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SEC Bowl LineUp Coming Into Focus; Be Ready For Griping

stacks of bowlsIt doesn’t look as though there will be many surprises when the Southeastern Conference reveals its new bowl lineup.  As expected, the league will partner with two new bowls as it branches a hair to the east and an inch to the west.  For the most part, the league’s roster of bowl will be pretty similar.  Here’s how things are expected to shake out (in most years) beginning in 2014:

 

Allstate Sugar Bowl (New Orleans):  Will get the highest-ranked SEC team that does not gain an invitation to the College Football Playoff to face off against the highest-ranked Big XII team not making the playoffs.

Discover Orange Bowl (Miami gardens):  Will get an occasional SEC squad (as part of a rotation with the Big Ten and Notre Dame) to face a team from the ACC.

Capital One Bowl (Orlando):  Will get the first selection from the remaining SEC teams.  A Big Ten team will be the foe in most years with an ACC squad serving as a potential fallback.

 

The SEC office will determine which league teams fill the remaining six bowls.

 

AutoZone Liberty Bowl (Memphis):  Will feature SEC against Big XII

Belk Bowl (Charlotte):  Will feature SEC against ACC

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl (Nashville):  Will feature SEC against ACC or Big Ten

Outback Bowl (Tampa):  Will feature SEC against Big Ten

Taxslayer.com Gator Bowl (Jacksonville):  Will feature SEC against ACC or Big Ten

Texas Bowl (Houston):  Will feature SEC against Big XII

 

At MrSEC.com, our biggest complaint is the SEC’s decision to simply remain in its current footprint (with Charlotte — a just off the South Carolina border — being a slight exception).  Our next biggest complaint is that the SEC will not see a single Pac-12 team in a bowl game.  In our view, the league should have looked at the Pinstripe Bowl (an SEC team in the snow at Yankee Stadium… yes, please) and/or the Maaco Bowl Las Vegas (that’s the correct name).  SEC fans would likely enjoy a Christmas trip to the Big Apple or Sin City.  Alas, the league has taken the predictable path instead.

As for the griping we mentioned in the headline, Mike Slive said earlier this offseason that he an the league office take heat over bowl selections anyway, so they might as well just start deciding who goes where.  Makes sense, but the complaints are only to going to grow louder.  Over the next six years — that’s how long these new bowl contracts will run — imagine how many fanbases will yelp that the league office hates their schools and loves another when their school is assigned to play in a lesser bowl game.  If you like conspiracy theories, you’re gonna love this new bowl-distribution plan.

Other than that?  Yawn.  It’s business as usual.  Staying Down South to play teams from just three conferences, one of which — the ACC — SEC squads see regularly anyway.  We see it as a missed opportunity for the Southeastern Conference.

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ACC’s Swofford Responds To Spurrier’s Notre Dame Ramble

logo-notre-dameLast week, South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier opened his media session with a meandering “state of the union” address that touched on everything from scheduling to coaches paying players out of their own pockets to the fact that Notre Dame should be forced to join a conference.  In fact, Spurrier said the league’s coaches voted unanimously in Destin that the Fighting Irish should join a league.  (As if the SEC’s coaches have any say on what deals a Midwestern university can cut for itself.)

Well, ACC commissioner John Swofford has responded to Spurrier.  Notre Dame, of course, will join that league a member in every sport but football.  The Irish will, however, play five ACC teams per year on the gridiron.  Swofford’s take on Notre Dame:

 

“It’s the right thing to do at this point in time.  It was a unanimous decision by our institutions and a very positive one that has already benefited us without question…

I’m really pleased and I know the vast majority of people in our league are pleased that ND is part of the ACC family under the conditions they are currently under.”

 

Hey, if there weren’t something special about Notre Dame, the Irish wouldn’t be able to cut special deals for themselves.  Other folks might not like it and it might not be “fair,” but as long as television networks, the College Football Playoff power brokers, and conferences like the ACC see great value in the Notre Dame brand, Notre Dame will continue to wield unique power.

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Bowlsby, Swofford Suggest A New Division Could Be Coming

packed-bag-ready-to-closeEarlier today we told you that a) ACC commissioner John Swofford was talking about “need-based” financial aid for student-athletes yesterday and b) we still believe a new division of “haves” — apart from the “have-nots” — will eventually be formed at the high end of the current FBS subdivision.

Now we can tell you that Swofford has taken a stronger tone in his speech today and that Big XII commissioner Bob Bowlsby has also started talking about a new division.

We’ll start with Swofford — commissioner of the least wealthy of the five mega-wealthy leagues remaining — who explained why a new division might be preferable to a full break from the NCAA:

 

“(A new division is) a potential way of making a change that would basically retain the fundamental NCAA oversight and umbrella, if you will.  If the five conferences were to break off, I mean, that’s a complicated move.  You’d have to, in essence, duplicate the NCAA in some form or fashion, and then what does that mean for intercollegiate athletics? 

