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SEC Negotiating With 3 Cities For Future Tourney Dates

sec-tournament-nashvilleAs we noted yesterday, Nashville is the most likely choice to become the SEC Tournament’s “primary” home at some point in the future.  Also, multiple sources claim St. Louis is expected to land the 2017 tourney.  In addition, Tampa officials say they’ve had good talks with the SEC about bringing the event back to Florida’s Gulf Coast.

Well, it turns out Atlanta is also negotiating with the league for a future tourney date.

SEC commissioner Mike Slive said Thursday: “We have had conversations with Atlanta, Tampa and St. Louis.  Those conversations will continue.”

Below is an up-to-date rundown of future tourney sites:

 

2014 — Atlanta

2015 — Nashville

2016 — Nashville

2017 — St. Louis (reportedly)

2018 — St. Louis, Tampa or Atlanta

2019 — Nashville

2020 — St. Louis, Tampa or Atlanta

 

For those wondering when Nashville — assuming the Music City does outbid everyone else — will take over as primary host, the above list might actually give you an idea of what “primary” means.  According to Slive:

 

“The best way to say it is that’s where you go most of the time.  Permanent means you got there every time.  Primary means you go there most of the time.”

 

There’s an awful lot of grey in that statement.  To us at MrSEC.com, the word “primary” would suggest that a city would host the league’s tournament, let’s say, four out of every five years.  But the SEC might view the word “primary” in a different way.  The league might simply guarantee something like three out of five years or six out of 10.  You better believe the SEC would still want maximum cash from any city trying to land three tourneys in five years, but that type of rotation would be far less sexy for a metropolis making a bid.

Looks like we’ll have to wait a while longer to find out what exactly what “primary” means to Slive and the SEC’s presidents.

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Little Support For A Uniform SEC Drug Policy

Urine SampleOne of the few surprises to come out of this week’s SEC meetings in Destin is the discussion of a league-wide drug policy.  No other conference has one.  And while SEC leaders have mulled over the idea in the past, it’s never gained enough traction to be adopted.

According to Nick Saban, the SEC’s coaches don’t want to turn over their individual drug policies to the league office:

 

“I think it was pretty unanimous that we’d all like to handle our drug and alcohol situations in-house.  We all have policies in place… I’m for continuing to have the same kind of program that we’ve had, and not change it because somebody else wants to make it something that the SEC does — which I don’t even think the SEC wants to do.  I don’t want to speak for them, but I don’t see a lot of support for it.”

 

Perhaps not.  But the topic is back on the agenda for some reason.

Georgia — which has arguably the toughest drug policy in the conference — has been trying to rally support for a uniform policy all week.  We happen to believe they’re wise to do so.

But this idea has been 86′d by the SEC’s presidents at least twice before.  And Coaches, ADs and many of the same presidents say they’re not interested in doing an about-face on the issue.

So there’s really only one way this thing passes and that’s if Mike Slive puts his full weight behind it.  If he believes its in the best long-term interest of the Southeastern Conference — and if he can convince the league’s presidents of that fact — then the SEC will adopt a standard drug policy.  Too bad then that no one expects Slive to make such a push.  At least not tomorrow.

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WOW Headlines – 5/29/13

Alabama backup QB Phillip Ely is transferring to Toledo, leaving the Tide with no proven backup behind starting QB AJ McCarron
Georgia starting S Josh Harvey-Clemons will miss the Bulldogs’ season opener at Clemson due to a marijuana incident
LSU AD Joe Alleva doesn’t want to start playing Texas A&M on Thanksgiving Day
Ole Miss QB Bo Wallace is expected to begin throwing the football next month following offseason shoulder surgery
The SEC office will begin reviewing its teams’ non-conference basketball schedules in order to create better strength of schedule for the league
The SEC will stay with an eight-game football schedule in 2014…
Mike Slive says there will “probably” be an eight-game schedule in 2015 as well
The SEC is exploring a “primary” site for its men’s basketball tournament and Nashville appears to be the most likely host city
Follow the SEC every single day at MrSEC.com

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The SEC Network Is A Go, But Don’t Expect Accurate Financial Numbers Right Away (Plus Links)

cartoon-man-with-bag-of-moneyMy, how impatient we’ve all become.  With fast food at the drive-thru, breaking news on Twitter, and the constant connectivity provided by smart phones, we’ve flat-out lost the ability to wait.

