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More Bids And Better Seeds For The SEC? The League So Far Has Proven The Committee Correct

gfx - honest opinionThe Southeastern Conference has played four postseason games so far.  Kentucky lost at tiny Robert Morris.  Tennessee lost at home to tiny Mercer.  Missouri was about as much challenge to Colorado State last night as a tiny mouse to a big cat.

Half the SEC teams invited into the NCAA Tournament or NIT have been booted in their tourney’s first round.  (Sorry, NCAA, but we’re not going to call what’s really the first round the second just because you’ve stuck four play-in games in front of it.)

Ah, but Alabama knocked off Northeastern at home in its first NIT game.  Hurrah!  That’s the lone positive so far for the SEC.

Like it or not, unless Ole Miss and Florida both go on long, long tourney runs the rest of the nation will have its perception of the SEC — that it’s down — reinforced.  I would throw Alabama onto that list, but upsets make more of an impression on fans’ minds than who actually wins the NIT.  Can you even name last year’s champ?  (Stanford.)

Granted, Kentucky and Tennessee clearly had no interest of playing in a secondary tourney once their NCAA bubbles burst.  Unfortunately for them that point isn’t bolted to the box scores that have now been posted for all-time on hundreds of sports websites.  No one cares why they lost… just that they lost… to Robert Morris and Mercer.

Mizzou, well, it had no excuse.  The Tigers made the dance.  They faced a team from the Mountain West, a league that many of us down South said wasn’t worthy of five bids.  Well, as Charles Barkley said last night, the MWC was better at the top than the SEC this year.  Hell, it was probably better at the bottom, too, but that’s beside the point.  Missouri didn’t even bother to lead for 37 minutes and then choke the game away.  The Tigers looked like the lesser team from first tip to final buzzer.  So much for the SEC deserving one or two of the bids Mountain West teams received.

Amazingly, in our comment boxes have appeared this week suggestions that the NCAA selection committee chose to keep SEC teams out of the tourney because of a Northern bias.  We’ve also seen it proposed that dissing the SEC is a way for the NCAA to send money to other conferences who don’t win in football.  Riiiiiight.

Odd that LSU athletic director Joe Alleva — who was on this year’s committee — would help cover up such an anti-SEC conspiracy.  It’s equally odd that the last time the SEC got only three NCAA bids was in 2009 when league commissioner Mike Slive actually chaired the selection panel.  His response then: “We’ve got to schedule better.”

Clearly Slive must be a double-agent.  Perhaps he’s even a double-naught.  Probably got those Cuban cigars he loves from Castro his own self.

Hey, the SEC was shafted this season because it deserved the shaft.  A fourth SEC team could have gotten into the tourney.  Tennessee’s numbers made it bubble-worthy.  But Tennessee and the SEC didn’t get that fourth bid.  And Tennessee certainly didn’t set out to prove the committee wrong as it yawned its way through an embarrassing home loss in front of 5,000 people and a handful of crickets.

So let’s just stop all the whining and whimpering.  The SEC’s lack of bids doesn’t trace to a Free Masons plot.  It traces to a crummy non-conference schedule trumped only by a crummier non-conference record.

As for the NIT, sorry Arkansas fans, but the SEC’s overall suckitude in 2012-13 and so far in the postseason suggests once more that the Hogs shouldn’t be squealing about their omission from that tourney, either.  You guys finished behind the three SEC squads who’ve already slipped on banana peels.

If SEC fans want the league’s bid odds to improve next year, you better be pulling hard for Ole Miss today at 12:40pm ET (against Wisconsin) and for Florida tonight at 7:27pm ET (against Northwestern State).  So far the perception of a weak SEC has been reinforced in tournament play.  There’s only one way to change that perception going into next season — win some games with America watching.

Rebels and Gators, the SEC banner is in your hands.

 

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With Massive Playoff Revenue Going To The Big Conferences, We’re One Step Closer To A New NCAA Super-Division

Ever felt like you’re watching something that’s inevitable.  You know the feeling.  Your favorite team has a two-point lead but the other team has the ball, two minutes left on the clock, and only needs a field goal.  You’ve already voted, but the election returns are about to come in from states that don’t typically vote your way.

Well, we’re all watching college football’s final push toward a new “super-division” of uber-rich programs splitting off from the paupers of the football world.  It’s inevitable.

In the past three years we’ve seen conferences expand and realign wildly.  The ACC, SEC and Big Ten will all be 14-school leagues shortly (though there’s now little chance of them applying the brakes to expansion thanks to the Big Ten’s recent moves).  The Pac-10 has become the Pac-12.  The Big East is crumbling and has already lost its top tier status when it comes to football cash.  Television contracts and league-owned networks have become all the rage with conferences locking up new schools for their cable footprints rather than their football programs.  Coaches, conference commissioners and even the NCAA president have finally decided that Big Football Program X can’t be expected to play by the same rules as Little Football Program Y.  Coaches, conference commissioners and NCAA prez Mark Emmert have also started talking openly about giving players larger, full-cost-of-tuition scholarships.

Oh, and NCAA presidents have also agreed to launch a college football playoff after a century spent fighting that very idea.

