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Has The SEC’s Nice Guy Approach Hurt It In Expansion Game?

In July, SEC commissioner Mike Slive famously joked to a national writer that he and his league could expand to 16 schools in 15 minutes if they so desired.  Well from the looks of things this morning, Slive either a) overestimated how many schools would want to join his league or b) stubbed his toe by trying so hard not to step on the toes of others.

The ACC is stronger today than it was on Friday.  By adding Pittsburgh and Syracuse, that league has locked up just about every state (and major television market) up and down the Atlantic Coast.  If it adds UConn — which is expected to come next — you’re talking about a powerhouse basketball league that will draw eyes from Boston to New York to Baltimore to Washington to Charlotte to Miami.  That’s money, folks.

The Pac-12 is apparently on the verge of adding Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas and Texas Tech.  The Longhorns may be more trouble than they’re worth when it comes to in-fighting, but they — along with the Sooners — will push the next Pac-12 contract into the stratosphere… and that league is already tops in TV money now.  If all of this comes to pass (and the boards at OU and UT are meeting today) the Pac-12 will control the television markets of Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix, Denver, Oklahoma City, Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Austin.

The Big East appears to be doomed.  Ditto the Big 12.  But if the two can somehow combine under a “Heartland Conference” type of moniker, there’s still room for another BCS spot and big TV dollars.  Possibly.

The Big Ten, meanwhile, appears to be sitting this mess out.  Jim Delany has said that nothing has happened “to date” to force his league’s hand.  And with a share of all the major Northern TV markets from Philadelphia to Minneapolis, several of the biggest brand names in college sports, and the Big Ten Network, Delany’s league could actually stand pat and still make big money.  (But don’t write off the possibility of the Big Ten chasing Rutgers and one other school for the express purpose of adding cable households for the BTN.)

Which brings us to the SEC.  Slive’s league — if/when it finally adds Texas A&M — is going to add some major Texas markets to the league’s portfolio.  But aside from Atlanta and Nashville and Orlando, there just aren’t that many major television markets in the existing SEC footprint.  The league does not have its own network, either.  It counts on national drawing power — thanks to tremendous football — to grab television dollars.  But it has already been passed by several other leagues in terms of cash.  If leagues like the Pac-12, Big Ten and the new-and-improved ACC begin to make more money on a yearly basis, eventually schools in those leagues will have facilities as good or better than those found in the SEC.  Thanks to the SEC’s location, recruiting should never be too much of a problem, but if other leagues catch up even a tad, it might mean the SEC will become a great football conference rather than the best football conference.

Slive and the SEC’s presidents have made it clear that they did not want to raid an existing league.  They preferred to sit back and let schools come to them.  Unless we’re in for some shocking news — and that’s certainly possible with Slive — it appears that didn’t happen.

The ACC raided the Big East for the second time in a decade and will likely deal it a death blow this time around.  The Pac-12 tried to raid and kill the Big 12 last summer chasing half the league’s members and — if things go as expected — they’ll wind up stealing five teams overall in a two-year span.

Remarkably, the SEC didn’t invade any league and yet it’s the only body so far to be threatened with lawsuits.  (Thanks, Baylor.)  It’s also the only league so far that seems to give two flips about the potential for lawsuits.  John Swofford and Larry Scott have seen what they wanted and they’ve tried to take it.

Slive and company have instead been nice guys.  And I think you know where they finish.

Now, many SEC fans will say that they don’t want their league to expand anyway.  That’s understandable and that’s fine.  But from a business perspective, the SEC had a smaller TV footprint than the other league’s to begin with.  Once the SEC set the bar with its CBS/ESPN contracts and the other leagues then went through their contract negotiations, it became clear the SEC was going to be a bit down the pecking order in terms of television revenue.  Like it or not, that’s a fact.

So what’s to happen if other leagues get stronger and bigger while the SEC adds A&M and another school that no other league wants — say West Virginia?

