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SEC Recruiting Notebook: Under Armour Game Shows SEC’s Recruiting Dominance

sec-recruiting-notebook-gfxSEC hats were easy to find during the Under Armour All-American Game in St. Petersburg, Fla., on Thursday.

Five of the seven prospects who announced their college decisions during the game chose an SEC school.

LSU led the way by landing commitments from safety Jamal Adams from Lewisville, Texas, and running back Leonard Fournette from New Orleans.

The day could have been better for LSU. The Tigers missed out on defensive back Tony Brown (Alabama) from Beaumont, Texas, and receiver Speedy Noil (Texas A&M) and defensive lineman Gerald Willis III (Florida) from Edna Karr High School in New Orleans.

The two prospects who chose non-SEC schools: cornerback Jalen Tabor from Washington, D.C., chose Arizona and receiver Travis Rudolph from West Palm Beach, Fla., picked Florida State.

Fournette was the biggest get for LSU. The nation’s No. 1 prospect according to ESPN chose the Tigers over rival Alabama.

“I chose LSU because I felt home there,” Fournette said. “I have a great relationship with both coaches, coach (Les) Miles and coach Frank (Wilson). The decision was made (Wednesday) when I was talking to my parents late at night about what school I wanted to attend. I was kind of going back and forth, so at the end of the day I prayed on it and I woke up and I felt that LSU was going to be the place for me.”

Expectations will be high when Fournette arrives in Baton Rouge. That’s fine with him. Fournette told ESPN he hopes to win a national championship and the Heisman Trophy as a freshman at LSU.

“I know that’s a lot to say, but I can handle the pressure,” Fournette said.

The SEC will be plenty to handle as the conference continues to bring in more talent. Of the 91 committed prospects playing in the Under Armour All-American game, 42 have chosen SEC schools. The ACC has the second most commitments with 17.

The SEC’s depth of recruiting talent is still growing. The league has nine of the top 15 classes for 2014, according to Rivals. The ACC has three of the top 15. The Big Ten has one.

LSU will continue to be a school to watch on the recruiting trail. The Tigers are targeting several highly-touted prospects, including receiver Malachi Dupre from New Orleans and cornerback Adoree’ Jackson from Gardena, Calif.

LSU has Rivals’ sixth-ranked class in the nation. Still, the Tigers would be in better position if they had landed more prospects on Thursday.

The decisions by Noil and Willis to leave the state surely hurt the Tigers’ recruiting effort.

“It felt like home when I went on my official visit (to Texas A&M),” Noil explained of his decision. “I look forward to taking my talents to A&M.”

Willis’ mother, April Justin, wanted her son’s talent to be on display at LSU. Justin, who voiced her displeasure when son Landon Collins chose Alabama in 2012, made it clear she didn’t agree with Willis’ decision to choose Florida.

“LSU’s still No. 1,” Justin said on ESPN.

Alabama is still No. 1 in recruiting. Brown’s commitment will only help as the Crimson Tide attempts to finish with the top-ranked signing class for the sixth time in seven years.

Roll Tide, roll,” Brown said.

 

White continues to impress

Auburn quarterback commit Sean White took home MVP honors from the Under Armour game.

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Florida’s Bowl Costs Show Why Major Conferences Are Changing The System

empty_pocketsWhen the SEC and Big XII announced that they would be partnering up to create their own new “Champions Bowl,” it marked a new day in the history of college football’s bowl system.  A good day for conferences and schools.  A bad day for bowl games.

Eventually, the Sugar Bowl beat out the Cotton Bowl to become the “Champions Bowl” (which will first be played in 2014).  The top teams from the SEC and Big XII not already in the College Football Playoff will meet in New Orleans.  For the first time, the vast majority of revenue from a bowl game will go to the leagues, not the game.

More conferences are now mulling whether or not to create their own games or — as the SEC and Big XII have done in New Orleans — partially take over an existing one.  So why make such a massive shift in the college football bowl structure?  Just look to this past year’s Sugar Bowl.