Now comes word via Brett McMurphy of ESPN that the most powerful football conferences in the country — the ACC, Big Ten, Big XII, Pac-12 and SEC — will receive an average of $75 million more per year in playoff revenue than the five smaller FBS conferences:

 

“From 2014 to 2025, the SEC, Big Ten, Big XII, Pac-12 and ACC will earn an average of at least $91 million annually, sources told ESPN Tuesday.  By comparison, the average for the group of five — Big East, Mountain West, Mid-American, Conference USA and Sun Belt — during that 12-year period will be about $17.25 million annually.”

 

According to USA Today:

 

“The average numbers are not firm because the revenue escalates over the life of the (ESPN television) contract.  In 2014, the first year of the new system, the total revenue would be less than $400 million; in 2025, the last year, the revenue would be well over $600 million.”

 

With so much money on the table, a split between the five — or four — biggest conferences of the FBS from the rest of the FBS leagues is most definitely coming.

In speaking with a source from a major equipment supplier this morning, MrSEC.com has learned that at least one Pac-12 athletic director has already told all of his school’s coaches that the age of 16-school super-conferences is upon us.  Here’s guessing he’s not the only AD who’s had that chat with his/her coaches in recent months.

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As The WAC Goes Bye-Bye, It’s Time To Remember That Realignment Is Evolution, Not Evil

The WAC appears to be dying.  Again.

Now, Down South, there won’t be too many people shedding tears for the ol’ Western Athletic Conference.  The league’s members are zipping off into new conferences — Sun Belt, Mountain West, Conference USA, etc, etc — and several SEC schools will continue to schedule them for the occasional early-season, football appetizer.  Cupcakes and creampuffs will still be available, they just won’t come with the brand name “WAC” attached.

But in what amounts to an obituary piece by Brett McMurphy of CBSSports.com yesterday, we’re reminded that conference expansion and conference realignment are nothing new.  The WAC was founded in 1962 as it killed off two other leagues — the Skyline Eight Conference (also known as the Mountain States Conference) and the Border Conference (also known as the Border Intercollegiate Athletic Association).

What’s past is prologue.

That’s not particularly surprising to our readers.  You might recall that last September — as most sports journalists threw hissy fits regarding Texas A&M’s move to the SEC — we penned a little piece called: “Conference Realignment Isn’t Evil… It’s Evolution.”  In it we showed that the current twists and turns and shifts and moves were really nothing new.  Schools have been entering and exiting conferences for as long as conferences have existed.  A Supreme Court ruling in 1984 that gave schools — not the NCAA itself — control over television contracts and cash simply sped the process up a bit.

Now we’re seeing the end of that cycle.  The WAC and Mountain West and Conference-USA are simply reacting to the big moves at the top of the food chain, hoping and praying to find some way to survive.  For the WAC, hope’s about to run out.  For the others, there may be new hope on the way.

While we have all focused on the FBS conference commissioners’ playoff discussions this offseason — How many teams will play?  Where will they play?  Who’ll pick them? — an important theme has been missed.  The BCS conference commissioners are actually bellying up to the table with their brethren from the small conferences.  For years this tribe of six uber-conferences has tried to keep the lion’s share of college football’s postseason money to itself.  They didn’t want a playoff because a playoff would help to spread some amount of wealth and power to the little guys.  That’s not a positive thing if you’re one of the big guys.

When the small conferences have threatened lawsuits or when lawmakers have threatened hearings, the BCS leagues have inched in their direction just to hush them.  ”We’ll create another BCS bowl to give you little guys a chance to earn a spot and earn some cash.”  Quite simply, they cracked the door for the little guys.  Now it appears they’re going to open it further.

In the current playoff plans, it looks like football’s power brokers are leaning toward a system in which the best four teams will battle on the field for the national crown.  And that’s the best four teams regardless of conference affiliation.  Yes, the big conferences will still have an in-house edge thanks to their strength of schedule, their budgets, and to their tradition.  But the non-BCS league teams will apparently get a better shot at the title belt than ever before.

There’s a move to do away with the old “automatic-qualifier” and “non-automatic qualifier” tags, too.  Again, this gives the little guys a little bit better odds of winning some extra green each winter.

So why are the BCS commissioners — and the many school presidents they represent — now willing to take these steps?  Simple.  They’re ready for the music to stop for a while.

Leagues have expanded.  Schools have moved.  Television networks have and are forking over more cash through rejiggered contracts. Before taking further action, it would be best to see how these most recent changes will impact the schools and conferences.  The presidents and commissioners know this.  And if the cost of slowing things down a bit is inching the door open a bit more for the non-BCS leagues then that’s a small price to pay.  The television revenue generated by a playoff — in addition to the new contracts most of the BCS leagues are inking — will more than make up for any money they wind up having to split with the little guys should a small school reach the playoffs.

