Category Archives: SEC Football

The latest case for SEC expansion

John Ourand broke the news yesterday that Fox is prepared to pay the Big Ten a boatload of money for some of the conference’s media rights.

Fox is close to signing a deal that gives it half of the Big Ten’s available media rights package, according to several sources. Deal terms still are flexible – both in terms of money and rights. However, the two sides have agreed on basic terms that will give Fox the rights to around 25 football games and 50 basketball games that it will carry on both the broadcast channel and FS1 starting in the fall of ’17. The deal runs six years and could cost Fox as much as $250M per year, depending on the amount of rights the Big Ten conference puts in its second package.

The Fox deal essentially is half of the package of games that had been with ESPN (as part of a 10-year, $1B deal that expires next spring) and CBS (as part of a 6-year, $72M basketball-only deal that also expires next spring).

The money is eye-popping, yes, but the key item there is the deal’s six-year term.  Why is that a big deal?  Dan Wolken explains.

We’ll see where the final numbers come out, but it seems almost certain that Big Ten schools will soon be banking more than $30 million per year — a number that doesn’t even include what the conference makes off the Big Ten Network and digital rights. When it’s all said and done, it could be a $40 million distribution.

And the best part? If it’s a six-year deal, as Ourand reported, the Big Ten’s media rights will come up for bid again (and maybe again prior to that) before ESPN’s 20-year agreement with the SEC expires in 2034.

Delany is obviously betting that the market for broadcast rights will be just as hot in six years as it is today.  If he’s right – and before you start down the “it’ll be an unbundled world by then, ESPN’s on the ropes, etc.” road, remember that we college football fans will need our fix in six years just as much as today, so all we’re really arguing about is the manner in which the drug will be delivered – imagine the way Greg Sankey is going to be pressed to react to the news of the latest deals the Big Ten strikes then as the SEC presidents are forced to make do (yes, I’m being sarcastic, but the presidents won’t be) with the 20-year deal Mike Slive left them saddled.

Then try to imagine the way Sankey negotiates his way out of the existing 20-year deal.  Actually, that doesn’t take much imagination at all.  Just think back to what Slive did when he renegotiated, which was to expand the conference by adding two new members, with all the attendant scheduling issues that brought with it.  Along with the extra money, of course.

Can you say 16-team conference?  I thought you could.  Honestly, were I an astute school president with ambitions for my football program, I’d start working my way into getting Sankey’s attention and consideration in the next few years.  Because this has the feel of inevitability to it.  This aggression will not stand, man.

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Filed under Big Ten Football, SEC Football

If you’re an SEC school, you’re not missing any meals.

USA Today published its annual report on athletic department finances yesterday and much of it is what you’d expect.  Basically, the rich continue to get richer.  So while you get the annual fretting about bubbles bursting…

NCAA president Mark Emmert says the very fact that so few athletics programs are self-sufficient demonstrates their worth in terms of building community and providing opportunity.

“A very small number of the 1,100 (NCAA members) have a positive cash flow on college sports, so those schools are making a decision that having a successful athletic program is valuable to them despite the fact they have to subsidize it with institutional money,” Emmert says. “The same thing is true for a lot of academic programs. So every school has to sit down and say, ‘What is this worth to us?’ ”

… it’s wise to remember the annual aspect of that.

Kansas State president Kirk Schulz, chair of the NCAA board of governors, believes the bubble metaphor is overwrought.

“I’ve heard that now for the last 20 years and I don’t want to be skeptical and say nothing like that could happen that would ever change the direction of intercollegiate sports,” Schulz says. But he compares it to predictions of a bubble in higher education where prospective students would one day decide that degrees for ever-higher tuition just aren’t worth it anymore.

“And guess what? We all have record numbers of people who want to come and pay these tuition rates and get these degrees from our institutions,” Schulz says. “So I’m a little skeptical about the gloom and doom of a bubble that’s going to burst and everything is going to go south.”

