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Vandy Fans, Once Again, Let’s Talk About Bowl Selections (And SEC TV Ratings)

yelling-hard-drive-latencyYa try to explain something to folks and they just get mad.  Yesterday we tried to explain how Vanderbilt — with an 8-4 record — wound up in the SEC’s very last bowl slot.  Allow us to summarize:

 

*  The bowl selection process has never been fair and it’s never been about “rewarding” teams.

*  Bowls pick teams for tourism purposes.

*  Goal One is to bring in a large group of fans for a week in December or January.

*  Goal Two is to reach as many television viewers as possible in an attempt to woo more tourists throughout the year.

 

Seems pretty simple.

But a couple of VU fans didn’t like that.  You can check the comment boxes here.  And the ol’ MrSEC.com inbox got a few nastier notes that our “curse” filters wouldn’t have allowed in the comment areas.  Apparently we at MrSEC have an “anti-Vanderbilt agenda.”  One person informed this writer in particular that I’m “jealous of graduates of the only true University in the Southeastern Conference.”

Ahoy, polloi!

So what… the bowls all share our “anti-Vanderbilt agenda?”  Either that or what we stated as facts yesterday are, ya know, correct.

We’re going with the latter and here are a couple of reasons why:

 

1.  The Liberty Bowl — which chose 6-6 Mississippi State over the 8-4 Commodores — posted on the game’s Facebook page a photo of the Bulldogs playing in the 2007 Liberty Bowl.  That game set an attendance record for the game at 63,816.  Vandy’s game in Memphis two years ago drew 57,103.  And while VU fans continue to spout numbers like 30,000 as a true attendance figure for their Liberty Bowl appearance, the reality is the school did sell out its allotment of tickets (13,000) with everything else being a guesstimate.  The Nashville City Paper wrote at the time: “(James) Franklin was impressed with the Commodore contingency that accounted for nearly 60 percent” of the crowd.  Cincinnati wears black just like Vanderbilt, so trying to decide which team black-clad fans were rooting for would probably be a bit difficult from a pressbox.  But even if VU did take 30,000 to Memphis, MSU’s game with UCF in 2007 still drew more folks to the Bluff City.

2.  Television ratings haven’t helped Vandy’s cause, either.  As we noted yesterday, “Decades of losing have made Vanderbilt less than must-watch viewing for most national sports fans.”  If you want to sell your city to millions of television viewers you need — wait for it — a game that will draw in million of television viewers.  The Commodores’ last two bowl games have ranked last and next-to-last in SEC game viewership.  Vanderbilt’s Music City Bowl matchup with NC State last season ranked 29th out of 35 holiday contests last year.  More national viewers tuned in to watch Central Michigan/Western Kentucky in the Little Caesars Bowl, UL-Lafeyette/East Carolina in the New Orleans Bowl, and SMU/Fresno Sate in the Hawaii Bowl to name a few.  Oh, and Mississippi State’s Gator Bowl date with Northwestern drew in 200,000 more viewers as well.  (The Bulldogs also drew more TV eyeballs than he Dores the season prior.)

 

Much has been made of the Gator Bowl selecting a rematch of last year’s Capital One Bowl between Georgia and Nebraska.  It’s been pointed out to us (in both the comment areas and in emails) that UGA didn’t sell out their bowl allotment last year.

But if you check the top table below you’ll find that Georgia/Nebraska was last year’s 5th-highest rated bowl.  Hmmm.  Still wondering why the Gator Bowl would pick the Dawgs and Huskers over say Vanderbilt and Nebraska?

Once again, none of this is to say Vanderbilt didn’t get a sca-rew job.  It did.  But the reasons are fairly obvious to anyone who doesn’t sign his emails, “Anchor Down!”  Vandy doesn’t have a reputation (yet) for selling out bowls or its regular season games (in a 40,000-seat stadium).  The Commodores are also a poor TV draw when it comes to their last two bowl games.  VU fans may hate those facts.  They might not like someone sharing those facts.  But they just sound silly if they continue to try and argue those facts.

Below are the television ratings for all the SEC bowls over the last two years…

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SEC, Nashville Make Future Tourney Plans Official

Nashville-PosterToday in Nashville officials for the Southeastern Conference and Bridgestone Arena announced a long-term partnership that will see Music City, USA host the SEC’s men’s basketball tournament nine times between 2015 and 2026.  The league will also toss in some women’s hoops tourneys to ensure that Nashville will host one tournament or the other in 12 consecutive seasons.

“Nashville has long been a valued partner of the Southeastern Conference and we are pleased to establish this long-term agreement that will benefit our men’s and women’s basketball tournaments,” Mike Slive said.  “Nashville, as a proven host, provides SEC teams and fans with a wonderful experience.”

As we noted several months ago when the league started looking for a semi-permanent home for its hoops event, Nashville is really the perfect location.  It’s arena is smack in the middle of Nashville’s downtown entertainment district with hotels, restaurants, clubs and live music at every turn.  It’s airport makes travel easy as does its centralized location.  Also, it’s just close enough to Kentucky to guarantee that the league’s best-traveling fans will attend in droves and snatch up plenty of ticket packages.  Money is always the main factor, as we pointed out when guessing Nashville back in May.

We give the league’s selection a big thumbs-up.  If you can’t have fun in Nashville, you’re probably incapable of having fun at all.  And holding the tourney in an actual arena — rather than in a half-empty dome — is an added bonus.