The WAC’s death is simply the end of the latest cycle of moves.  The Big 12 has spackled itself together with a six-year deal to share its media rights and once that deal expires then all bets are off.  Despite what you might read elsewhere, Mike Slive and the SEC aren’t negotiating under the table with Virginia Tech or NC State or anyone else in a secret effort to jump all the way to 16 schools.  If anyone expands in the next few years it will be the Big 12, a league that — as we showed you yesterday — must grow its own footprint to survive long-term.  Perhaps the ACC and/or Big Ten will make a final play for Rutgers and UConn in order to push into the New York television market, but frankly, we don’t think that’s likely for a while.

The moves at the top have finally impacted those schools and leagues on the bottom.  Now even the big conference commissioners appear willing to do whatever it takes to apply the brakes on change.  But there will eventually be more moves.  This writer wouldn’t be surprised to see leagues expand again in a post-Big 12 world leaving four, major 18-to-20-school conferences.  At that point, you might see divisions set up in such a way that they would actually look like the conferences of 20 years ago, only this time, the overall leagues would be bigger and they would have greater negotiating power with television networks.

Whatever happens next and whenever it happens, don’t be fooled into thinking that it’s all somehow new… that it’s greed gone wild or the end of the college game as we know it.  You’ll be sure to hear and read that all over the place when the next wave of change comes.

But it’s not evil, folks.  It’s evolution.

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SEC 4th In APR Among Major Conferences

When it comes to the NCAA’s academic progress reports, the SEC does pretty well.  Not as well as the two leagues expected to rank on top, but pretty well overall.

According to recently released APR numbers, the SEC trails the ACC, Big Ten and the Mountain West in terms of average APR per football team.

Brett McMurphy of CBSSports.com has more on the topic here, including a look at the 10 best and 10 worst coaches according to APR numbers (none are from the SEC).

Below is the average APR number for football programs broken down by conference:


Rank
Conference
Avg. APR # of Programs
1
ACC
961.7
2
Big Ten
959.4
3
Mountain West
954.0
4
SEC
947.1
5
Big East
942.9
6
MAC
940.0
7
WAC
939.3
8
Pac-12
938.8
9
Big 12
937.6
10
Sun Belt
937.4
11
Conference USA
932.5



For all the heat the SEC takes over academics and roster turnover, this year’s numbers are a pleasant surprise.  So take that, Pac-12.  You too, Texas.  For an Ivy League wannabe the Longhorns sure seem to be slummin’ it in the Big 12.  (And, yes, we realize this is an over-the-top reaction to one year’s worth of data… just having some fun, folks.)

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Slive Willing To Talk About Paying Athletes More; The Rich About To Get Richer?

Following up on comments made by Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany earlier this week, SEC commish Mike Slive told CBSSports.com yesterday that he too would be willing to discuss the idea of increasing the value of athletic scholarships to cover “the full cost of attendance.”

Delany’s comments at the Big Ten’s annual meetings in Chicago — that his league had discussed paying student-athletes more than the scholarship money they now receive — have brought reactions from all across the college landscape, in fact.

Slive responded by saying, “I have long thought that we should revisit the limitations on the current scholarship model and perhaps expand it to cover the full cost of attendance” and not just room, board, books and tuition.  “I look forward to that discussion.”

Fellow BCS commissioners Larry Scott and Dan Beebe have also chimed in on the topic.  “I fully support studying the impact of increasing the grant-in-aid package for student-athletes,” the Pac-12′s Scott told CBSSports’ Dennis Dodd.  “We have not had any discussion on earmarking funds for this purpose.”

“This is a topic that BCS commissioners discussed at recent meetings and one that we agreed to review with our respective member institutions at spring conference meetings, which I intend to do at the upcoming annual Big 12 meetings,” Beebe said.

In other words, the Big Ten isn’t necessarily taking the lead on this issue as Delany seemed to suggest by removing the lid from this topic.

Also, while many fans and pundits are saying “It’s about time,” and “This is a good thing for college sports,” in reality this could be a case of the rich simply attempting to get richer.

Certainly, the commissioners of America’s largest conferences would like to help their student-athletes.  We at MrSEC.com aren’t questioning that fact.  But who outside the wealthy BCS conferences can afford to pay athletes more money — especially if more money is to go to all the athletes on a campus?

If the NCAA did go along with a plan from one or more conferences to pay their athletes — and the NCAA would have to sign off on such a plan before any extra cash started changing hands — then those leagues that can’t pay more money would be at a clear disadvantage on the recruiting trail.

Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson has said: “Whether or not it is fiscally feasible might differ from institution to institution.  Air Force could not legally do it and the same might be true of others.  Paying athletes raises drastic tax questions, not to mention the whole amateurism concepts under which we currently operate.”

And there are still more financial and legal considerations to take into account, as ACC commissioner John Swofford pointed out to ESPN.com’s Joe Schad. 

“Could it be limited to only revenue-producing sports?  I’m not sure we would want to do it.  And from a legal standpoint, how does it mesh with Title IX?  I think we’re a ways from getting there,” Swofford said.

Yes, we are.  But Delany and the Big Ten appear to have gotten some positive press out of pitching the idea.  The SEC and other major leagues are saying they are open minded, too.

But everyone might want to hold off on popping the champagne just yet.  For even if something does eventually come to pass, it could be that the haves will only be putting greater distance between themselves and the have-nots.

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