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Was UNC Looking At The SEC When Maryland Broke Ranks? It Doesn’t Seem So

001uncfansLast week — sorry that we’re only now getting wind of this — The Raleigh News & Observer reported the following: “Emails show UNC doubts about ACC after Maryland’s departure.”  You know the drill from there — the paper did an open records request and then scanned all of the email communications of North Carolina’s top brass, looking for any talk of the ACC and conference realignment.

The gist of their findings is simple: Yes, Carolina officials were worried about the ACC’s television revenue when long-time rival Maryland jumped to the Big Ten.  UNC athletic director Bubba Cunningham emailed one Tar Heel fan last November to say: “We are looking at all options.  But keeping the ACC strong is our number one choice.”

Nearly 12 months later, the Atlantic Coast Conference has added Louisville and re-worked its own television deal with ESPN.  Pittsburgh and Syracuse have become official members.  And perhaps most importantly, a grant-of-rights agreement has been inked between the league and its 14 members.

So for the moment things look pretty stable, if not particularly lucrative, along the Eastern Seaboard.  But We know what you’re interested in learning.  After Maryland’s move, did UNC peek longingly toward the SEC or any other conference while “looking at all options?”

Not according to Cunningham’s emails.  The News & Observer’s report only mentions the SEC a couple of times:

 

1.  A financial adviser in Athens, Georgia emailed Cunningham about a meeting he had had with an SEC athletic director.  (We’ll guess that he met with UGA’s Greg McGarity.)  The financial adviser, Joe Frierson, wrote:  “He said the SEC pays out around $20 (million per) team right now.  Thinks it will approach $35 (million per team) when TV contract is renegotiated in a couple of years.  He said the SEC just signed a contract for the Sugar Bowl (between teams from the SEC and Big 12) for 2015 that will pay $40 (million) to each conference… That is ridiculous money.”

Cunningham’s response:  “It really concerns me.  If these trends continue I’m not sure how the ACC (can) compete financially.”

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LSU’s Miles Says O-Coordinator Cameron Would Make “A Great Head Coach”

gfx - they said itCam Cameron has been a college head coach.  From 1997 through 2001 he tried to resurrect Indiana’s football program.  Like many before and since, he failed.

But LSU’s first-year offensive coordinator is having the kind of success in Baton Rouge that athletic directors are sure notice.  The Tigers averaged 374 yards per game last season.  This year they’re averaging just under 489.  Last year LSU averaged 29.7 points per game.  This year they’re averaging 45.5.

Improved quarterback play is one big reason for the uptick in production (bad defenses are another).  Under the tutelage of the long-time NFL assistant, Zach Mettenberger has seen his passer rating balloon from 128.34 (ninth best in the SEC last season) to 190.12 (third best in the league this season).

Add all that up and Les Miles believes his old pal is ready for another head coaching opportunity:

 

“He’s somebody that is committed to, in my mind, making LSU the best they can be.  His short-term goals are to win and win very big….

I think he’d be a great head coach in the college game or, for that matter, the pro game.  Again, right now he’s in college.  I think he sees his opportunities in college, and I think he’ll have them.”

 

Here’s guessing more than a few Tiger fans would prefer it if Miles would stop with the Cameron hype and focus instead on keeping him around.

In his five seasons at Indiana, Cameron went 18-37.  His final team went 5-6 but finished 4-4 in the Big Ten, good enough for a fourth-place tie on the standings sheet.

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Alabama No. 1 In AP Poll; SEC With Five of Top 10, Six Teams In Top 25

poll-voting-boxIf the preseason AP top 25 poll is any indication, don’t expect SEC dominance to end in 2013.  Two-time defending national champion Alabama is ranked No. 1, capturing 58 of 60 first place votes.  Georgia and Ohio State received the other two.  In all, SEC teams captured five of the top ten spots with a total of six SEC teams ranked in the top 25. SEC had the most teams of any conference, with the Big Ten and the Pac-12 tied for second with five teams each.

Here’s the breakdown of SEC rankings:

No. 1 Alabama

No. 5 – Georgia 

No.  6 – South Carolina 

No. 7 – Texas A&M

No. 10 -Florida

No. 12- LSU

Vanderbilt and Ole Miss also received votes.

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SEC #3 Conference In Hoops Attendance Report

kentucky-fans-cats-painted-on-chestsThe NCAA has unveiled its annual look-see into college basketball attendance figures.  The fact that the SEC didn’t have a great year on the court didn’t have much impact at the turnstile.  The Southeastern Conference ranked #3 among conferences in terms of average attendance per game.

SEC schools averaged 10,571 fans per game in 2012-13.  Only the Big East (10,699) and the Big Ten (13,114) had better attendance.  Mike Slive’s league ranked third despite seeing an average drop in attendance per game of 942.

In terms of the league’s teams, once again Kentucky and Tennessee found themselves in the national top 10 for attendance.  In fact, an average of 23,099 UK fans packed Rupp Arena for games last season, which topped the entire country.