You can be sure Slive will claim that his league has eyed whoever joins the league for “a long time,” that that school is “a perfect fit,” and that the league did just what it wanted to do.  Maybe so.

But if the ACC, Big Ten and Pac-12 are all richer than the SEC when this wave of expansion stops, Slive and the SEC’s presidents will have erred long-term on the business front.  And eventually that could be bad for the league on the athletic front.

This isn’t about sports, sports fans.  It’s about business.

Today — at this moment — it appears the SEC could fall behind two or three other leagues in terms of revenue.  If that happens, there’s no spinning the fact that that’s bad business.

 


45 comments
sutpens100
sutpens100

You're mostly right, as usual, but there's altogether too much hand-wringing around the net about whether the best football (and baseball!) conference in the country is one week being too predatory, the next too sweet. Two points of quasi-disagreement with your post come to mind -

• Atlanta, Nashville and Orlando are not the only significant TV markets in the current SEC footprint. Add Memphis, New Orleans, Louisville, Tampa, Jacksonville, Birmingham, etc. Granted, those markets don't equate with LA, Chicago, NYC, but they're not chopped liver. And the % share of market actually tuned into broadcasts of SEC games in its markets is higher than other conferences in most of the non-SEC markets you mention. Is Miami forced to watch exclusively ACC games? I don't know for sure, but I doubt it. Add Houston and Dallas when, not if, A&M joins.

• The SEC needs to expand further, I agree - for the sole reason, if not others, that it needs to reach whatever threshold is required to renegotiate its television contracts. The PAC-12 has the largest current contract - add OK, Tex and their little brothers and, again I agree, it grows substantially. But until some league proves differently - and it will NOT be then enlarged ACC - the national championship still goes through Atlanta. That alone ought to warrant renegotiation - if it does not, expansion should supply the requisite pretext. The next SEC TV contract with hopelessly-conflicted ESPN should include an escalator clause, like that of the contracts of several head coaches, which automatically makes the SEC's package with that network the most lucrative; when the PAC-? gets a bump, the SEC should automatically leapfrog.

Thanks for all you do.

K E
K E

Texas will not follow A&M to the SEC! They don"t follow anyone in TX, they dominate that state> I say they're Pac-10 bound although Mac would probaly want to be in the ACC. He's the odd man out in this discussion at TX.

Pac12Honk
Pac12Honk

The ACC should go after UCONN, Kansas & Louisville and keep it basketball focused. The ACC will be the best tournament in the league in terms of basketball. The ACC was never a football conference to begin with. The SEC needs to look at North Carolina State, Mizzou & West Virginia for their expansion needs to accompany Texas A&M, just expand the TV footprint as much as possible. Big Ten should look at Norte Dame, Maryland, Rutgers & Iowa State for their expansion. Pac 16 is on its way and they'll expand that TV contract into something mammoth and Texas will turn the Longhorn Network into a Pac 16 Texas network with Texas Tech.

adc
adc

There are different ways to skin a cat. FSU adds national appeal and further cements the SEC as the best football conference in the nation (debatable with new Pac-16 perhaps). Thus, there should still be significant national drawing power. Add FSU and Clemson with Mizzou/WVU and aTm and you add some markets, as well as increasing/maintaining prestige.

Fact is, the SEC can't really do all that much in expanding its footprint at this point, other than Mizzou/WVU. They're not going to bow down to UT's demands and OU has always wanted to go to the Pac-10. So, while other conferences try to simply expand their footprint, the SEC can stick to their values and try to maintain themselves as the best football conference in the country. That means adding FSU/Clemson, which would further hurt the ACC's drawing power, in terms of football. Considering the move to a basketball-centric conference, I think FSU and Clemson would both listen.

K Mills
K Mills

Texas may not be worth the effort (that in itself is a pretty ignorant and uninformed view)...but on the other hand, I have never never heard over the last two years of realignmnt that Texas was even in the slightest interested in the SEC. Apparently, the Longhorns have a pretty high standard that the SEC can't meet. And, if the SEC will accept TAM (a downgrade) then Texas would have little or no trouble getting an invite. Universitites have to at least appear to be a serious institution of learning except in the SEC where every athlete is issued a car, a credit card, and a tudor to do the book work.