Take the freshly unwrapped SEC Network as an example.  As soon as yesterday’s press conference finished in Atlanta, the MrSEC.com email box filled up with a hundred variations of the same two questions:

 

“How much money will the network mean for SEC schools?”

“How much will I have to pay to get the network?”

 

The answer to both?  You’ll have to wait to find out.

That’s not because the SEC is playing coy, mind you.  It’s because all the tumblers haven’t quite clicked into place just yet.

First, some background and then we’ll attempt to answer those questions for you.

The Wall Street Journal reported last evening that a source had told that publication that the new SEC Network will be owned entirely by ESPN, not the conference:

 

wsj tweet

 

If you read our story from April 17th, that news shouldn’t surprise you one bit.  After close inspection, it became clear that the SEC usually doesn’t “own” much of anything and that ESPN had already cut the exact same type of deal with Texas for the Longhorn Network.  So we’re not shocked to learn that the SEC passed on ownership.  The league has done so to protect itself on the front end.

If the network — which currently has one provider on the hook — fails to gain carriage on several of the biggest cable and satellite providers, the SEC will still get paid.  And if the network booms past initial projections, the league’s built-in escalators in the contract will ensure that it’s always making a certain percentage of the network’s profit.  In terms of safe bets, this type of deal was the safest.

This type of deal also means that Mike Slive and company do know the minimum amount of money they’ll make from ESPN in Year One.  Slive just wasn’t talking about that number — or the network’s ownership plan — yesterday at the presser.  That means we’ll have to wait for those digits to leak out at some point.

But the new SEC Network isn’t the only thing that’s going to increase SEC schools’ revenue in the next few years.

First, there’s the SEC’s share of the new College Football Playoff.  That will be a considerable chunk of cash in its own right.  The league will also kickoff the new Sugar Bowl, which it co-owns with the Big XII.  Such a partnership has never been done before and it figures to create another fat, new revenue stream for the SEC.  Additionally, the league will soon start reworking all of its bowl deals.  Perhaps the SEC will try to take over another bowl or two.  Or maybe it will just partner up with whichever bowls are willing to kick in the most cash.  That’s another wad of money to toss into the overall pot.

Finally, there’s the overall partnership with ESPN to take into consideration.  As we wrote on April 16th, the SEC Network is just one part of much larger partnership.  As was pointed out again and again and again during yesterday’s presser, ESPN will now own the rights to just about all things SEC outside one CBS football game per week and each school’s local radio broadcast rights.  Seriously, the partnership runs that deep.  If the SEC and ESPN were in bed together before, they’ve now been sewn together into an 18th century bundling bag.

And the keyword there is “bundling.”

ESPN will now sell the SEC’s biggest corporate partnership packages.  Controlling so much SEC inventory across so many different platforms will allow the ESPN sales team to bundle properties together when selling those corporate packages.  “Wanna buy some spots in SEC Network football?  Then ya gotta buy spots in SEC Network basketball and on the SEC Digital Network online, too.”  Bundling will bring in much more revenue in the long run.  So toss that loot into the SEC’s kitty as well.

As you can see, there are a number of new spigots that are about to be turned on at the SEC office in Birmingham.  Some will pay dividends before others.  Some will grow faster than others.  Some will do better than projected.  Some will do worse than projected.

With all that in mind, you can now see that the question “How much money will the network mean for SEC schools?” is tad overly simplistic.  The SEC’s recent deals — including the ESPN partnership — are about more than just a new television channel.  And since all of these streams will be pouring in over time, there’s no definitive way of saying, “SEC schools will make this in 2014, this in 2015, and this in 2016.”  Instead, we’re forced to talk in ballpark figures.

Last fall, we spoke with an industry source familiar with the SEC’s plans to buy back its Tier 3 broadcast rights and hand everything over to ESPN.  As we wrote at the time, our source felt that SEC schools would eventually make $10-15 million more per year when all of the new revenue streams are up and running.  With league schools making around $20 million now, we wrote that by 2015 or so SEC schools should be making $30-35 million per year with enormous growth potential moving forward from there.

In January, USA Today conducted a study and they arrived at darn near the exact same numbers.  Their analysis projected that league schools would likely make about $34 million per school per year starting in 2014-15.

So if you’re wondering what the network will be worth to SEC schools, broaden your thinking.  With the network and several other new revenue streams kicking in, SEC schools will likely see their annual checks from the home office spike 50-75% in the next two or three fiscal years with potential for much larger growth as the conference and ESPN get deeper into their 20-year deal.

