I never expected everyone to get my concern about the SEC’s staggering around with conference scheduling. Year2 starts out in a different direction in this post, but midway through notes this:
… I agree with the Senator that the real story here is not the absence of the Orange and Blue versus the Orange and White on CBS, but rather the indication that expansion is going to muck around with a number of conference customs. I too am concerned about it, but I keep reminding myself that the 2012 slate is just a one-time thing. They’re going to take some more time over the coming year to try to get things right.
I wish I could believe that, but after reading this David Paschall article from yesterday, I’m not convinced. At all.
… Auburn and Georgia have been playing since 1892 in the Deep South’s oldest rivalry, and the Tigers lead 54-53-8 after 115 series meetings. Alabama and Tennessee began playing annually before the SEC’s creation in 1933, and the 13 conference titles won by the Volunteers are topped only by the 22 by the Crimson Tide.
Tennessee coach Derek Dooley expressed his concern last September that conference realignment was “tampering with something that has made college football so special.” In October, two days before his Tide hosted the Vols, Alabama coach Nick Saban said, “It’s the biggest game all year to me when we play Tennessee.”
The other permanent cross-divisional matchups — Florida-LSU, Arkansas-South Carolina, Vanderbilt-Ole Miss, Kentucky-Mississippi State and the new one, Missouri-Texas A&M — are not nearly as treasured from a traditional standpoint. So the athletic directors at those 10 schools may not want their cross-divisional games saved at the expense of an extremely infrequent rotation.
“At some point, does the conference make a statement preserving the historical pieces?” said McGarity, who spent 18 years in Florida’s athletic department before becoming Georgia’s AD in 2010. “I hope that there will be a level of concern and compassion for those two rivalry games. The Florida-LSU rivalry is not a big deal, so the worry there is that it would be a 10-4 vote.”
Mississippi State athletic director Scott Stricklin hasn’t exactly been flooded with calls from fans demanding his Bulldogs continue to play Kentucky. Stricklin would like to preserve the Auburn-Georgia and Alabama-Tennessee games, but he also believes the league does not have nearly enough of a rotation.
So will he vote for the 6-2 model over a 6-1-1?
“I hope there are some other options I like more,” Stricklin said.
Gosh, Scott, we do too.
These aren’t people with a plan. They’re people flailing around, looking for a way out of a mess of their own creation. Unfortunately for them, self-deportation isn’t an option. And if they’re hoping that TV is going to bail them out by forcing the issue, it sounds like they’re mistaken about that, as well.
Television has been a driving factor in the changing landscape of college athletics — ESPN’s creation of a “Longhorn Network” is a major reason Texas and Texas A&M are no longer playing — but CBS Sports executive vice president of programming Mike Aresco insists his network has stayed away from realignment.
And the scheduling chore that comes with it.
“That’s up to the SEC,” Aresco said. “Alabama-Tennessee and Auburn-Georgia are great rivalries, and you appreciate those, but we have a great relationship with the conference and realize they have to make those decisions. The league will have some hard decisions to make, and whatever they do, we will absolutely be fine with it.”
In other words, say the networks, tell us what you’re going to do and we’ll tell you what we’ll pay for it.
Which is how you get to a point where you’ve got an SEC athletic director wondering out loud if an NFL approach to scheduling might be a workable alternative and you’ve got two schools which haven’t played a single conference game being allowed to decide the fate of SEC rivalries that are decades old. (At least TAMU and Missouri have recent experience terminating longstanding rivalries, right?)
What I find infuriating about this is how petty the initial motivation looks. It’s not as if the SEC is pleading poverty. In fact, it turns out that the current TV contract helped fuel a better payout in 2010-11 than the conference anticipated.
SEC members averaged $19.5 million from their conference payout in 2010-11, an increase of $1.2 million from the previous year, according to the league’s non-profit IRS filing.
The amount is also more than the $18.3 million average payout the SEC estimated last June from all revenues. Before new television deals with ESPN and CBS kicked in, the SEC’s average payout was $13 million in 2008-09.
These jokers have never had it so good. Except -
The Pac-12 and Big Ten each distribute close to $21 million per school a year…
And that’s not acceptable. As Jerry Hinnen put it, “The SEC is richer than it’s ever been–but is it rich enough?”
I think we all know the answer to that one. Don’t forget, also, the pie is being sliced fourteen ways going forward, so it’s going to have to be bigger just to keep each piece from shrinking. Which is why as you read all these nifty little suggestions about what to do with the conference football schedules after this season (actually, I could live with Bill’s; it’s just that the conference would have to hire somebody as smart as Bill to compile the schedule each year), the question you need to be asking yourself is which one results in CBS and ESPN writing the biggest checks. Because I guarantee you that’s the one the McGaritys and Stricklins will be asking.
And there are two things I know about that answer: (1) if it winds up pleasing the fans, it’ll be nothing but sheer dumb luck; and (2) once the next conference negotiates a new TV deal, it won’t be enough.