UofA72
UofA72

You might want to get your nose out of the air. All that bird poop is affecting your brain, or maybe it's the other way around.

If that isn't enough bird reference for you, Texas has messed it's nest in both it has been in. The only people who don't know this (reference articles on any sports network or blog) are the Longhorns. Arkansas left the SWC because of Texas, Colorado and Nebraska did too, and now A&M is doing the same thing.

Good luck on getting the Colorado vote for Pac entry.

UofA72
UofA72

Out kick the coverage has an article on Texas being too afraid of the SEC.

Notice that Texas fans never have their facts straight. All they can bring to any conversation is how great they are and how inferior everyone else is. One says it, the other claims it as fact.

johnmrsec
johnmrsec

K Mills...

Unless you're speaking of a 16th century English dynasty, I think you mean tutor, not tudor. (Everyone makes typos, but when you're posting about how dumb everyone outside of Austin is, you might want to hit the spellcheck before posting.)

Also, according to US News and World Reports, Texas is the #45 school in the country while A&M is #58. Both are members of the AAU as well. It seems you might have your nose a bit too high in the air.

John

mith242
mith242

This is what I've been saying the whole time. I wanted the SEC to be pro-active. I think everyone knew at some point everyone was heading towards these super conferences. By sitting back now it seems the SEC might be left with the scraps while most of the top teams head elsewhere. Texas A&M is a good team to add. But after that I'm not sure if the SEC will be able to add any other quality teams that will fit in well.

Otto
Otto

Disgree with A&M being leftover and am strongly against any talks to bring Texas into the SEC. Texas has money, and TV sets yes but they have killed 2 conferences and like to throw their weight around. A&M allows the SEC to expand and won't rock the boat.

I also disagree with the recruiting rankings for FSU in the prior article. Does FSU add tot he SEC's foot pront? No so what is the upside to taking FSU? The ACC teams are locked out of show casing their schools on a yearly basis with the FSU game. How valuable is this? Clemson has not won an ACCC title since they lost their yearly matchup with UGA. Clemson always depended on Ga. talent to win the ACC. All in all FSU going to the SEC would create less competition for Florida, S. GA. and S. Alabama recruits for SEC schools

johnmrsec
johnmrsec

Otto...

We didn't call Texas A&M a leftover. Missouri and West Virginia -- the schools we discuss in this piece -- are the leftovers. Like it or not, fair or not.

John

K Mills
K Mills

You must believe all the misinformation you get on these blogs...you really ought to do a little investigation for yourself. As I recall, Arkansas killed the SWC and TAM is killing the Big 12...oddly, both are SEC schools now. I'd call you ignorant, but then you'd have to waste a lot of time going to google 'ignorant' to find out the meaning.

AllTideUp
AllTideUp

I'm afraid you are the one who is misinformed. You won't find anyone outside of Longhorn nation and ESPN blaming the current college football landscape on A&M and Arkansas.

Michael
Michael

Assuming no ACC school is going to be added to the SEC. What about adding A&M, Missouri & Kansas in the East. A&M obviously is a done deal and adding Missouri & Kansas would give you the Kansas City and St. Louis markets. Missouri brings in a competitive football team and Kansas increases the basektball pedigree of the SEC. Then you could add one additional team in the West. Just a thought.

BeepLikeAJeep
BeepLikeAJeep

Bringing kU also gives even more incentive for Mizzou to jump to the SEC before the B1G has a chance to make contact. As a Mizzou fan/student, I am fully in favor of the SEC over the B1G. The worst is the small rumors of us going to the PAC-XX, that would be an awful fit for us culturally and geographically. Sure, if we were in the SEC we wouldn't have been able to win 40 games the past 4 years, but everyone I know here would be willing to trade that for security, both monetarily and conference-wise. Plus going to the SEC would help us keep our Texas recruiting pipeline alive, and probably better than ever.