Several reports guessed at dates and locations for the league’s men’s tournament yesterday, but most of those guesses turned out to be wrong.  Officially, here’s how the SEC’s men’s tournament rotation will work between this season and 2026:

 

2014 — Atlanta

2015 — Nashville

2016 — Nashville

2017 — Nashville

2018 — To be determined (St. Louis is the favorite)

2019 — Nashville

2020 — Nashville

2021 — Nashville

2022 — To be determined (Atlanta, Orlando, Tampa or a city in a new state — ya never know — might be the choice)

2023 — Nashville

2024 — Nashville

2025 — Nashville

 

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Nashville Set To Become SEC’s Semi-Permanent Home For Hoops Tourney

NCAA Men's Basketball 2009-10. SEC Tournament 2010. Photo by Jonathan PalmerBack in the spring, SEC commissioner Mike Slive let it be known that the SEC was looking to find a more permanent home for its annual men’s basketball tournament.  The suspicion was that Nashville would get the nod.

Well, it looks like that nod will come tomorrow.

The SEC has sent out a press advisory regarding an “historic announcement” to be made in the Music City tomorrow by Slive, Nashville Mayer Karl Dean, and representatives of the Bridgestone Arena.  It is expected that the SEC will still move the tourney to other sites on rare occasions.

This is a smart move by the league.  Nashville now joins Atlanta (football) and Birmingham (baseball) as hosts to the major mens’ sports in the SEC.  All three cities have plenty of hotel space, plenty of nightlife, and are centrally-located within the league’s footprint.

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Vandy’s Franklin Says Thursday Night Opener Not A Concern

logoFor the second year in a row, Vanderbilt will kick off its football season with a Thursday night home game against an SEC foe.  According to Commodore coach James Franklin, last year’s midweek initiation should help his squad when Ole Miss visits the Music City tomorrow:

 

“South Carolina came in last year having played in a bunch of Thursday night games, and our guys hadn’t.  It’s no different than your second time in a bowl game.  The more times that you can go out there and have some recall and have some experience helps. 

Basically 75% of our roster has played on a Thursday night, ESPN, nationally televised game, and I think that will help us.  Plus, we’re at home.”

 

Playing on Thursday night isn’t bad for a school that’s still trying to become a household name on the recruiting trail, either.

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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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SEC A.D.s Ready To Start Schedule Talks

Just a quick note from Nashville where I’ve ventured on some MrSEC.com business…

The SEC’s athletic directors are descending on the Music City as planned for their talks regarding the SEC’s future scheduling formats.  Jeremy Foley (Florida), Greg McGarity (Georgia), Pete Boone (Ole Miss) and David Williams (Vanderbilt) were in and around the lobby as I checked into the Hilton downtown this afternoon.

Perhaps I should slide a copy of this under a few doors.

The ADs will meet in Nashville during this week’s women’s basketball tournament and then reconvene next week in New Orleans to continue talks during the men’s tourney.  Whatever the ADs come up with over the next two weeks will likely have to pass muster with the presidents and commissioner Mike Slive in Destin at the SEC Meetings in late-May, early-June.

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Vols Headed to Music City

Tennessee accepted a bid to the Music City Bowl in Nashville, where it will face North Carolina on Dec. 30, the university announced Sunday evening. STORY | BOWL CENTRAL
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Did Alabama’s loss move UK down the bowl ladder?

Kentucky
Content provided by John Clay’s Sidelines.

At first look, you might have thought Alabama’s 24-21 loss to LSU on Saturday pushed Kentucky down a rung on the SEC bowl ladder.

Not so fast, my friend.

Sure, for Kentucky to get a better bowl, besides finishing the season with wins over Vanderbilt and Tennessee, the Cats need for two SEC teams to be in BCS bowls. The way to do that is to have one SEC team in the BCS title game, and another team near the top of the BCS standings, thus making it more inviting for an at-large bid. That moves the remaining teams up a notch when it comes to the league’s numerous bowl tie-ins.

Going into Saturday, Auburn and Alabama both appeared in great position for BCS bowl status. But then Alabama fell 24-21 to the genius that is Les Miles and LSU on Saturday, dropping the Crimson Tide to 7-2 and surely from its lofty No. 6 BCS ranking.

Ah, but LSU is now 8-1. The Tigers could be as high as No. 5 when the BCS rankings are released today. If that’s the case, and Auburn stays at either No. 1 or No. 2, then LSU would be a prime candidate for the Sugar Bowl, which would help the rest of the SEC members.

For Kentucky, the difference could be whether the Cats go to the Music City, the Liberty or the Birmingham Bowl.

My projections as of today:

  • BCS title game: Auburn. If the Tigers beat Georgia on Saturday, they wrap up the SEC West no matter what happens in the Auburn-Alabama game.
  • Sugar: LSU. Les Miles’ club still has a tough game left with Arkansas. If it can beat the Razorbacks, it will hold on to the Sugar Bowl bid.
  • Capital One: Alabama. Disappointing year for Nick Saban’s team. A loss to Auburn would saddle the Crimson Tide with three losses.
  • Cotton: Mississippi State. Only a collapse would keep the Bulldogs out of Dallas.
  • Outback: Florida. I’m basing this on Florida beating South Carolina this Saturday in Gainesville. If South Carolina wins, the Gamecocks get the Outback.
  • Chic-fil-A: South Carolina. Read Outback Bowl.
  • Gator: Arkansas. If the Razorbacks beat LSU, Bobby Petrino’s club could find itself in the Cotton Bowl, or maybe even the Outback.
  • Music City: Georgia. Some think the Music City would not pass on a 7-5 Kentucky, but I’m not so sure, especially if Georgia upsets Auburn.
  • Liberty: Kentucky. Only if the Cats beat Tennessee. If UK loses in Knoxville, Tennessee would be in a better position for the Liberty, and Kentucky would slip to the Birmingham Bowl. (And I know, there is still the UK-U of L basketball conflict with this bowl.)
  • Birmingham Bowl: Ole Miss. To get here, the Rebels have to beat Tennessee this week, then beat either LSU or Mississippi State.

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