard to believe that EVERYONE in this storied, football rich conference is this dumb. Maybe they are just trying to “get by” for one season until the reason 16 teams. If this conference is actually as dumb as they currently appear, SEC football we we know it is dead forever. Go Lawd, I pray this is not the case!!!

  6. Mayor of Dawgtown

    You’re making a tradition out of something that never was a tradition. So what if Florida-UT ain’t “nationally televised?” They’re still gonna play. Mountain outta molehill.

    • Jeez, man, second time around: it’s not about the game. It’s about the half-assed way the conference is going about its business.

      • Mayor of Dawgtown

        If you really want to get after the SEC how about commenting on the state of SEC referees and how it appears that SEC games are being fixed by selective bad calls and no calls to be certain that the team that wins the SEC Championship has a good enough record to get the big $$$ in the BCSNCG. Hell, they did such a good job at it last season the BOTH teams in the BCSNCG came from the SEC.

  7. StirBaby's ManPiece

    We were 1 regular season win away from National Title talk last year. Beat either Boise or South Carolina and the SEC Championship game would have been a play-in contest for the BCS title game.

    That didn’t happen because our schedule was difficult, or our resume all that strong. It happened because Slive and all these other “whores” created an environment where it is now believed that the SEC plays a different, better, tougher brand of football. That’s in large part due to the amount of money the conference takes in and then reinvests in its product – bigger stadiums, nicer facilities, higher paid coaches and staff.

    At the end of the day, I’m a Georgia fan and anything that aids Georgia in getting closer to a National Championship is in my interests. If Slive and others are able to further extend the perception that the SEC is the greatest conference in football, then that benefits Georgia the next time Miami & Ohio State go undefeated and we’ve got 1 loss to Florida…

    I’d prefer to keep the Auburn game, and rotate through the West less frequently – I’m not sure why that’s such a difficult compromise. I don’t particularly care about the frequency with which we travel to Fayetteville, Starkville, etc.

    • I’d prefer to keep the Auburn game, and rotate through the West less frequently – I’m not sure why that’s such a difficult compromise. I don’t particularly care about the frequency with which we travel to Fayetteville, Starkville, etc.

      I don’t think that’s an unreasonable position to take from a fan’s perspective. Unfortunately, I’m guessing the networks won’t see it your way.

      I’ve got a post coming up on this subject that I hope will flesh this discussion out a bit.

  8. Hobnail_Boot

    I find Georgia-Missouri infinitely more interesting than Florida-Tennessee.

  9. Cojones

    FU/Tenn was an SEC East bellweather game due to time proximity of their NCs (and the epithets hurled from their fans toward their opponent’s Coach). It fades in importance due to the relative shift of power to the SEC West. No one gives a damn if Boom and SOD shout insults while trying to escalate the visceral feelings of their fan bases. It hits with a low thud.

    Conversely, due to the inherent visceral feelings between the oldest football matchup in the South and the even keel of the W/L record between them that rachets each faceoff even higher, no one wants the Ga/Aub game touched. It’s not about the latest SEC/NC victories between the two, it is the crucible from which Good Old Fashioned Hate arose. Now dats different!

    • Cojones

      Sorry, Senator. I didn’t mean to detract from your focal point of “full whore mode”, but did want to highlight what’s important that can’t be lost vs “meh” games that rise and fall with the times.

  10. The other Doug

    If UT and UF were any good the game would be on CBS.

  11. Cojones

    Senator, does this mean that you differ with Mark Bradley labeling Michael Adams “a sage”? You didn’t leave much distance between the Bradley reference and “full whore mode”. Just wondering.

  12. Cojones

    On a more positive note aboutSlive and the SEC, did anyone read the splittin’ of the spoils news as well? Besides every team getting about 1.4M more this year, the fine print reveals a 265.5k split to each team for Student-Athlete Opportunity Fund for financial academic needs. That makes for 131 (plus change) Student -Athletes able to receive $2000 stipends for this year alone.

    Could this fund represent an end run by the SEC measured against NCAA failure to pass such a stipend?

    • Cojones

      Just looked it up and a Sclabach article from July states that the SAO Fund is primarily for those student-athletes who have exhausted their eligibility. Then I saw an article about it’s use for extraordinary financial situations as evidenced in the case of Georgia’s Swain.

      Does anyone have any idea how these funds can be used other than what’s mentioned above?

  13. DB

    What makes the SEC so great is not how they have dominated the bowl/MNC games but the level of competition inside the league. Games like the LSU/UF 2007 game or most recently the 12-10 Ala/UT 2009 game that could have derailed Alabama’s perfect season. The UT/UF game was a HUGE game at one time. Those type of games come and go as far as importance but as a UGA fan and a fan of the SEC they are just as important as UGA/AU to me. The senators point is the powers that be are screwing with tradition just so they can redo the TV deal to try to top the Big 10 and the Pac 12 and that is short sighted.

    • Cojones

      Yeah, but when two teams like Georgia and Bama get mo’ pleasure out of beating the snot out of the Barners, those are more important to us.