Hokies
Hokies

Good points guys. Re:increase in exit fees.

Agree about the secrecy the ACC done this, notone mention of it in th emedia until it had already happened. All of this stuff has been in the media for weeks and 99.9% of it has not even been close to being true. So who knows what is really going to happen.

In another article I read, Swofford said that they had received calls from other schools wanting to join the ACC in the double digit numbers. But also there were 2 unamed schools in the ACC that were opposed to going to 16. In my opinion not gonna have a choice in the matter when all of the dominos fall.

NCman
NCman

that is incorrect a bit. Some schools do not want Uconn if they do go to 16. This is why they are waiting to see what UT and ND do. ND is one of the schools that contacted them and UT is well publicized but now it is doubtful.

AllTideUp
AllTideUp

If Notre Dame goes to the ACC, and I have a hard time believing they will, then there is no chance the Big Ten will expand.

That creates an interesting situation.

atlguy
atlguy

The ACC will wait to see what Texas and ND do first, before making the next move. There is no reason not to move to 16 once you are at 14.

I think the best scenario for ACC is UConn and ND joining up. Rutgers would be a last choice and no way that WVU is even in the conversation.

NCman
NCman

actually Uconn would be the last choice according to sorces here in NC. WV has no chance unless we get left with no choice.

AllTideUp
AllTideUp

I'm not so sure that FSU is still not preparing to make a move. I know the vote to increase the payout from $12 to $20 million was unanimous, but it is possible that was a political move. FSU and perhaps Clemson did not have the votes to block the measure so unless you want to make a bold public statement that you are about to bolt the conference then you need to vote in favor of the measure as well. Either way you are going to pay the price if you leave the conference so it doesn't matter how you vote from a purely practical perspective.

I find it interesting that the ACC could be pursuing UConn. Well the question is who is coming with them? Is Rutgers making that move as well or is it UConn by themselves? If it is UConn by themselves then I don't see the ACC having some grand strategy of putting together a 15 team conference. It doesn't make much sense. Either they are preparing to replace one departing member or a 16th team will be in tow.

If the Big Ten does not expand then Missouri is still on the board. Throw WVU in with that group and I say that that would be a successful expansion. Individual markets aside, the SEC relies on broadcasting as many games nationwide as it can and so the more interesting programs you have for national audiences the better.

AllTideUp
AllTideUp

Just to piggy back on this....

FSU announced their plans to form a committee this past week. Have they even had a chance to form the committee or did the committee meet in secret within the last few weeks? I have a hard time believing that whatever FSU put together came to the conclusion that adding Pitt and Syracuse was in their best interests within two days. And that is ignoring the highly likely event that the talks between Pitt/Syracuse and the ACC have been taking place for quite some time now. There is no way the whole thing went down in less than 48 hours from the beginning of the process until conclusion.

TigerInGA
TigerInGA

You have to hand it to Swofford and folks in Greensboro, no news or rumors about moving until BAM - here it is. It looks a lot cleaner than the A&M mess (@ Baylor, Conference, etc).

johnmrsec
johnmrsec

TigerInGa...

Absolutely. Eventually the Big East would eat the ACC or vice versa. The ACC acted first and will survive. Swofford and his presidents didn't worry about potential legal issues, either.

We can debate whether or not super-conferences will be good in the long run, but for now, the ACC seems to have set itself up nicely.

Thanks for reading,
John

Gator Fan
Gator Fan

If the ACC adds 2/3 from Notre Dame, Penn State and West Virginia to go with their other 14 then they will be formidible when it comes time to redo the tv contract.

Hokies
Hokies

No one is raiding the ACC now. They also raised their exit fee from $5 million to $20 million in the same meeting that they discussed adding Pitt and Cuse. All presidents voted to ACCept the new increase. If anyone would have been planning on bolting for another conference, that president would not have voted for the increase.

