I’ve never understood why Mike Slive and Greg Sankey are venerated as shrewd operators. They’ve been fortunate enough to manage a gold mine, but it’s not like every decision they’ve made has paid out. Indeed, in one important area, broadcast deals, they’ve routinely settled for poor arrangements that have come back to bite them in the proverbial butt. Slive cut such a poor deal with ESPN that he wound up having to enter into a ill-thought out expansion move to escape.
As for Sankey, he is struggling to convince Mickey to pay the SEC enough to make going to a nine-game conference schedule acceptable to all schools. The problem is that he lacks the leverage to force ESPN’s hand, and, as Seth Emerson explains, that’s entirely of his own doing ($$).
ESPN knows it’s bidding against itself for the ninth SEC game. The SEC’s only real leverage is that ESPN doesn’t want to hurt the relationship with the most successful (on the field) conference in college football. But ultimately this is the risk the SEC took by going all-in with one network, rather than spreading things around the way the Big Ten did. If the Big Ten were holding a similar debate now, it could have CBS, NBC and Fox all bidding for the extra games. The SEC doesn’t have that, but it also didn’t foresee adding Oklahoma and Texas when it signed the deal, or if it did, it decided that going all-in with the preeminent sports network in the country was a partnership worth any financial sacrifices that resulted.
Or, it was simply too convenient to one-stop shop.
The money isn’t the issue for me — after all, I’m not the one getting paid, and it’s not exactly like the SEC will be missing any meals. But the commissioners’ shortsightedness continues to bleed over into conference scheduling with suboptimal results and as a fan, that does suck. And will continue to do so until the next broadcast deal comes down the turnpike. Maybe.
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