Even so, Schulz agrees that athletics departments cannot continue to outspend revenue indefinitely.

The SEC isn’t guilty of even that.  Every athletic department in the conference that reported – i.e., except private school Vanderbilt – disclosed that it took in more money than it spent in the last fiscal year.  When you consider how schools manipulate those numbers on the expense side, that’s pretty telling.

Only one team, Alabama (shockingly) reported a decline in revenue year over year.  Only two schools, LSU and Mississippi, reported revenue increases of less than $10 million.

Like I said, nobody’s missing meals here.

As far as Georgia goes, let Seth Emerson lay it out.

UGA ranked 15th nationally, and eighth in the SEC, in total athletics revenue, at $116.15 million, during the 2014-15 school year.

Meanwhile, the school ranked 25th nationally, and 10th in the SEC, in expenses, at $96.56 million. Only Missouri, the Mississippi schools and presumably Vanderbilt spent less. (Vanderbilt, as the SEC’s lone private school, did not have to report its finances.)

Georgia’s spending should be increasing a lot for the 2015-16 school year. The athletics department has outlayed more financial resources for new head football coach Kirby Smart, but had already increased the previous football staff’s recruiting budget as the summer of 2015. Plus, the school is paying more than $6 million in buyouts to Mark Richt, Brian Schottenheimer and Jeremy Pruitt.

The school is also building an indoor athletic facility budgeted for $30.2 million, but athletics director Greg McGarity has said the majority of that is being fundraised through donors.

UGA’s total from subsidies is $3.212 million, an amount higher than every SEC school except Auburn, according to USA Today.

When you net the expenses reported from revenues, Georgia stands third in the conference in, for want of a better word, profitability, behind Texas A&M, with that ridiculous revenue jump and Florida.  Nice subsidy, Greg!

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UPDATE:  About that bubble bursting thing…

Yeah, I might hold off on that doom and gloom stuff a little while longer.

 

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Filed under Georgia Football, It's Just Bidness, SEC Football

In praise of Uncle Verne

Verne Lundquist stopped by Athens this week on his way back from the Masters, which gave Tony Barnhart the opportunity to retell a couple of stories.

Two stories best sum up the love affair Verne Lundquist has with SEC football.

* His first SEC game for CBS was Florida at Tennessee in 2000. In that contest, Florida trailed 23-17 with the ball at its 9-yard line with only 2:14 left to play. Jesse Palmer drove the Gators down the field, and with 14 seconds left, he hit Jabar Gaffney on a short pass in the end zone for a touchdown. The ball quickly popped out of Gaffney’s hands but line judge Allama Matthews (a Vanderbilt grad) ruled it was a touchdown and the Gators won 24-23.

When the game was over Lundquist took off his head set and turned to then-broadcast partner Todd Blackledge.

“Are all of them like this?” Lundquist asked.

“Enough of them,” Blackledge said.

* Later that season, Lundquist did his first Alabama-Auburn game, in Tuscaloosa. Understand that Lundquist had been a veteran NFL broadcaster and had been all over the world when he agreed to become the voice of the SEC for CBS. But on this day, Bryant-Denny Stadium was unlike anything he had ever seen.

“The band was playing. The jets had flown over. It was just an incredible scene,” Lundquist says. “I put my arm around (my wife) Nancy and said, ‘Be honest with me. Would you rather be doing this or Detroit at Tampa Bay?’ ”

This is what people who don’t share my love for Uncle Verne fail to get about him.  At heart, he’s a sports fan who appreciates the settings he’s cast in.  Throw in that he’s not an incessant yakker like the majority of people ESPN shoves in our faces, and he’s a rare bird.

You can bitch all you like about him missing a name here and there, but just think about what we’re likely to get in his place when he retires.  Whoever it is may earn a nickname from the audience, but it probably won’t be a fond one.

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You know what happens when you assume.

