Here is a question for you. With all of the reallignment talks and inventory being taken on by ESPN. What if ESPN approached the SEC about forming their own dedicated channel. This would allow ESPN to move some of the committed inventory that it has to the SEC, onto an actual dedicated channel that could then be sold to cable systems. This would free up time slots for ESPN to fill with some of the other games that they have signed. They have their hands into so many conferences, and obligations to so many partners that it will be very hard to meet the obligations of all of the contracts. Plus if ESPN partners with the SEC on their own network(s), if will prevent the SEC from seeking out other avenues.
From Day One of all this Texas A&M hubbub, our Southeastern Conference sources have told MrSEC.com that if the league were to add a 13th school, it will need to grab a 14th, too. Other sources have said much the same thing to outlets ranging from CBSSports.com to The New York Times.
Now, the folks at OutkickTheCoverage.com said early on that the SEC would be okay with adding A&M as a stand-alone 13th school (and we’ll credit them if that turns out to be the case). We disagreed with that assertion because we had been told the complete opposite. And many respected Southern writers who have their own SEC sources have told us that they, too, have heard a totally opposite story.
Enter Thomas O’Toole of USA Today who writes today that “conference and league school officials, requesting anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation, have said they would be comfortable with 13 teams.”
Last season, the Alabama administration had a hissy fit — and rightly so — over the fact that the Tide had to play six league opponents that were coming off open dates. But now we’re supposed to believe that six West Division schools are onboard with the idea of having a 1-in-7 shot at Atlanta while their East Division neighbors enjoy 1-in-6 odds? All to add a school that business analysts and ex-TV executives now say won’t add very much value to the league’s media contracts anyway?
Sorry, we’re not buying. Not the idea that the SEC is welcoming A&M with no incentive. And not the idea that the SEC is comfortable sitting at 13 schools. It may have to for a year — because there’s apparently been less interest than anticipated from schools that were expected to want to join Team Slive — but we don’t see the league surviving long-term as a 13-school entity.
And before you ask, the NCAA requires conferences to field two divisions of six teams or more in order to hold a league championship game. It’s possible the SEC could petition the NCAA to waive that rule, but it seems far-fetched — at this point — to be talking about one, grand 13-school league without divisional play.
There’s no question that Mike Slive and the SEC can still pull a total shocker of a move for School 14. But judging by the silence and lack of leaks from potential members — the SEC is always quiet — it doesn’t appear as though the SEC is quite as sexy as it might have thought a month ago.
For that reason, a 13-team football season might be a necessity next year. But we still don’t believe SEC officials are “comfortable” with the idea of a 13-school league in the long run.