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Slive Talks Scheduling, Tournaments, & TV In KC

Mike Slive’s SEC welcome wagon pulled into Kansas City yesterday to help make sure the Missouri Tigers don’t become an afterthought in the lefthand portion of their home state.  It’s clear that Mizzou is making a strong PR push to keep KC-area residents interested in Tiger athletics… even though the Tigers will no longer be playing nearby Kansas and Kansas State.

According to The Kansas City Star,
Slive touched on the normal list of topics and we’ll give you a taste of each below:

* Scheduling — Slive said once again that the league’s ADs have shown no interest in moving to a nine-game schedule.  (We maintain that once everyone else starts playing nine BCS games per year, the SEC will be forced to follow suit or suffer in the national polls.)

“We have to decide how we’re going to schedule, and then if we’re going to have permanent (rivals), how permanent (rivals) are going to work,” Slive said.  “We’ve met a couple times, but not final decisions have been made.  I anticipate we’ll do that sometime between now and Destin” at the SEC Meetings at the end of May.

In other words, all the leaks and tweets between the presidents at South Carolina and Texas A&M don’t necessarily guarantee that Arkansas and Missouri will be paired as permanent football rivals.  (Though it sure looks like that will be the case.)

* Television — SEC schools can cut their own deals with networks for their local rights packages — like Florida and the Sunshine Network, for example — but the commish made it clear schools aren’t able to go the University of Texas route.  “Our institutions cannot go ahead and have their own networks.”

As for the current negotiations between the league and its current television partners ESPN and CBS, Slive said: “There’s not timetable, but you don’t want to be dragging it out forever.  We’ve had significant meetings with both of our partners.”

Slive would not say whether or not the league would start its own network like the Big Ten and Pac-12 have.

* Basketball Tournaments in Missouri — Missouri athletic director Mike Alden has already pushed both Kansas City and St. Louis to bid on future SEC Tournaments.  Earlier this month Slive stated that he “anticipated” a bid coming from St. Louis, but he said nothing of Kansas City.

So what did he say yesterday in Kansas City?  “If you’re asking if there’s a chance we bring the conference championship to Kansas City, the answer is… could we?  Yes.  Will we?  I don’t know.”  He did say that he thought KC officials might put in a bid.

St. Louis and Memphis, Slive said, have both expressed interest in grabbing the two currently open tourneys or 2016 and 2017.

Regarding St. Louis, Slive told The St. Louis Post-Dispatch that Frank Viverito — the president of the St. Louis Sports Commission — is “very serious” about landing an SEC tourney.  “He made it very clear that St. Louis has a strong interest in having every opportunity.”

* Moving the SEC Championship Game — I think we all know that this is a no-go.  The Georgia Dome has been home to the last 18 title games in a row and the commish said it’s staying put.

“It’s been very successful for us in Atlanta,” Slive said.  “Right now we’re under contract through ’17 with an option for ’21… we’re sold out every year, we have about a 99% renewal rate, we have a 20,000-person waiting list, and we draw somewhere between 35,000 and 40,000 people to our (SEC) Fanfare (event) adjacent to the game.  It’s a formula that one would be very careful about tinkering with.”

So, in all of that, did we really learn anything new from Slive’s stopover in the barbecue capital of the Midwest?  Only that St. Louis “very serious” about landing a hoops tournament — which was already anticipated — and that SEC schools could not form their own television networks.

It was believed that league schools could do so since they own their own local rights.  In fact, some sites reported that Texas could enter the SEC and keep its Longhorn Network.  Not so, according to the commissioner himself.

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Mizzou A.D. Wants An SEC Tourney In St. Louis, Too

Last month, Missouri athletic director Mike Alden came out in favor of Kansas City bidding to land and host a future SEC basketball tournament.  At the time, we said KC was on the far side of the state and far from all SEC teams not named Arkansas or Mizzou.  We suggested St. Louis would be a better fit for a Show-Me State tourney.

Now Alden is backing one of those, too:


“The SEC Tournament is going to be up for bid in 2017 and 2018, which I made sure that Frank Viverito and Dave Peacock (St. Louis Sports Commission members) know.  No reason why St. Louis can’t bid on having the SEC tournament here as well as the Missouri Valley Tournament.”