Below are the national ranks and average attendance figures for each SEC program.  You’ll notice that all 14 of the league’s schools ranked in the top 100 nationally:

 

1.  Kentucky 23,099

8.  Tennessee 16,635

20.  Arkansas 13,750

29.  Missouri 11,996

31.  Alabama 11,159

35.  Florida 10,677

36.  Vanderbilt 10,637

51.  South Carolina 8,603

66.  LSU 7,653

74.  Mississippi State 6,721

84.  Texas A&M 6,331

85.  Auburn 6,257

89.  Georgia 6,98

93.  Ole Miss 6,067

 

The SEC’s attendance figures will likely rise if the on-floor product around the league begins to improve.

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No Surprises In SEC Bowl Lineup. Boring!

BowlsThe Southeastern Conference has announced its bowl tie-ins for 2014 through 2019.  And the league has partnered with all of the bowls whose names had been kicked around since spring.

If you were holding out hope for a surprise matchup against with the Pac-12 or a new bowl outside the SEC’s footprint, you’re plain outta luck.

Here’s how the SEC’s new bowl selection process will work:

 

*  The College Football Playoff selection committee will get the first opportunity to grab one (or more) SEC squads for its four-team playoff.

*  The next best team in the SEC will be slotted into the Allstate Sugar Bowl (in years when that game is not a playoff semifinal).

*  As part of a rotation, the next best SEC team will occasionally be chosen to take part in the Discover Orange Bowl.

*  The Capital One Bowl will then choose an SEC squad for its game.  That’s quite a fall for a game that for much of the ’90s g0t the SEC’s second-best team.

*  After those bowls, a pool of six more games will exist.  According to the league office: “In consultation with SEC member institutions, as well as these six bowls, the conference will make the assignments for the bowl games in this newly created pool system.”  Mike Slive is quoted in the league’s PR release: “This bowl process gives us the best opportunity to address several issues that impact SEC fans, including the creation of intriguing matchups, the accommodation of travel for fans, reduced ticket obligations for our schools and a variety of assignments to help prevent repetitive postseason destinations.”

*  The six bowls in the pool will be the Outback Bowl, the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl, the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl, and the AutoZone Liberty Bowl, as well as new partners the Texas Bowl (Houston) and the Belk Bowl (Charlotte).

*  If there are still more bowl-eligible SEC teams, the Birmingham Bowl (currently looking for a new title sponsor) will get the first selection.

*  The Advocare V100 Bowl will then get the last selection, again, if there are enough bowl-eligible teams to fill all of those slots.

 

While we believe that SEC fans might like an occasional travel opportunity outside the league’s footprint, the Slive makes it clear that he and the league’s presidents feel differently.  “We are pleased to have established a lineup of premier bowl games that will give our student-athletes a wonderful postseason experience and our fans the opportunity to travel to venues in the geographical footprint of the conference.”

 

Homer Simpson: Quit boring everyone!

 

Sorry, but a trip to either San Diego, Las Vegas or New York City would make a nice December trip for one SEC fanbase each season.  Instead, two cities not exactly known as vacation hotspots — Houston and Charlotte — have been added to the league’s menu of games.  We’ll grant ya that hose are nice, big cities with nice, big stadiums and nice, big payouts for the league and its members.  But unless someone’s got family there, no one is saying, “Honey, how ’bout we Christmas in Houston this year!?!”

Below is a listing of the conferences that will be providing opponents for each of the SEC’s future bowl partners: Read the rest of this entry »

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Slive Talks Leadership, Bridge-Building In New Forbes Profile

mike-slive-portrait-shotGot a few minutes for an uber-interesting profile of SEC commissioner Mike Slive?  Good.  Then click right here.  In a new profile by Forbes.com, Slive’s leadership strategies are put under the microscope.  The result is a fascinating view of how the commissioner has helped steer the conference into its “Golden Age.”

First and foremost, an esprit de corps has been cultivated:

 

“By definition, a conference has two seemingly incompatible components that have to operate simultaneously, (1) passionate, competitive rivalries, and (2) a group of institutions that needs to come together as a single organization to strengthen each and every unit and the conference as a whole.  We’ve had to try and balance that for almost 80 years, but only now is there an expectation that even in the pursuit of our individual goals, the conference needs to get stronger by moving forward together.”

 

We’ve stated on a number of occasions that the SEC and Big Ten have pulled away from all other conferences thanks in large part to their member institutions’ willingness to work with one another for the greater good.  The polar opposite would be the Big XII, dominated fiscally and politically by Texas for so long.

The SEC and Big Ten — under Slive and Jim Delany — have both succeeded as a result of an “all for one, one for all” mentality.  In the Southeastern Conference, Slive makes it clear that working together is not only a goal, but a necessity… as one school depends on another:

 

“When we meet with first-year coaches, I immediately tell them, ‘You’re all going to make a mistake, it’s almost guaranteed.  If you make a mistake, just report it.  We’ll deal with it.  But if you intentionally break a rule, I hope you get fired.  You’re a celebrity in your universe, and everything you do reflects not only on you, but your family, institution and us.  And for that privilege you have to give us something back.  You have to be held accountable.”