So if you’ve got another division, if that’s the answer within the NCAA, you can maneuver and find an appropriate way, I think, to address (issues like player stipends).”

 

As we’ve noted many times before, a full-scale exodus from the NCAA would require the power conferences to adopt a new rule book, hire new leaders, hire new enforcement officials, etc, etc.  That’s just not going to happen.

A new division will happen.  The biggest conferences — and one wonders where the ACC is on this considering Swofford’s comments of a day ago — want to be given the power to decide for themselves who they pay, how much they pay, and how they go about doing it.  But a proposed stipend for athletes was gunned down at the NCAA level because the presidents at the many “have-not” schools can’t afford to increase scholarships or pay stipends to athletes.  And they also don’t want to be left behind on the recruiting trail by schools who can afford it.

For that reason, the biggest conferences (ACC, Big Ten, Big XII, Pac-12, and SEC) will have to threaten to leave altogether — Mike Slive hinted at a break last week — before the NCAA presidents vote to allow them to just form their own division at the highest level of the NCAA food chain.

For now, it’s politics.  Smaller school presidents can say, “Go ahead and leave” knowing that the bigger schools probably can’t or won’t.  The bigger school presidents will have to bluff otherwise.

Moving from the ACC to the Big XII, Bowlsby said today that a new “Division 4″ is possible for the top football schools and that there is “unanimity” among the FBS commissioners on that point.  (That’s interesting, considering that would include the commissioners of leagues like the Sun Belt and MAC.)  He said that leaving the NCAA isn’t likely “except as a last resort.”

Slive last week.  Bowlsby this week.  The NCAA presidents nuked stipends last time around.  Now the big boys — as noted above — are starting to talk about breaking away entirely.  Again, it’s politics.  Or high-stakes poker.

More from Bowlsby:

 

“I think we all have a sense that transformative change has to happen…

We’ve made it too easy to get into Division 1 and too easy to stay there… Northern Iowa and Texas aren’t much alike.”

 

The biggest commissioner appear ready to start taking a John Denver approach to things.  “All their bags are packed, they’re ready to go.”

 

John Denver ~ Leaving on a Jet Plane

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UK’s Stoops Asked About His Brother’s Anti-SEC Comments

KENTUCKY MEDIA DAYSThe first question to new Kentucky coach Mark Stoops was about his brother — Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops — and his offseason comments that the SEC benefits from “propaganda.”  The take of UK’s coach:

 

“I certainly understand Bob defending his conference.  I just left the ACC and I think everybody’s gonna defend what they’re doing in their conference.  That said, I don’t think any of us need to defend what’s going on here in the SEC.”

 

Asked specifically about the East Division, Stoops praised Florida and South Carolina before admitting that UK has to focus on improving itself.

On a sidenote, Stoops has a little waver in his voice today, but that’s not unusual for first-year coaches stepping to the mic during SEC Media Days.  Not only is Stoops in his first year in the SEC, but he’s also a first-time head coach overall.

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WOW Headlines – 6/26/13

Former Alabama TE Brent Calloway will transfer to a junior college after being dismissed from the Tide football team
South Carolina QB Connor Shaw says his surgically-repaired foot is doing so well that he went skydiving last weekend
The NCAA has officially reprimanded Ole Miss G Marshall Henderson for making obscene gestures toward fans during this past year’s NCAA Tournament
The Gator Bowl is expected to pair an SEC team with either a Big Ten or ACC team in the upcoming six-year bowl cycle
There’s debate whether former Kentucky C Nerlens Noel will be the first pick in Thursday’s NBA draft
Former West Virginia F Keaton Miles is transferring to Arkansas
The NCAA has granted Mississippi State F Wendell Lewis an extra year of eligibility due to medical hardship
Follow all the SEC’s team every day at MrSEC.com

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Gator Bowl Expects A Deal With The SEC And Multiple Conferences

gator-bowl-logoSince January of 2011, the Gator Bowl has been an SEC bowl partner.  With a new series of contracts being drawn up and signed, it looks like that partnership will extend for a new six-year window between 2014 and 2019.

According to Gator Bowl president Rick Catlett, the current SEC versus Big Ten matchup will likely be tweaked moving forward:

 

“I believe we will have a deal with the SEC and we’re looking to create a relationship with multiple conferences.  We’re focusing on the Big Ten and the ACC and Notre Dame.  I feel like we’re really close…

The SEC will be our anchor conference and the team we get will be our home team each year.”

 

At MrSEC.com, we have stated that we would have like to have seen the SEC go a bit more national with its bowl schedule.  Big Ten teams, for example, will take part in bowls from New York to Florida to California.