In January an 11-1 Florida team was invited to New Orleans to play Louisville.  The Gators appeared no more excited about facing the Cardinals than their fans did about watching that game.  Louisville won the contest.  Few UF fans showed up in the Superdome to witness it.

Florida sold fewer than 7,000 of the 17,500 tickets that were allotted to the school.  “Allotted” is an interesting word when it comes to bowl talk.  While it sounds like a gift of some sort, the reality is that Florida was on the hook to buy each of those 17,500 tickets.  Meaning the school had to eat about 10,000 tickets.  And that played a large role in Florida losing $840,000 for its trip to last season’s Sugar Bowl.

Some reward.

As it negotiates new contracts with all of its existing bowl partners — and potential new bowl partners — the SEC is pushing for lower ticket guarantees.  That change has already been built into the new playoff.  The major bowls in the College Football Playoff will require only 12,500 tickets to be sold rather than the 17,500 required by the Sugar Bowl.

Once the new SEC/Big XII co-owned Sugar Bowl launches after next season, the leagues will have a working model to represent their vision a new conference-bowl relationship.  That will give the biggest conferences even more leverage over the bowls and — if the game’s a money-maker — even more incentive to rejigger the entire college football bowl system.

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Nashville Mayor On SEC Tourney: “We Would Love To Have Them Here”

NCAA Men's Basketball 2009-10. SEC Tournament 2010. Photo by Jonathan PalmerOn Tuesday, Mike Slive announced that the SEC’s athletic directors had given him the go-ahead to begin looking for a “primary” home to the league’s basketball tournament.  The commissioner used the word “permanent” when describing the success the league has had placing its football championship game in Atlanta and its baseball tournament in Hoover (a suburb of Birmingham).

As we noted yesterday, Nashville and Atlanta have become the de facto sites for the tourney over the past decade.  The Music City hosted last year’s tournament and after this season’s, will again host in 2015 and 2016.  For that reason, most believe the SEC clearly has Nashville on its short list.  It’s very, very short list.

Naturally, Nashville’s mayor Karl Dean is all for the SEC bringing thousands of tourists into his downtown arena, hotels and restaurants on a regular basis:

 

“We would love to have them here.  Bridgestone (Arena) is an ideal place for them to play those games.  It’s obviously a decision they have to make, but I think with the convention center, with the new hotels coming online and the general level of activity in downtown, Nashville is the ideal place to do it.”

 

Ah, but Dean and his city will have to pay for the right to become the tourney’s “primary” home.  Slive will negotiate with Nashville and other cities (to help keep Nashville’s feet to the fire) and the commish said this week: “I’m not going to leave money in the room.”  He seldom does.

There is a return on the investment a city makes, of course.  According to The Tennessean, SEC fans spent more than $18 million in Nashville restaurants, bars and stores when the city hosted the 2010 SEC Tournament.  That was a four-day affair.  The numbers for last season’s five-day event (featuring 14 schools) are not yet available.

From a conference standpoint, placing the tournament in Nashville helps to spread the SEC’s main events across the league’s footprint.  Atlanta, Birmingham and Nashville are all somewhat centrally located and all feature international airports big enough for SEC fans to get in and out of easily.  (OK, getting in an out of Hartsfield-Jackson in Atlanta isn’t easy, but that’s only because it’s too big and busy.)

Meanwhile, naming Nashville as the “primary” host site — if Nashville lands the tourney — still allows the league to milk massive dollars from cities like Atlanta, Tampa, New Orleans, Houston or St. Louis on occasion.  (St. Louis is expected to land the 2017 SEC Tournament.)

We could be putting the cart in front of the horse on this one, but Nashville — with a downtown arena located in the heart of its entertainment district — sure seems to make a whole lotta sense in a whole lotta different ways.

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Thought Of The Day – 5/14/13

Ooh, law, we’re goin’ back a ways for this one.

Not sure that I’ve ever driven through the Magnolia State without intentionally dialing this one up on the iPod.  Rolled last summer all the way from New Orleans to Tennessee and am planning on spending some time on the Mississippi River this summer.  Might have to add this one to the playlist for that one.  (Admission: I’ve never driven into Detroit without punching this up.  I’m a freak.  Freely admit it.)

