The SEC Network is set to launch tomorrow afternoon at 6pm ET (5pm CT). In typical television fashion -- trust me on that one -- there are still some last minute touches being made, according to ESPN's senior VP for college networks, Justin Connolly. ESPN and the league have had 18 months to get things ready for rollout, but Connolly says "there's definitely a lot of nervous energy and excitement" as the countdown continues to tick away hours and minutes.
"There's still a little work being done in terms of being able to get the events fed to Charlotte and up on the air. Everything's on schedule at the moment, but until we go live anything can happen. We remain cautiously optimistic but we're certainly not resting on our laurels, so to speak...
All the schools have been great partners along the way. A component of that is also sort of an in-conference competition in some ways in terms of every school wants to be as good as any other and make sure their production and their facilities are as good as the next. It's been a great effort."
Each SEC school has been tasked with creating its own broadcast center and video production crew. Some schools -- the big-monied ones -- were already ahead of the game on that front. Others have had to play catch-up. Auburn has spent $5 million from its reserve funds to build two control rooms at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Tennessee has used private donations to build a new $10 million facility with a window on fans entering and exiting Vol sporting events. Ole Miss ponied up nearly $750,000 on fiber optic cable to connect its studio to its athletic facilities.
The schools will need to have a studio from which they can conduct live interviews for the SEC Network. Each school will also need the equipment and staff necessary to broadcast games.
Launch day is almost here. Time is running out. But from what we've seen so far, the number of first-week hiccups will likely be limited. The money being poured into the channel -- by ESPN and the SEC's members -- should help spackle any holes and cracks that remain come 6pm tomorrow.