Now, onto the second question — “How much will I have to pay to get the network?”

Well, it depends.

That’s probably not the answer you were looking for, but it’s an honest one.  ESPN will spend the next 16 months trying to jam the new SEC Network down the throats of cable and satellite providers.  Currently, AT&T U-verse is the only provider that’s signed on to carry the channel.  AT&T U-verse is small and growing and it needs the pub.

Time-Warner, Comcast, DirecTV, and Dish are not small and they don’t need any added publicity.  They will fight against paying top dollar for a start-up, regional sports network just as they have with every other start-up, regional sports network.  (ESPN can call it a national network if it likes, at the negotiating table, the providers will initially argue that it’s regional.)

For those unfamiliar with carriage battles, here’s a simple explainer.  Right now, networks like ESPN, CNN, FOX News, HBO, NFL Network and others demand a fee from cable and satellite providers for the right to air their programming.  The providers then pass that cost along to you on your monthly cable or satellite bill.

The networks try to create programming that you’ll demand.  We’ve all heard the “Call your local cable operator” pitch a million times.

Most providers usually hold out until the last possible second — or sometimes they allow launch dates to pass completely — before adding a new channel.  If they add the channel at all.  But before adding any new network, they’ll probably warn you that it’s the new channel driving up your bill, not the provider.

Basically it’s a tug of war and you, the viewer, smack dab in the middle of the rope.

Eventually ESPN will reach deals with the biggest providers because the SEC provides great football and because the league can actually put some good games on its channel.  Those deals won’t all be for the same amount of money, however.

Let’s say Time-Warner’s deal with ESPN is for X and DirecTV’s deal is for Y.  Obviously, depending on which of those providers you have, either part of the price of X or part of the price of Y will be passed along to you.

So how much will the new network cost you?  It depends on your provider, the deal that provider cuts with ESPN, and the amount of the total cost that the provider wishes to push your way.

According to the ESPN executives on hand in Atlanta yesterday, the goal within the 11-state SEC footprint is for the SEC Network to equal ESPN in terms of cable and satellite penetration.  That’s a heckuva goal.  That would likely mean main-tier positioning rather than placement on a sports package, but again, that will depend on the provider and the deal they cut with ESPN.

Outside the 11-state footprint, the SEC Network was compared to ESPNU.  The U gets into about 75 million homes.  That would probably mean sports package-type placement for the SEC Network.

With a start-up product, we suspect cable and satellite subscribers in the SEC footprint will likely have to add between $1 and $2 per month onto their monthly bill for the channel.  And that’s a very, very loose estimate for all of the reasons mentioned above.

Those outside the SEC region will likely have to kick in for a sports package if they want to see the channel.

Clear as mud, right?

 

Additional SEC Network links:

Mike Slive cements his legacy with new network

The SEC Network could help the SEC come playoff selection time

CBS — as expected — has extended its own deal with the SEC

Someone’s done gone and said that the network could lead to SEC expansion
Mike Slive says the network would have probably happened even without expansion

Plans are being made for network programming

 

Additional SEC Network coverage from MrSEC.com:

Yesterday: SEC Network unveiled: Our quick takes, our rapid responses

April 18th: How ESPN sets the SEC Network Apart

April 17th:  New SEC network to be co-owned?  Not so fast

April 16th:  The new SEC-ESPN partnership is about much more than a TV network

 

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WOW Headlines – 4/30/13

Vanderbilt G AJ Astroth will transfer from the Commodores basketball program after one season
ESPN analyst David Pollack says “College GameDay” will start the season at the Georgia/Clemson football game
SEC commissioner Mike Slive says he remains “open-minded” about a possible switch to a nine-game conference football schedule
Slive also said that the ACC’s grant of rights deal “may create some stability” on the expansion/realignment front
Auburn RB Tre Mason says he works to improve his speed by chasing squirrels
LSU RB Jeremy Hill has been indefinitely suspended following a weekend arrest on a charge of simple battery
Tennessee AD Dave Hart has been given a one-year extension and a $50,000 bonus
Follow SEC football, basketball, and recruiting at MrSEC.com and twitter.com/mrsec every single day!

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Slive On Number Of SEC Schools: 12 “Ideal”, 14 “Cousin”, 16 “Distant Relative”

gfx - they said itWith a media concentration in Nashville this week for the SEC Tournament, commissioner Mike Slive is making the rounds and making news with a series of interviews.  He told Yahoo! Sports this week that the SEC Network would be formally announced in April and sat down yesterday for a brief interview with USA Today.  He was asked if further conference expansion was on the horizon.