 

“Nothin’ much to see but a starvin’ hound in a Mississippi cotton-pickin’ Delta town.”

 

Charley Pride — Mississippi Cotton Pickin' Delta Town

 

If you don’t know much about Charlie Pride, do yourself a favor and do some research.  Great story.

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Thought Of The Day – 4/3/13

About a decade ago, yours truly was in attendance for a CBS convention in New Orleans.  The first mixer/get-together of the week featured a live performance by NOLA legend Buckwheat Zydeco.

As folks mingled away in the Bourbon Street nightclub CBS had rented out for the evening, myself and a couple of others wandered to the stage and focused on the music.  There would be plenty of time for French Quarter nightlife that week… but how many times could you see Buckwheat Zydeco up close in a private jam session?  And if you already loved the music of New Orleans and owned some BZ CDs as I did — this was back before iPods, kiddies — then it was an experience to be savored and filed away in the memory banks.

 

“You know I always been lucky.  I really hit the jackpot with you.”

 

Buckwheat Zydeco: "Jackpot!" | On Canvas

 

Now, it’s appropriate that Buckwheat Zydeco popped up on the iPod today because a good friend of mine who was also at that convention down in New Orleans is finally walking away from the CBS family today.  In fact, he’s leaving television altogether.  And he’ll do darn well.  Congrats, Frank.

And for those of you who need another taste of the world’s best “feel good” music, here’s a personal favorite as an added bonus.

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No Title Sponsor For College Football’s New Playoff

gfx - they said itWell, you can’t say that the guys running college football always go for the fast buck.

Yesterday BCS executive director Bill Hancock revealed that there will be no title sponsor attached to the name of the new college football playoff:

 

It won’t be ‘The Vizio Championship Tournament.’  The Final Four doesn’t have one.  The Masters doesn’t.  The Super Bowl.  That’s the kind of event we have.”

 

True.

Of course, Hancock also revealed that the sponsorships for individual bowl games won’t be going away.  “The semifinals will have something to the effect of ‘The Football Tournament Semifinal at the Discover Orange Bowl.”

Not to be a cynic, but you don’t think an umbrella sponsorship for the playoffs was nixed due to the possibility of conflicts with the existing bowl sponsors, do you?  The folks at Discover probably wouldn’t be thrilled, for example, if “The Visa Football Tournament Semifinal at the Discover Orange Bowl” was the name of their game.  The gang running the bowl in New Orleans probably wouldn’t like “The Samsung Football Tournament Semifinal at the Nokia Sugar Bowl,” either.

Just sayin’.

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WOW Headlines – 2/5/12

Former Tennessee football coach Derek Dooley has been officially named receivers coach for the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys
Dooley’s new job will not impact his $5 million buyout from Tennessee
Ex-Mississippi State WR Chad Bumphis has angered some Ole Miss fans via Twitter by telling prospects “DON’T go with the money!”
Ole Miss stands to finish with a top 10 recruiting class leading to rumors of rule-breaking
Reports out of New Orleans say Georgia defensive defensive corodinator Todd Grantham will interview for the same position with the Saints
In SEC hoops action Tuesday night, Arkansas beat Florida 80-69 and Kentucky beat South Carolina 77-55
Tennessee’s Kenny Hall will not be suspended after getting arrested for driving on a suspended driver’s license
Follow SEC football, basketball, and recruiting at twitter.com/mrsec
Follow all 14 SEC schools tomorrow on National Signing Day at MrSEC.com

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How An SEC-Big XII Scheduling Alliance Could Doom The ACC

yaltaOn Monday, a two-day meeting of the Big XII’s athletic directors got under way.  At the time, there was much discussion of a potential Big XII-ACC scheduling alliance.  Such a deal could conceivably delay further conference realignment for the short-term.  Bob Bowlsby had said leading up to the meetings that his league had already held exploratory conversations with three different conferences.  He mentioned the ACC specifically.