As we wrote last month, the SEC would be wise to award its tourney to a select group of host cities.  As the league learned from its tourney in St. Petersburg, Florida in 2009, taking the highest bid doesn’t necessarily guarantee good ticket sales or filled seats during national TV broadcasts.

In our view, Atlanta, Nashville, Memphis and New Orleans are all either centrally-located, tourist destinations, or both.  Those four cities should be part of any SEC Tournament rotation. 

Then if the league wants to bid out a tourney every now and then to St. Louis, Houston or even Kansas City to appease the newest members of the league, fine.  (The chance to nosh on some toasted ravioli at Rigazzi’s on The Hill is A-OK with this writer.)  But the league had better not bid tourneys out to the Hinterlands with too much regularity lest it damage its hoops reputation further via empty courtside seats shown during game after game on national television.  Because regardless of what the folks in KC, STL or Houston say, there wouldn’t be 10 people attending a Thursday afternoon first-round game between South Carolina and Auburn in any of those joints.

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Kansas City Aims To Become An SEC City, But The SEC Should Be Picky With Its Tourney

To your immediate left is a map of the Southeastern Conference region.  That red dot at the extreme Northwest of the map?  That’s Kansas City, Missouri.  (You can click the headline above for a bigger look at the image.)

Kansas City wants to continue to make money off of Missouri athletics after the Tigers move to the SEC.  Missouri wants to maintain a presence in the city for its KC fanbase (though the area is a lot closer to the University of Kansas than the University of Missouri).

With the Jayhawks balking at the idea of continuing their football series with the Tigers in Kansas City, the city is looking for new ways to stay connected with MU.  City leaders met with Mizzou officials and state lawmakers yesterday to see if the Tigers were serious about playing games there in the future.

“It was real clear to me that Missouri was absolutely sincere in wanting to keep a major presence here in Kansas City,” said Jim Heeter, the head of the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce.  And that was enough to lead Heeter to say this:


“I suggest it’s a great opportunity for Kansas City.  We keep our Big 12 base and then expand our base to the SEC.  We can make what’s already one of the great sports towns in America an even greater sports town.”

Sounds good.  But the idea of the Kansas City community embracing the SEC is a bit of a longshot.  Columbia definitely will.  St. Louis — which is on the other side of the state from Kansas City — probably will as well, eventually.  But KC?  Take another look at that map above.

That said, there are a couple of options Kansas City and Missouri are already discussing:

1.  Have the Tigers play an annual football game in KC… even if it’s not against Kansas.

2.  Let the Tigers host a holiday basketball tournament in Kansas City.

3.  Bring the SEC basketball tournament to Kansas City.

Mizzou AD Mike Alden says he’s in favor of bringing the tourney to KC by as early as 2017-18.  “(The SEC is) gonna take a look at bids throughout their entire footprint, which includes KC.  I know they’re hoping they would receive a bid and proposal from Kansas City to be able to host their tournament here.”

Are 20,000 or so of you interested in heading to Kansas City in March to watch the SEC Tournament?  Didn’t think so.  Heck, even Kentucky fans might view that as being a bit of a haul.

It’s good business for the Southeastern Conference to award its tourney to the highest bidder.  The league should just know that the attendance will likely be rather low for such an event held in a place far from the South.  Like it or not, Kansas City is still Big 12 territory.  There won’t be much walk-up traffic from folks wanting to buy a seat to an afternoon session between South Carolina and Auburn.

For that matter, very few SEC fans chose to travel to St. Petersburg for the 2009 tourney and St. Pete’s in long-time league territory.

Since being revived in 1979, here’s a breakdown of the cities that have hosted (and are scheduled to host) the league’s annual basketball championship:

City Hosted or Will Host
Birmingham, AL 79, 80, 81, 83, 85, 92
Lexington, KY 82, 86, 93
Nashville, TN 84, 91, 01, 06, 10, 13
Atlanta, GA 87, 95, 98, 99, 00, 02, 04, 05, 07, 08, 11, 14
Baton Rouge, LA 88
Knoxville, TN 89
Orlando, FL 90
Memphis, TN 94, 97
New Orleans, LA 96, 03, 12

Obviously, the SEC has outgrown the days of playing the tourney at on-campus sites.  Good.  It shouldn’t go back to that.  Ever.

