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ESPN’s Herbstreit Says SEC Fans Should Take Losses As A Group Just As They Do Wins

gfx - honest opinionOn the long list of things that sports fans get angry about these days — and it’s a long damn list — those of us here at MrSEC.com find one item hard to grasp.  Southeastern Conference fans take pride in the fact their league has won title after title after title in college football.  Seven in a row at this point.  And next Spring, SEC squads will once again send more prospects into the pro ranks than any other league.  Again, SEC fans will whoop, holler and brag.

Well, for some reason, that doesn’t sit well with people outside the South at all.

“Hey, you can’t take credit for a championship by Alabama unless your a Bama backer!”

“Georgia and South Carolina and Mississippi State and Arkansas, you didn’t win anything!”

The general gist — as far as we can guess — is that people outside of Dixie don’t want to see other people happy.  Think about it.  Isn’t that really what they’re saying.  “We don’t want you to have any more fun than us!”

To hell with that.  Life’s short.  Much of it is miserable.  What’s wrong with taking a little pleasure in knowing that your conference is the toughest in the land?

No one likes bandwagon fans when their team wins a title, especially if they have suffered through lean years with said team.  People feel they’ve earned the right to enjoy big wins a bit more than the Johnny-come-latelys.

But what does it really hurt?  So more people are happy?  And that’s a bad thing?

Apparently ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit thinks so.  The ex-Big Ten quarterback had this to say yesterday on the network’s “College Football LIVE” program:

 

“The SEC, it’s unique about their fanbase.  There are 14 schools.  When one of them wins a national championship, all 14 carry the flag for the national championship.  They all claim it.  They all claim the national championship like they won it together.  So when Tennessee gets ambushed by Oregon, they need to all get their flag out together and accept that loss to Oregon.”

 

OK.

The SEC lost a game badly to Oregon.  The SEC has also lost at Clemson, at Miami (FL), and to Oklahoma State this year.

And come January, it’s likely that the SEC will play for another BCS title anyway.  If the league’s representative wins, Herbstreit — who I had the pleasure of working with at WBNS-TV in Columbus, Ohio… good guy — and others will probably hear that now famous “S-E-C, S-E-C” chant echoing across the Rose Bowl.  And that will hurt who exactly?  That’s bad why?  Because we’d prefer more people to be sad or miserable?

Hey, if an SEC team plays and loses in the BCS Championship Game, you can bet the victor’s fans in Pasadena will taunt their rivals with that very same chant.  And at that point, SEC fans will have to take down their flag — as Herbstreit puts it — and go home.  So be it.

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Taking A Shot At SEC’s Bama, Big Ten’s Delany Hits Nebraska, Too (Oh, And We Told Ya The SEC’s Schedule Would Be Questioned)

Despite the fact that he’s overseen the greatest, richest run in SEC history and negotiated two television contracts that changed the way all conferences do business… there are still some folks Down South who don’t like commissioner Mike Slive.  Maybe they should try on the Big Ten’s Jim Delany for size.

I used the word “like” above for a reason.  Slive seems likeable.  Even if he’s steaming mad, you wouldn’t know it.  There are rarely — if any — barbs or potshots thrown at other leagues or schools/teams from other leagues.  Whether he means it or not, he presents himself as being pro-college athletics, not just pro-SEC.

With Delany, he makes no bones about the fact that he views all other conferences — athletically and academically — as being inferior to the Big Ten.  He has in the past made it quite clear that he holds the SEC specifically in great disdain.  He did so again yesterday during a conference call with AP writers.  His grumpy attitude is sure to leave people in the Yellowhammer State ticked.

Talking about his desire to reward conference champions and not just the four best teams in the polls, Delany was asked about a team that didn’t win its own division:

 

“I don’t have a lot of regard for that team.  I certainly wouldn’t have as much regard for that team as I would for someone who played nine conference games in a tough conference and played a couple out-of-conference games ont eh road against really good opponents.  If a poll doesn’t honor those teams and they’re conference champions, I do.”

 

Hmmm.  Now what school didn’t win its division but did win the BCS title last year?  Oh, yes, Alabama.  Of the dreaded SEC.  It won’t be long before this comment is put before Nick Saban who will say something to the effect of: “I don’t believe a school should be punished because it happens to play in a tougher division and tougher, deeper conference than another.”  Here’s guessing we’ll get that comment today if someone can get to Saban.

To Delany’s point, one must wonder if he realizes that he’s just said that he doesn’t hold Nebraska’s 2001 team in very high regard, either.  That’s Nebraska of the Big Ten now, mind you.  The Cornhuskers were co-North division champs of the Big 12 in ’01, but they lost the tie-breaker to their championship game thanks to a late-season loss to division rival Colorado.  The Buffaloes went to the Big 12 title game in their place.  So technically, Nebraska didn’t win its division, just like Alabama.  Also like Bama, the Huskers were tabbed to play in the BCS title game anyway (though they lost to Miami).