 

Again, this examination of Slive’s leadership strategies is well worth your time.

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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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Big XII’s Bowlsby Says 10 Is “The Right Number For Us”

gfx - they said itAs we enter the 2013 season, there’s no rumbling of potential expansion or conference realignment to take force our minds away from the football field.  No one has been able to say that for quite a while.

If Big XII commissioner Bob Bowlsby has his way, there’s won’t be any more rumors swirling around his conference in the weeks and months to come.  After stating that 10 schools is “the right number for us,” the savior of the Big XII says money-wise his league is A-OK:

 

“There hasn’t been anything that has been empirically able to demonstrate that larger is better.  Our distributable revenue per institution is right there at the top of the country.  I think time will tell whether our size is the optimal size or whether something bigger is optimal.  But we like our dog in the fight.”

 

For now, the Big XII is distributing about the same amount of cash as the other major conferences.  But as the Big Ten expands by two teams and pushes its Big Ten Network toward the East Coast and as the SEC launches its own network, who knows how long the Big XII will be able to continue to distribute funds at an even pace with the big boy leagues?

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ACC Commish Talks “Need-Based” Funding Increases For Athletes

offering-cashMike Slive has been banging the drum for more than a year for his schools to be given the right to offer additional financial aid to their student-athletes.  The SEC commissioner has repeatedly spoken of the need to provide full-cost-of-tuition scholarships.  He did so again during SEC Media Days in a message that many viewed as a warning shot across the NCAA’s bow.  The commish said that view wasn’t “totally inaccurate.”

ACC commissioner John Swofford, long an ally of Slive, spoke yesterday about “the financial well-being of scholarship athletes,” but he seemed a bit more timid in his approach bringing up the idea of “need-based” funding:

 

“We’ve been talking about this nationally for several years now without finding something that works.  It’s very difficult to look at it in terms of a sport — or two sports — just from a legal standpoint with Title IX, and what’s appropriate and what’s legal and what’s moral and how you address that.  Should it be based just on need?  A lot of people have been supporting of enhancing a scholarship if it’s just based on need…

I’m not for paying players.  I don’t think that’s what college athletics is about.  But I am for looking — very diligently — at ways to enhance the scholarship itself, whether it’s need-based, or whether it’s a simple stipend, or some other way to approach it such as going to the full cost of attendance.

But you’ve got to be able to find something that enough people can accept and support in order to move it forward.  So far we have not been able to do that.”

 

Need-based increases are not what Slive and Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany have proposed in recent years.  So why isn’t Swofford following their lead?  Well, Slive and Delany happen to captain the two richest ships in the college sports ocean.  Swofford, meanwhile, is behind the wheel of the poorest — and we use that term loosely — of the five remaining major conferences.

Slive and Delany know that their schools can and will be able to afford to provide full-cost-of-tuition scholarships.  Doing so would also further provide a recruiting advantage for their member institutions.  Swofford’s full roster of schools might not be able to afford to buy such an advantage for themselves right now.

We’ll tackle this issue a bit more tomorrow, but for now, we find it interesting that Swofford is talking about “need-based” increases.

As we’ve stated on numerous occasions, we believe the biggest conferences will eventually form their own new division at the deep end of the current FBS pool.  Those schools will then provide greater financial assistance to their student-athletes.

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SEC Recruiting Notebook: LSU Lands Its Quarterback

sec-recruiting-notebook-gfxLSU received a commitment from quarterback Brandon Harris from Parkway High School in Bossier City, La., on Thursday.

Harris chose the Tigers over Auburn and Ohio State. Alabama, Ole Miss, Tennessee and Texas A&M were other schools to show strong interest in Harris.

He told ESPN RecruitingNation that a trip to LSU on May 26 helped give the Tigers an early advantage.

“It was just a different vibe,” said Harris, LSU’s 14th commitment for the 2014 class. “When I went to Alabama, Ohio State and all these other places, I didn’t feel that same vibe.”

There was also the in-state draw. Harris said that gave LSU several advantages, including the opportunity for his family to see him play.

“Louisiana, I feel like, produces the best athletes every year,” he said. “To get the opportunity to play with the greatest athletes and go into the Louisiana Hall of Fame one day, I knew I didn’t want to go into the Alabama Hall of Fame, I knew I didn’t want to go into the Ohio State Hall of Fame.

“I knew I wanted to go into the Louisiana Hall of Fame. Why not play for a school where you’re from, the biggest in-state school in the state of Louisiana?”

Harris, who’s ranked the nation’s No. 2 dual-threat quarterback by ESPN, plans to graduate high school in December and enroll at LSU in the spring. With senior Zach Mettenberger leaving after the season, Harris will compete for playing time with Stephen Rivers, Anthony Jennings and Hayden Rettig for the starting position.

“By me getting the opportunity to graduate in December and enroll early and go through spring practice, I get a great shot at trying to compete and start as a freshman,” Harris said.

 

Tennessee’s class keeps growing

Three prospects committed to Tennessee this week, the latest coming from offensive lineman Ray Raulerson from Plant High School in Tampa, Fla.

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