The SEC wants prime bids and it wants great exposure and it wants to expand into new territories and convert new fans.  Fine, fine, fine and fine.  But there’s a price for going too far outside its region.  Namely: Perception.

If the SEC hosts its tourney in Kansas City, Mike Slive had better be prepared for a national TV audience to see scores of empty seats surrounding his teams.  If that issue and overall gate revenue are not concerns, then to KC the tourney should go.

But if we at MrSEC.com were handling things — and obviously we’re not — the league would create a regular rotation of host cities based upon top-notch facilities, good infrastructure, tourist opportunities, and a location close to multiple schools in the SEC.

Here are the cities that would fit the bill:

* Atlanta, obviously.

* Nashville is another fine tourist destination with good facilities and a great downtown.

* New Orleans is a vacation destination and it should be in the mix regularly.  Though we’d keep an eye on this year’s tourney to make sure.

* With Beale Street and barbecue, Memphis would make sense as well — especially with the addition of two Central Time Zone schools to the league — but we notice that the league hasn’t been there in a while.  So Memphis would be a big maybe.

That’s it.  That’s three cities (and possibly a fourth) in the rotation.  If the SEC wants to reward Missouri and Texas A&M with tourneys in their backyards, then the league should focus on St. Louis and Houston which are closer to the SEC’s natural footprint than Kansas City, Dallas or San Antonio.

And St. Louis and Houston would still take the league into new, unconquered territories.

Kansas City?  That seems a bit too far way for the average SEC fan.

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Kansas City Lays Guilt Trip On Missouri Regarding SEC

There figure to be a few losers should Missouri move to the SEC and it appears that the city of Kansas City is at top of the list.  And the muckety-mucks in KC aren’t afraid to use that fact in putting a guilt trip on University of Missouri leadership.

A move by Mizzou would likely pull the Big 12 basketball tournament out of Kansas City and that event is worth $14 million a year to the metro area.  Missouri and Kansas have also been playing their Border War football game in KC, which brings in additional currency.

Following pleas from the Kansas City Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Kansas City Sports Commission, yesterday mayor Sly James sent an open letter to MU chancellor Brady Deaton asking him and his school to stay put… for the benefit of that state.

“It is imperative for that money should remain in the Show-Me State,” read the letter.  And, yes, that’s the quote.

According to The Kansas City Star, the letter closed as follows:

 

“We believe this region collectively values University of Missouri athletics — has, does and will — to a degree that won’t be replicated elsewhere.  And that staying here, in the Big 12 Conference, within your home region and among your fans and rivals is the right decision to honor your history, fulfill your present an secure your future.”

 

That sounds good.  Especially to those who believe Missouri is Midwestern, not Southern.  The only problem is, Arkansas once stretched the boundaries of the traditional Southeast as well.  That program has survived.  It was also claimed that an Eastern school like Penn State would not mesh well with the Midwestern schools of the Big Ten.  But the Nittany Lions still have as many fans today as they did when they joined that league.

Folks can use a lot of arguments against a Missouri move to the SEC.  Geography shouldn’t be one of them.  The state borders three SEC states and is no further west than Arkansas or Louisiana.  The majority of the state is no further north than Kentucky and Virginia.  And for those of you still chatting about the Civil War, Missouri was a border state just like Kentucky.

Kansas City may indeed lose money in a Missouri exit from the Big 12.  They’re free to beat that drum and guilt the MU administration if they like.  Heck, it may work.  But to suggest another region won’t “value” Missouri athletics is a bit pointless.  I doubt fans in Florida or Georgia value the athletics at Arkansas.  They don’t have to.  They compete on the field.  As long as the people of Arkansas value the athletics of Arkansas, all will be right in the Natural State.

Ditto Missouri.

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