In a Delany-driven world — where most people would no doubt frown a lot — teams like Alabama 2011 and Nebraska 2001 not only wouldn’t get a shot at the title, but they wouldn’t even make a four-team playoff.

But back to Delany’s comments:

 

“Some people think it should just be the top four teams; some people think it should just be the four highest-rated champions.  I was just floating some ideas of how you might have a hybrid where champions were respected and there was  still room for at-large.

The polls don’t always measure strength of schedule.  Some conferences are playing nine games, some are playing eight.  The Pac-12 is playing nine and then go out and play a round-robin game against us, that’s 10 and some of them are going to play Notre Dame — that’s 11 difficult games.  If they’re ranked fifth in the country and they won a conference championship, I think that’s quite an accomplishment.  Some teams don’t even win their own division.  They started off highly in the rankings, lose early, don’t play a championship game and they might end up at four.”

 

Or at #2, as was the case with Alabama.

The bigger issue here is something that we warned you about back on February 28th when we wrote that by deciding to stick with an eight-game conference schedule:

 

“…the (SEC) would hurt itself rather than help itself by softening its schedule.  Other leagues are making their schedules tougher.  The Big 12 is playing a nine-game slate.  The ACC will move to a nine-game plan when Syracuse and Pittsburgh enter that league.  Big Ten and Pac-12 teams will begin playing on a yearly basis on top of their current in-conference schedules in 2017.  The other major conferences are all guaranteeing themselves more BCS-level opponents per season.  If the SEC sticks with an eight-game plan, all the anti-SEC’ers out there will finally have a reason to vote down the league in future polls.  No longer will the SEC be a mini-NFL.  Oh, coaches will tell you that eight SEC games are harder than nine BCS games in other leagues, but folks outside the South won’t buy it.  You can be sure of that.”

 

So it took what?  About 70 days for other leagues to start pointing out that they play more BCS-level games than the SEC, which appears dead-set on standing pat with an eight-game plan?  Well, told ya so.

And now we’ll tell Commissioner Slive and his 14 league presidents something else — fix this.  If you go to a nine-game schedule, your teams will face each other more often, you’ll make more money from the networks (thanks to better games), fans will be paying to see more conference games and fewer patsies, and you’ll fend off any strength-of-schedule questions that might come your way by rival league commissioners, rival coaches, or — egads — poll voters and computer formulas.

The SEC’s athletic directors want more home games for gate purposes (though they already play more games and make more TV money than they did 10 years ago) and they want more cupcakes on the docket for bowl-eligibility purposes.  While I would love to think that Slive would step up and lead this bunch back to a nine-game schedule at the SEC Meetings in Destin, it appears too much water has passed under that bridge.  By all accounts, Slive and his presidents have let the league’s ADs come up with the new schedule options.  So it’s late in the game to chuck all the eight-game options and break out a new nine-game format at this point.

That’s a shame.

Because you’re already seeing what an eight-game schedule will do for the SEC.  It will give ammunition to all the anti-SEC people in America.  And they are legion at the moment.  With the Big Ten’s Delany right out in front.

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Decreases In State Funding Led Mizzou To The SEC

There was never any question that the lure of bigger dollars helped sway Missouri toward the SEC.  Yes, the Big 12 was and is as fragile as a Faberge egg.  Sure the football is better Down South.  But in reality, budget cuts in the state of Missouri played as big a role as anything in Mizzou’s decision to pack up and switch conferences.

The Kansas City Star obtained a copy of the school’s application to the SEC — it mentions a July 1st, 2012 entry — and in the application, president Brady Deaton said mentioned that decreases in state funding for MU was leading to increased recruiting or out-of-state students who pay higher tuition.

Speaking with the press yesterday, Deaton said:


“Had state funding stayed up and we were in real solid shape financially, there would still be the issues that we were dealing with trying to gain some sense of stability and surety with the Big 12.  But the fact that there was pressure financially there, certainly accentuated our attention to that set of issues.

Looking at more stable and perhaps lucrative long-term conference alignment, the attractiveness was enhanced by the financial uncertainty that we were facing.”


Given the cuts Missouri faced, Deaten said MU “simply cannot ask our students and taxpayers to provide the kind of funding need by a major athletic program.”

Missouri’s board of curators has been pushing for the school’s athletic department to become financially self-sufficient.

Deaton also said that Mizzou expects to make up to $4 million more annually through the SEC’s television delas “with some possibility that it could be even greater than that.”

Two things come to mind from this:


1.  No wonder Missouri is working hard to negotiate down its Big 12 exit fees.

2.  Deaton speaking about this matter so publicly might cool the tempers of those Tiger fans who didn’t want to switch leagues.

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