We are also in favor a bowl “draft” that would allow SEC fans to see their teams battle teams from conferences they don’t often play (cough, cough, the Pac-12, cough).

Unfortunately, this appears to be more of the same.  We suspect when the SEC announces its new lineup of bowl partners, you’ll see a whole of SEC versus Big Ten and SEC versus ACC matchups.  A couple of bowls will likely feature games against the Big XII as well.  So much for variety.  Hey, we’re glad the Gator Bowl is branching out, but replacing a Big Ten team with an ACC team doesn’t do much for variety when it comes to SEC bowl foes.

Ultimately, the league is going in the complete opposite direction of the Big Ten.  Jim Delany’s league is going coast-to-coast in an effort to get more national attention and be seen in front of recruits from multiple regions.  The SEC is happy just to sit in its own backyard.  The best recruiting zone in America is in its geographic footprint and currently the league rules the national roost in terms of football and media hype.  League officials apparently feel no need to change.

That’s too bad for SEC fans… unless you enjoy seeing umpteen SEC/ACC and SEC/Big Ten matchups every December and January.

Personally we would have liked to have seen the SEC worm its way into the Las Vegas Bowl against the Pac-12.  Call us crazy.

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FSU’s Fisher Says “Perception Is A Huge Part” Of The SEC’s Reputation

Duke v Florida StateAnother coach has decided to tweak the SEC’s nose and this time he’s not a Big XII’er.  Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher told The Tallahassee Democrat this weekend that the ACC compares quite well against the SEC.

Asked what his conference needed to do to get more national respect, Fisher said:

 

“Wake y’all media people up a little bit (laughing).  I say that jokingly, but if you look at the numbers, perception is a huge part of it.  When you look at number of recruits in the top 150 players in the country, SEC and ACC are by far the top two.  So it’s the two most athletic, competitive conferences.  Now we (as a conference) have to win more games.

Everybody says that about us (Florida State), but we’ve only lost to one SEC team (in three years).  Florida last year was the first time we’ve ever lost to one.  We beat Florida (twice), beat South Carolina… (Last year’s Florida game was) the first one we’ve lost.  We beat Notre Dame.  Beat South Carolina in a bowl game.  Now we have to keep winning games and make ourselves relevant again.  And I think the (NFL) draft also proves it…

Perception sometimes… once something’s said over and over and over again… sometimes it’s not always reality.”

 

Fisher is correct on two fronts.  First, recruiting grades and NFL draft results do suggest that the ACC has plenty of talent within its borders.  Second, the ACC has “to keep winning games” to make itself relevant again.

The Southeastern Conference not only leads the way in recruiting rankings and NFL draftees, it wins on the field.  Among the five power conferences, the SEC’s bowl record is far and away the best dating back 15 years.  The league has won nine of the 15 BCS championship games played since 1998.  The only SEC squad to lose a BCS title game (LSU) was beaten by another SEC team (Alabama).

The ACC has talent.  It just needs more of its teams to use that talent to win ballgames.

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Big XII Meetings Begin With Big Cash, Scheduling Alliances On The Agenda

big-12-logoThe SEC isn’t the only league holding its spring meetings this week.  The Big XII is having its annual get-together and a couple of agenda items might interest fans of the Southeastern Conference.

First, the 10-team Big XII is expected to hand out the biggest revenue checks in college athletics for the 2012-13 season.  The number being kicked around as a possibility is $26 million per school.  Commissioner Bob Bowlsby has said that number is “in the ballpark.”

Also, it’s expected that Big XII leaders will discuss a proposed football scheduling alliance with the ACC.  That topic has been floating around for a while.  The Big XII and SEC have also had conversations — at some level — regarding a possible scheduling partnership.  A planned alliance between the Big Ten and Pac-12 was scuttled before ever getting off the launch pad.

As we wrote a couple of weeks ago, it will be interesting to see if any two leagues can get a scheduling alliance off the ground.

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That ACC Network Thing? Uh, Don’t Hold Your Breath

frownFor the past year, members of the ACC have been living on edge.  It’s been the conference voted “Most Likely To Be Raided By Other Leagues.”  Money issues have been at the heart of the problem.  As in: The ACC and its schools don’t make as much money as the other four major conferences.

Before shocking the world with an out-of-left-field grant of rights deal a few weeks ago, ACC commissioner John Swofford had to make a near perfect sales pitch to league members like Florida State.  He did and all the conference’s schools signed on the dotted line.

Immediately, ACC fans (and some of us in the media) jumped to an awfully big conclusion — that the league would soon push forward a new ACC Network with ESPN.  ESPN had already stepped in to offer a bit more cash to the conference long-term in order to fend off further conference realignment, but an additional network was seen as the league’s best chance to close the financial gap on rival conferences.