Great article BTW!

JarrenBlake
JarrenBlake

They raised it from 12 million to 20 million. But remember that the A&M fee is 30 million. And they are leaving. A school wanting to leave would likely still vote to raise the fee, because to no do so risks them being exposed before they are sure they have somewhere to go. No school could take that chance, better to take an 8 million hit than get left out in the cold.

atl14dat
atl14dat

Here's a Number that coincides with John's article.

Of the top 28 Media markets in the US

The (proposed) PAC 16 is in 11 of them
SEC including A&M is in 4 of them.

Big difference that will eventually manifest itself on the field in time.

Dollars, revenues, facilities. Eventually Talent.

hog
hog

It really doesn't matter who team 14 is as long as texas A&M is team 13. I would be pleased with one from missouri, wvu, or Lousiville for team 14 and than stop with 14 school's. 16 teams just seems to much of a hassle

Micheal Cummings
Micheal Cummings

I have to agreed and disagreed with that statement.

First of all, everybody has to remember that all of the conferences except SEC and B1G was stable. SEC didnt have to added teams, besides ACC has been raiding the Beast since forever, PAC-10(12) just started to stable with a new commish, Big XII was going to fail when Texas started to mussle on everything. In a business sense, they might be behind the power curve but until another conference did what the SEC did in Football, SEC still will be King.

In my opinion, all of these move are risky moves by the conferences, except SEC. SEC takes its time and doing thing the right thing by looking at the field and getting the right pieces.

K Mills
K Mills

What you will discover in the near future, football power conferences are cyclical...I remember when the SEC was not the conference it is today, and those days could soon come again, particularly if they get left out of the realignment. I don't think a conference has a lot to crow about when almost none of the schools are generally respected by the college community. Outside of Vanderbilt and Floriday and maybe Georgia, the SEC is pretty pitiful. It's been said locally that the SEC addition of TAM has increased the overall rating of both the B12 and the SEC.

johnmrsec
johnmrsec

K Mills...

A&M is good for the SEC academically, but if you check the AAU listings, research budgets and most college rankings you'll find that the Big 12 ranks on the low end of the scale along with the SEC. The Pac-12, Big Ten and ACC are the high-brow leagues. The SEC and Big 12 ar for jocks. And the Big East is for commuters. Generally speaking.

John

johnmrsec
johnmrsec

Michael Cummings...

The SEC was stable. But if other leagues grow past them and swallow up major chunks of the country AND have their own networks, the SEC would have to expand to keep up.

I hope the SEC will get the right pieces by taking its time. But as things currently look -- the right pieces are now locked into a stronger ACC. Would you rather be the lion that charges in and grabs the gazelle... or the lion that patiently surveys the landscape and then advances to dine on scraps?

It's a fine line. We'll have to see how this shakes out before stating that the SEC has been wise or foolish. As we said in the piece, if the SEC winds up as the smallest league with the smallest TV markets and the smallest revenue, we'll have to go with foolish. But there's still that IF involved.

Thanks for reading,
John

JarrenBlake
JarrenBlake

Been saying this for months now. The little agreement between schools should end. Get A&M and then get FSU as a national power and also to try and destablize the ACC. The SEC needs an ACC raid and they made it that much harder to do by letting this happen before they moved. Now if the Big10 should move then Missouri willbe off the boards as well.

If they are lucky the B1G will then invade the ACC after they get Mizou and go for Maryland and maybe a few others such as GTech before grabbing Rutgers to round things out. So if those three plus FSU are gone then maybe you can shake lose a school on Tobacco Road or Virginia Tech.

K mills
K mills

Do you really believe that a conference should purposely try to destabilize or destroy another conference? I believe that pretty much describes the mentally of a conference that has not set the bar very high.

JarrenBlake
JarrenBlake

End result is that the SEC will now need help to destabilize the ACC enough to get teh schools that it wants. I was all for the SEC taking in Pitt over WVU if VTech did not pan out(which it did not) and then going for FSU in a 16 team format. Strengthen Basketball, new markets up north, and keep the ACC football weak.