In the midst of all of his pronouncements the other day, you might have missed this bit from Greg Sankey:

Eliminate FCS games to help with SEC Network ratings when those are released in next year or so? Sankey says vast majority of games on the network are conference games, so he believes that’s an inaccurate assumption. “Let’s not assume what we are or not doing in ratings.” No communication about eliminating FCS games.

Is it possible SEC will eliminate FCS games in football? “It’s a conversation piece but we have not eliminated those.”

Yum.  Those cupcakes are mighty tasty.

As for what we might assume regarding ratings, I bet the commissioner would change his tune upon either the SEC getting burned by the selection committee because of perceived strength of schedule shortcomings or ESPN bitching strongly enough about the quality of the broadcast fodder it’s being fed.

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The SEC and the young people

Hugh Freeze runs smack dab into the law of unintended consequences:

When Hugh Freeze coached at tiny Lambuth University, he sent coaches to work camps at bigger schools. He did the same when he coached at Arkansas State. In the camps Freeze has run since becoming the head coach at Ole Miss, he has stood before hundreds of campers and reminded them that while only a few of them will be recruited by the Rebels, all should work hard because coaches from Arkansas State, South Alabama and elsewhere would also be working with campers. Those schools, Freeze would remind the campers, also offer scholarships.

Monday morning, Freeze’s phone rang. On the other end was a coach wondering if he was no longer allowed to work the Ole Miss camp. The coach worked at an FBS school, and Freeze realized that coach would be banned by a rule passed Friday. The SEC—Ole Miss’s league—and ACC had spearheaded an effort to ban satellite camps. Since such camps were created by coaches from one college working a camp at a host high school or college in a recruit-rich area, the rule banned any FBS coach from working a camp that wasn’t on his own campus. The NCAA Division I management council voted, and the ban is effective immediately. Freeze realized quickly that the ban had a serious consequence he hadn’t considered. In keeping Michigan coaches from working camps at high schools in Alabama, Florida and Georgia and Oklahoma State coaches from working camps at a Division III school in Texas, the schools also had banned Bowling Green coaches from working Ohio State’s camp and Arkansas State coaches from working the Ole Miss camp…

It says something about the ham-fisted construction of this rule that one of the coaches from one of the leagues that championed it is already expressing regrets. Freeze wants to find a way to change the rule so coaches from Group of Five schools can still work camps in conjunction with Power Five schools. “I would love to continue that,” Freeze said Monday. “I just don’t want satellite camps for the Power Five. I am for non-Power Five schools being able to attend and evaluate.” Freeze agrees with the intention of the rule—just not the unintended consequences. He does not think his coaches should be able to work a camp in Houston, smack in the middle of Texas A&M’s recruiting territory. He does, however, think South Alabama coaches should be allowed to work the Ole Miss camp.

C’mon, Hugh, don’t those coaches have families, too?

This stuff makes me want to laugh… until I listen to what Greg Sankey lets come out of his mouth.

Sankey said this topic has been a concern long before Jim Harbaugh brought his Michigan camps to places like Prattville, Ala. What he called “recruiting tour events” first pinged the SEC radar back in 2011.

Sankey also downplayed the idea this legislation limited the opportunity of athletes to discovered by college coaches. He pointed to the ever-increasing staff positions within programs related to identifying and recruiting prospects.

Sure thing, Greg.  Lambuth University is positively crawling with support staffers, just like Alabama.

Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, who planned satellite camps for this year, came out in opposition to the new rule. He told Cleveland.com that “probably hundreds of scholarships” were tied to these events. It’s not about the big schools, he said, but smaller programs like MAC schools who benefitted.

Sankey doesn’t agree. These satellite campers were a trend, he said, that would only fall further down the rabbit hole with larger concerns arising in the future.

“In fact, if you look at what may have happened, it would have not remained constant had the council not acted,” Sankey said. “We would have had dozens and dozens of events, particularly in large metropolitan areas and there would have been pressure on young people to attend those events.”