 

“In some ways 12 is ideal but at least 14 is sort of a cousin of 12. Sixteen is a distant relative. We’re actually still in the process of absorbing both of these schools into our scheduling, particularly on the football side. It’s hard to absorb one, let alone two.

“There’s been some movement throughout the country but that doesn’t really affect us. Even when we were at 12 we weren’t looking. Both Texas A&M and Missouri came to us. If they hadn’t come to us, I’m not so sure we wouldn’t still be at 12.”

 

The long-time SEC commissioner, who turns 73 in July,  was also asked if he had any plans to retire. “I still have a lot of energy and feel good. I still get up at 4:45 in the morning. The other part of it is I don’t have a lot of hobbies. I enjoy what I do.”

 

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Mike Slive: “Formal Announcement About The SEC Network In Mid-April”

television-moneyThe SEC Network is coming soon – expect an announcement next month after basketball season is over.  That’s what SEC Commissioner Mike Slive tells Yahoo! Sports.

“Our focus for now is on our tournament and the NCAA tournament. We will make a formal announcement about the SEC Network in mid-April.”

The SEC has been renegotiating television rights ever since Missouri and Texas A&M joined the conference.  As we reported in December, once new media deals are finalized, SEC schools will likely bring in $30-35 million annually.  Last year, the average payout for the league’s schools was $20.1 million.

The new deal is expected to a partnership with an existing network. The Sports Business Journal reported in September that ESPN and the SEC were “nearing their final stages” of negotiations for an SEC channel.

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Why Is The SEC Thriving In Football, Struggling In Basketball? Money

bag of moneyThe Southeastern Conference is known for football.  Seven BCS titles in row.  Five different schools with BCS crowns since the system’s inception in 1998.  Big name coaches, famous stadiums, dominant recruiting.

Mention the words “college football” and the letters S-E-C will pop into most people’s minds.

But utter the words “SEC basketball” and a different three letters come to mind: B-A-D.

Spin it any way you like, Mike Slive’s league is struggling through an abysmal season.  Florida has been dominant.  Kentucky finally appears to be rounding into shape.  Missouri has been a little worse than expected; Ole Miss a little better.  After that, it’s unlikely any of the conference’s 10 remaining teams will receive at-large invitations to the NCAA Tournament.  Saddled with a #8 RPI ranking among conferences, four bids might be generous.

In an age when the NCAA Tournament has been expanding, the number of SEC tourney berths has been declining.  This is more than a down year… it’s a trend:

 

  Tournament   # of Bids (League Rank)   Tourney Record   Best Finish
  2012   4 (5th among leagues)   10-3   National Champion
  2011   5 (3rd among leagues)   7-5   Final Four
  2010   4 (5th among leagues)   6-4   Two in Elite Eight
  2009   3 (6th among leagues)   1-3   Round of 32
  2008   6 (2nd among leagues)   4-6   Sweet Sixteen
  2007   5 (4th among leagues)   11-4   National Champion
  2006   6 (2nd among leagues)   13-5   National Champion
  2005   5 (3rd among leagues)   5-5   Elite Eight
  2004   6 (tied for 1st among leagues)   7-6   Elite Eight
  2003   6 (tied for 1st among leagues)   6-6   Elite Eight

 

From afar, the SEC has continued to have success — in most years — in the NCAA Tournament regardless of its dwindling number of bids.  But in many of those seasons, the SEC was dominated by just one or two teams.  That’s a far cry from the top-to-bottom toughness produced by the very same schools on the gridiron.

Using mathematician/hoops guru Ken Pomeroy’s computer rankings as a guide, here’s a look at the SEC teams that finished in his top 20 over the past decade:

 

2012:  #1 Kentucky, #12 Florida, #16 Vanderbilt

2011:  #6 Kentucky, #16 Florida

2010:  #3 Kentucky

2009:  None

2008:  #14 Tennessee

2007:  #2 Florida, #14 Kentucky

2006:  #1 Florida, #10 LSU, #15 South Carolina, #17 Arkansas, #20 Kentucky

2005:  #6 Florida, #10 Kentucky, #18 Alabama

2004:  #9 Kentucky, #17 Mississippi State

2003:  #2 Kentucky, #12 Mississippi State, #14 Florida, #17 LSU, #18 Georgia

 

As you can see, the number of top 20-caliber teams from the SEC has fallen drastically.  There were 17 SEC teams in the final top 20 of Pomeroy’s rankings from 2003 to 2007.  From 2008 to 2012, there have been just seven teams in his final top 20 rankings.