However, The SportsBusiness Journal reports today that the ACC has not bought back the media rights it’s already sold off to Raycom and Fox Sports Net.  Those rights agreements run through 2027 and unless the ACC buys them back and turns them over to ESPN, there will be no new ACC Network.

This isn’t an oversight by the ACC, mind you.  Everyone involved had to know that without those rights, no channel would be possible.  Also, ESPN agreed to discuss the possibility of creating a network.  It did not agree to actually launch such a network.

For that reason, the topic of a network was not a hot one at last week’s ACC meetings.

If no new network launches, ESPN has agreed to kick in enough money to get ACC schools into the $20 million range annually.  At MrSEC.com, we’ve reported since last December that industry and SEC sources have told us that schools in Mike Slive’s conference could be making $30-35 million annually within a year or two of the launch of an SEC Network.

That network is already a done deal, thanks to a long-term agreement with ESPN.  And before reaching that agreement, the SEC bought back all of its media rights — television and digital — in order to turn them over to ESPN for use with the network.

While the ACC’s membership is clearly in favor of sticking together — they wouldn’t have signed a binding grant of rights deal otherwise — the main problem for the league has a growing cash gap.  Without an ACC Network, that will continue to be an issue for the schools in Swofford’s league moving forward.

Does this re-open Pandora’s Box when it comes to conference realignment?  No.  But it will probably give a lot of people reason enough to start writing about expansion again.  We’re heading into the blah days of summer after all.

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SEC Headlines 5/17/2013

headlines-friSEC Football

1. Vanderbilt coach James Franklin makes it clear he’s no fan of going to a 9-game SEC schedule: “If it ain’t broke, don’t try to fix it…Who’s going to play Oregon or Ohio State out of conference now?”

2. Tennessee A.D. Dave Hart on coach Butch Jones: “He’s passionate, he’s genuine and I think he’s off to a very, very good start in terms of galvanizing our fan base.”

3. Can Kentucky’s 2013 offense compare to the 1997 Air Raid offense of Hal Mumme?

4. Incoming Ole Miss freshman Robert Nkemdiche: “It is nearly inconceivable that an 18-year-old can have the build of a rookie in the NFL, but Nkemdiche does.”

5. Johnny Manziel: “The best summer anyone’s ever had continues, and it’s not even summer yet.” More here on his day in San Diego including a personalized jersey with a Heisman Trophy Patch.

6. Nick Saban on preparing for Manziel: ”I think that’s an ongoing process around here.” Aggies with most offensive and defensive snaps in the SEC.

7. 2014 draft-eligible SEC cornerbacks to keep your on this fall. Past five NFL drafts – SEC with 229 picks – Big 12 with 136.

8. Auburn right tackle Avery Young on playing in a hurry-up, no-huddle offense.  ”I’ve seen how it goes when playing against a team that’s not used to it.”

9. Gus Malzhan “has had seven different starting quarterbacks in seven years at the college level.”

10. Thanks to U.S. Open tennis shifting to ESPN, we could see more early SEC games on CBS starting in 2015.

Perspective on Nick Saban’s Week

11. 111 NFL players coached or recruited by Nick Saban - 33 of them at Alabama.

12. Robbie Andreu on Tim Davis’ comments regarding Saban: “Those being critical of his “devil” quote need to relax and understand that he was only kidding.”

13. Duane Rankin: “Davis’ comments are going to serve as motivation for Alabama, too.”

14. David Climer: (Saban) “gave him a job at two different levels of football. How about a little appreciation here?

15. MrSEC: “One man’s dream boss can be another man’s nightmare.”

NCAA News

16. ACC coaches want the coaches’ poll to be part of playoff criteria.

17. ACC TV Network? “ACC is able to proudly proclaim it has the most population (107 million) and most TV households (38 million) within its 10-state footprint of any conference.”

18. USC A.D. Pat Haden made $2.2 million in 2011 - second among athletic directors only to Vanderbilt’s David Williams (who held multiple titles that year). USC coach Lane Kiffin made $2.6 million that year - father Monte made $1.8 million.

19. Matt Hayes on Pat Fitzgerald’s Big Ten team:  ”Northwestern was the only Big Ten team to beat the mighty SEC in a bowl game, the program’s first bowl victory since 1949.”

20. Georgia Tech and the strangest recruiting Photoshops of them all.

SEC  Basketball

21. Is 45-year old Coleman Coliseum a long-term venue for Alabama?  A.D. Bill Battle: ”Right now, I think the answer’s yes… if we outgrow Coleman, we’ll address that when that time comes, but we’ve got a ways to go before we get there.”

22. Auburn’s Tony Barbee may have the hottest seat of any coach in college basketball this year.

23. Kevin Stallings may add an assistant at Vanderbilt.

24. Why the next six weeks may determine if former Missouri guard Phil Pressey will have an NBA career.

Extras

25. Former Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner fires his agent for not being drafted in the top five.

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