Oh, no.  Not that.  If anyone is going to pressure those young people, it’ll be SEC coaches, or nobody at all.

And the commissioner was just getting warmed up on his favorite topic of helping the young people.

Rather than the notion that things have been taken away, rather than continue to migrate football recruiting away from the scholastic environment” and recruiting calendar, “I think the council action is entire appropriate and consistent” with the council. If there is talk about extending recruiting calculator, that should come up, but “let’s not go” way of other sports and get away from scholastic setting…

You mean like mid-week night road basketball games?  Or bowl practices during exam period?

Oh, wait… you mean like this.

Sankey is asked about programs limiting players from transferring to certain programs. “I am concerned about the current transfer structure.” Believes there’s a lot of national concern about it.

Concerns about transfer structure: “We have to have an intentional conversation about the variances that exist in sport.” “We need to talk about the academic impact of transferring.” Also: “The ability to have too much or the appropriate or sufficient level of oversight is the one that seems to be the lightning rod.”

I have to give Sankey credit for one thing.  He’s much more fluent in bullshit than Mike Slive ever was.

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Filed under It's All Just Made Up And Flagellant, SEC Football

“People would pay $5 to see us play somebody.”

For a “real” spring football game?  Shoot, Hugh, I’d be willing to pony up more than five bucks for that.

There’s probably a drawback to this, but Freeze has yet to figure it out. Scheduling regional schools would help to keep costs low, and there’s enough around that you could make sure the team is not one on your schedule for the next three to four years.

You’d have to figure out how much of an actual game it would be (Could quarterbacks be hit? How much of your playbook would you run?) but put a bunch of coaches in a room and they’d come out with answer. That process could start in Destin, Florida at the spring meetings, where Freeze first brought up his idea a year ago.

He said the coaches were receptive, but it did not progress beyond discussion. Freeze said he plans to do so again this year, and hopefully try to gain some traction. The coaches would have to convince the Southeastern Conference to sponsor it, and then it would go to a NCAA committee and eventually a vote of the membership.

That tends to work out well for the SEC.

With G-Day coming up, this seems like a timely topic for a reader poll.

 

 

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Round the horn, SEC spring game edition

I spent Friday night and Saturday afternoon flipping between watching the Masters and four SEC spring games:  Florida, South Carolina, Auburn and Texas A&M.  Given my bopping around and that these were glorified scrimmages, my impressions are superficial at best, but anyway, I do have a few.

  • Florida.  The Gators will have a good defense again, which shouldn’t be much of a surprise.  Unlike last spring, there are a decent number of bodies on the offensive line.  Eddy Pineiro appears to be ready to fix the gaping open sore that was Florida’s place kicking last season.  Maybe the biggest news from the game was that transfer Luke Del Rio looked competent running the offense.  Bottom line:  were I Jim McElwain, I wouldn’t feel too bad about how my team looks right now.
  • South Carolina.  I don’t think much more needs to be said than that there’s a decent chance Boom chooses to start a true freshman at quarterback this season.  Maybe the motto for the ‘Cocks this season should be “Starting Over”.
  • Auburn.  As my mother might say, oy, vey.  Auburn’s quarterback situation is every bit the steaming pile we thought (hoped?) it might be.  And if Malzahn really isn’t “concerned with anyone separating themselves on a day like today,” then he’s fooling himself as much as he is the rest of us.  Carl Lawson clearly looked like the best player on the field.  Unfortunately, “on the field” has been the operative key phrase for his career so far.
  • Texas A&M.  Much like Florida, the pleasant surprise for Kevin Sumlin’s program has to be the way Oklahoma transfer Trevor Knight performed.  But the other thing I couldn’t help but notice was the way the Aggies’ defense continues to improve under Chavis.  Those defensive ends are nasty.

If any of you watched, feel free to chime in with your observations.

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UPDATE:  And for what it’s worth…

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