As for the other two leagues with which the Big XII had chatted, the vast majority of national pundits assumed the Pac-12 and the Big Ten were the other potential partners.  We thought otherwise:

 

“We suspect, however, that Bowlsby and (Mike) Slive might have had some chats.  The SEC takes a beating for its nonconference scheduling and when we move from the current BCS system to a playoff selection committee — complete with regional biases — any perceived soft scheduling could hurt the league’s chances of getting multiple teams into a four-team playoff.

Bowlsby and Slive captain the two most successful ships of the BCS era.  They’ve just worked out a groundbreaking deal to partner up and split the cash from a new Sugar Bowl that’s basically owned by the leagues and run by the folks in New Orleans.  What better way to further consolidate power than to reach a scheduling agreement, especially in football?”

 

One day into the Big XII’s meetings, the media began to focus even more closely on the ACC, Big Ten and Pac-12 as potential partners due to a Monday afternoon tweet put out by Kirk Bohls of The Austin-American Statesman.  It stated that Slive had said that the SEC “is not involved in those (Big XII) alliance discussions at all.”

We remained a bit skeptical as that didn’t sound very much like Slive’s MO.  Perhaps wires were crossed somewhere.   So we wrote on Tuesday morning:

 

“Mike Slive has said the SEC has had no alliance discussions with the Big XII ‘at all,’ which is surprising considering he almost always keeps his options open.”

 

Yesterday afternoon, the story changed.  Jon Solomon of The Birmingham News called across town to the SEC office and was told by SEC associate commissioner Mark Womack that the league “has engaged in limited dialogue” (Solomon’s words) with the Big XII.

Thought so.

Further, Womack said: “That’s a situation we would keep an open mind on, but we haven’t had a lot of significant discussions at this point.  There’s a lot of different ways that could work.  At this point, we’re continuing to move forward with scheduling the conference we’ve planned.”  Womack pointed out that any scheduling arrangement with another league would face its share of hurdles, namely most schools’ desire to play seven home games each season.

(Sidenote — Womach also told The News that there is no timetable to finish the 2014 football schedule, that the possibility of expanding to nine league games “is probably something that will always be out there to look at,” and that it’s likely the league will only schedule the next four-to-six years rather than the usual 10-to-12-year cycle.  “Given the state of everything, we’d probably look at a shorter term.”)

As we stated Monday and quoted above, it would only make sense for the SEC to consider some form of partnership with the Big XII.  Those two conferences have been the lead dogs in college football for the past decade and together they control the fertile recruiting zone from the Carolinas to Texas and on up into Oklahoma.

The ACC is looking for survival.  The Pac-12 wants some way to promote its product east of the Rocky Mountains.  The Big Ten is looking to reach into the growing Southern states for athletes, future students, and future donors.  In other words, all of those leagues want something that a partnership with the Big XII or SEC could provide.  The Big XII, being the smallest of the power conferences, is the most likely to strike a deal because Bowlsby’s group doesn’t want to end up being the runt of the power conference litter.

But if you were running the Big XII or SEC, why would you aid one of those other leagues?  The Big Ten and Pac-12 have their own Rose Bowl relationship.  They tried to work out a scheduling agreement but failed.  Let them deal with the slow growth of the Midwest and the three-hour difference between Pacific time and Eastern time.

Meanwhile, the ACC is working feverishly to protect itself from further raids.  You can be certain John Swofford is putting in more calls to Bowlsby than vice versa.  But if you’re the SEC or Big XII, why throw his conference a life vest?  Especially if the Big XII has its eyes on Florida State and Notre Dame (it does) and if the SEC has been wooing North Carolina and Duke for years (an ACC source told The Sporting News that it has).

Our SEC sources have told us since the addition of Missouri and Texas A&M that the league does not want to expand further.  But if the league feels it must expand further, well, that change things.  If the Big XII feels it must grow, too, then that’s two leagues with one goal.  Might they work in concert — and we’re talking about more than a scheduling alliance here — to topple a rival conference and then pick its bones clean?