SECfan
SECfan

Do you think there is still any chance of FSU making the jump? The ACC looks to be fully focused on basketball with their additions and FSU is a football school first and foremost.

johnmrsec
johnmrsec

SECfan...

I still don't grasp why FSU brass went public with an expansion committee if it was just talking about the ACC's moves, but the fact that FSU voted to up the ACC's exit fee to $20 million sure suggests that the Seminoles are happy where they are.

John

Hunter
Hunter

That may be right, but it could also be that FSU (and perhaps another ACC member) didn't wish to tip their hand by voting against upping the exit fee. Remember, it only takes 9 out of 12 ACC members voting on a proposal for it to pass. What good would it do FSU to vote against increasing the ACC exit fee when it would still pass with an 11-1 or 10-2 vote, and thus expose FSU's potential realignment plans to the rest of the conference before they had finished negotiating a soft landing spot in the SEC? As Matt Hayes of The Sporting News alluded to in an article yesterday, eight million dollars isn't going to make much of a difference at this point. He also reported an SEC official stating that, with the ACC's preemptive strike of adding Pitt and Syracuse, "every option is on the table now". I suppose there are many different interpretations as to what that could mean.

Badgercat
Badgercat

Thanks for the post and your thoughts. Frankly, I like the way the Atlantic Crippled Conference went about this. From a basketball perspective, this is a grand slam. If UCONN is added to the fold...wow. From a football perspective, they don't gain a lot on the field. Perhaps nothing, really. From the "eyeball" perspective, they will own the population base - and get richer TV agreements. They may go at their own channel like folks in the B1G did a few years ago. They could do extremely well I believe. Still, the SEC is the first conference to earn $1 Billion dollars in athletic receipts. It was a far cry in front of #2 - the B1G which came in at $905 million. They're not hurting and could probably assist with buy-out fees if push comes to shove.
http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2011/... (reference article embedded)

The ACC will do very well with their expansion, but I think it will take a while to catch the SEC in revenues even if the SEC stands pat with T A&M.

But who knows.

Still, I have a feeling that Slive and THE conference have been silently at work for a while for a reason. I could be wrong and Mr. Nice Guy may have made some tactical blunders by watching things unfold over the past few weeks. Yet I have a feeling things will turn out just fine for the SEC in the end.

Keep up the really great work here.

Parker
Parker

An ACC with this lineup could be strong when it comes time to do a tv contract

ACC North:
Notre Dame
West Virginia
Virginia
Virginia Tech
Boston College
Syracuse
Pitt
Maryland

ACC South:
Florida State
Miami
Clemson
Georgia Tech
North Carolina
NC State
Wake
Duke

atl14dat
atl14dat

Spot On take John.

SEC falling behind in Business will lead to diminished results down the road on the field..

Slive needs to grab Missouri(St Louis Market) ASAP. Looks like WVU may be coming.

A&M
Missouri
West Virginia

Who could be the 16th team?

Sparty_Cyclone
Sparty_Cyclone

Why not TCU? With the Big East falling apart, why not make a grab for the Dallas/Ft. Worth market as well? Stick Mizzou in the East with neighbor Kentucky and you don't have to worry about breaking up Alabama/Auburn.

HoustonVol
HoustonVol

Don't be surprised if the SEC stays at 15, or add a school like USF with the Big East falling apart. USF would allow them to tap South Florida. However outside of Mizzou and WVU, the pickings are slim. UH? SMU? Rutgers? Temple? ECU? L'ville, Cincy? Without raiding the ACC. While $20 million would not stop anyone from joining the SEC, it didn't TAMU. If you were really thinking about jumping ship, you would have not just raised your exit fee by $8million dollars.

Psi
Psi

You do understand USF is not in South Florida right? It's in Tampa, roughly two hours from Gainesville.



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