Worse, of the 24 top 20 slots filled by SEC squads in the last decade, 14 were filled by two schools: Florida and Kentucky.  Compare that to the SEC’s football success where in the last five years Alabama, Auburn, Florida, LSU, Georgia, South Carolina, Arkansas and Texas A&M have all had top 10-type seasons.

(In case you’re wondering Pomeroy’s current hoops rankings have Florida #1 and Kentucky #18.  No other SEC schools rank in his top 20.  Same song, different verse.)

So why do 14 schools that recruit the same areas in both sports have such drastically different results when it comes to football and basketball?

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New Deals: SEC Schools Projected To Make $30-35 Million (As We’ve Been Saying Since The Fall)

counting-moneyLast fall, we quoted an industry source with in-depth knowledge of media rights contracts who predicted  SEC teams would receive between $30 and $35 million dollars once the league renegotiated its new deals with CBS and ESPN, launched its own network, kicked off the new Sugar (Champions) Bowl, and began collecting revenue from college football’s new playoffs.  We wrote the same thing again last month when Mike Slive spoke briefly of the SEC’s television plans.

Now, a USA Today Sports analysis shows that SEC schools are indeed in line to earn about — wait for it — $34 million per season beginning in 2014-15.  That would represent a $10-$14 million jump, which would be at least a 50% increase for the league’s schools.

The SEC is still in negotiations with CBS and ESPN.  Also, with more bowls expected to go the way of the Sugar Bowl — which will be co-owned by the SEC and Big XII — there’s a chance Mike Slive and company could increase their even revenue further, depending on how the league’s new bowl deals are cut in 2014.

The coming boost in cash is expected to propel the SEC back to the top of the revenue chart for conferences… at least for a little while.  According to Forbes Magazine today, the SEC ranked fourth this year in terms of revenue behind the Big Ten, the Pac-12 and the ACC.  But it’s important to remember that the SEC raised the bar with its own television negotiations in Summer 2008.  Since then — as is usually the case — other leagues have used the SEC’s deal to negotiate healthier bumps for themselves.  The SEC will now do the same as television revenues continue to skyrocket with no end in sight.

Bottom line: SEC schools are going to be making at least as much and probably more than the majority of conferences.  As a result, SEC schools will continue to have more money to spend on coaches, facilities, recruiting budgets, and athletes.  When our next prediction comes to fruition and a super-division of 65-80 schools create their own super-division at the top of the FBS in order to provide full-cost-of-tuition scholarships, expect 14 to 18 of those big money school to be SEC members.

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Expect More Replays – And More Booing – At SEC Stadiums This Season

As ticket sales slow for most sporting events across the country, the goal for schools, conferences and leagues is to make actually going to games a worthwhile experience.  Prices for tickets, concessions and parking have soared in recent years.  Unfortunately, a global downturn in the economy made those higher prices seem downright ridiculous.  And that downturn hit at about the same time college conferences — led by the SEC — climbed into bed with that ol’ devil television.

The result?  Many people have chosen to stay home and enjoy a wide variety of football games — as well as their own favorite school’s contest — in the comfort of their living rooms with nice, big HD television sets staring them back in the face.  There are more games on television in a weekend now than there were in entire seasons 30 years ago.  Think about that for a second.

So why fight the crowds, pay the cash, and squeeze your rump into a tiny metal bleacher seat when the networks will bring your game (and more) to you?  With closer looks and more replays?  And no drunk guy next to you tossing his cookies on your shoes.

Schools and conferences know this, of course.  Pro teams and leagues know this, too.  It’s one reason Jerry Jones’ Cowboys Stadium features a video board that’s sixty yards long and a field-level club through which his team enters the playing field.  In a word — Entertainment!

Fans want more for their money.

For that reason, the SEC announced yesterday that it will change its in-game replay policy to allow even controversial calls to be shown and re-shown on in-stadium video boards.  The NFL announced a similar policy change just weeks ago.  According to Mike Slive via statement:

 

“The change in policy will allow our fans to see more of the action, including great plays and close calls.  Fans in the stadium now can see many of the same views seen by fans watching on television.  This should add to the overall game experience for fans inside our stadiums.”

 

The only thing missing from that statement was a line saying, “Please, please buy some tickets.”

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