First, it’s hard to imagine Slive and the SEC’s presidents taking part in such a nefarious plot.  Second, even if the SEC did engage in such a plan, the Big XII would have to sign on as well.

So let’s be clear, we’re stating that an SEC-Big XII alliance makes sense for both leagues in terms of improving their current schedules and consolidating their power.

We’re suggesting that it’s theoretically possible an SEC-Big XII alliance could bring down the Atlantic Coast Conference altogether.

See the difference there?  If so, put on your tin foil hat and allow us to toss a conspiracy theory at you (one we don’t subscribe to, but one we have thought about).

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Gator Fans Haven’t Exactly Snapped Up Sugar Bowl Tickets; Blame The Weather

florida postcardThere are lots of different ways to buy tickets to games these days.  From brokers on the internet.  Via eBay.  Outside the stadium doors by way of scalpers.

But the tried and true method of gauging a fanbase’s interest in a bowl game is still a simple check of the number of tickets sold through their favorite school’s box office.  And by that measure, Florida fans have not been gobbling up tickets for tonight’s Sugar Bowl game with Louisville.

Not surprisingly, Mike Bianchi of The Orlando Sentinel takes Gator fans to task for that:

 

“Florida coach Will Muschamp says the nation’s economic downturn has played a significant factor in the number of UF tickets sold, but personally I think it’s more of an enthusiasm downturn among Florida fans. How else do you explain Florida selling less tickets than any other bowl team in the SEC? How else do you explain upstart Louisville selling twice as many tickets from its allotment as Florida?

Louisville head coach Charlie Strong, a longtime defensive coordinator at UF, witnessed first-hand the evolution of the UF program. He remembers when the Gators getting invited to the Sugar Bowl constituted a special season. Now, though, a trip to New Orleans is treated like a trip to the bathroom.

‘Florida is a program that has had so much tradition over the last few years,’ Strong says. ‘At Louisville, this is just our second BCS bowl game, so our fans are excited.’

Translation: Florida fans have become spoiled and blasé.”

 

Bianchi goes on to say that the reputation of “Gator Nation” is bigger than it should be and that Florida fans are “a bit overrated when compared to those at traditional powerhouses like Alabama, Ohio State, Nebraska and Texas.”

There are multiple factors involved in this situation that need to be mentioned.  One is the economic downturn that Muschamp has mentioned.  But the economy hasn’t slowed the ticket-buyers from Louisville.  Also, while fans across the nation are staying home and watching games on television more often, Florida had more trouble selling tickets for so-so games this year than most 11-win, top 10-ranked teams would have.  (If you looked at the stands in the Swamp during some of UF’s 2012 nonconference games you know what we’re talking about.)

The spoiled factor certainly plays a role as Bianchi suggests.  But that happens at a lot of other places, too.

There is one issue, however, that is unique to a handful of big-time football programs of which Florida is one.  That’s weather, climate.  And, yes, we believe Florida’s place on the US map may exacerbate the school’s problem with ticket sales.

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Thought Of The Day – 11/15/12

Happy Thursday.  Happy Numbers Day here at MrSEC.com.  Lotta numbers, digits and stats coming your way today, not to mention all the usual news and views.

As always, we start the day with the first song of the MrSEC iPod and today’s take is something yours truly could listen to for hours straight.  Literally.  Just loop it for hours.

Now, this isn’t the jump blues version made famous by Stick McGhee in 1949 and it’s not even Jerry Lee Lewis’ first version of the song from his Sun Records days in the 50s.  Instead it’s a punchier remake from Lewis’ early-70s London sessions.  It rocks much harder than his original cut.  It’s the Killer at his finest.

And if you don’t have this version of this song in your collection, well, your collection’s lacking, son.

 

“Well I was down in New Orleans, everything’s fine.  All of them cats a’drinking that wine.  Drinking that mess is pure delight.  And when they get they drunk, they singin’ all night.”

 

Jerry lee Lewis – Drinking wine spo-dee-odee

 

News coming soon…

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