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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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What Do Attendance Figures Tell Us About The SEC?

empty-stadium-seatsThe ever-excellent Jon Solomon of The Birmingham News has done some digging and found that overall attendance at college football games is down year-to-year.  The first five weeks of the 2013 season were compared to the first five weeks of the 2012 and 2011 seasons.  Attendance is off by 3% from last year and 6% from two years ago.

None of this should surprise anyone.  The decline in attendance has been covered many time in many places, including here at MrSEC.com.  The quality of high definition broadcasts, the sheer number of games that are televised, new and different outlets for watching games (computers, phones), lack of quality WiFi and/or cell coverage at stadiums, rising costs of attendance (tickets, concessions, parking), and three to four games a year that feature cupcake opponents have all been cited as reasons for falling attendance figures.

Below are the September numbers for all 14 of the Southeastern Conference’s programs.  Keep in mind that these are tickets-sold figures, not actual turnstile numbers (which would no doubt be lower).  The schools are listed according to the percentage change from 2012′s first five weeks.

 

  School   2013 Avg. Attendance   2012 Avg. Attendance   Change   Home Games to Date
  Kentucky   60,789   50,712   +19.9%   Miami (OH), Florida, Louisville
  Ole Miss   60,815   55,158   +10.3%   SE Missouri St.
  S. Carolina   81,472   78,602   +3.7%   N. Carolina, Vanderbilt
  Florida   86,839   85,903   +1.1%   Toledo, Tennessee
  Texas A&M   86,906   86,777   +0.1%   Rice, Sam Houston St., Alabama, SMU
  Georgia   92,746   92,671   +0.1%   S. Carolina, N. Texas, LSU
  Alabama   101,821   101,821   +0.0%   Colorado St. Ole Miss
  Tennessee   90,406   90,665   -0.3%   Austin Peay, W. Kentucky, S. Alabama
  Miss. State   55,091   55,460   -0.7%   Alcorn St., Troy
  Auburn   84,719   85,968   -1.5%   Washington St., Arkansas St. Mississippi St.
  LSU   90,596   92,299   -1.8%   TCU, UAB, Kent St., Auburn
  Vanderbilt   35,326   36,942   -4.4%   Ole Miss, Austin Peay, UAB
  Arkansas   63,210   67,828   -6.8%   UL-Lafayette, Samford, S. Miss, Texas A&M
  Missouri   59,097   68,060   -13.2%   Murray St., Toledo, Arkansas St.

 

Observations:

*  Kudos to Mark Stoops for exciting the Kentucky fanbase with his staff hires, his message, and his recruiting.  However, it must be pointed out that UK attendance fell to laughable levels as Joker Phillips’ tenure neared its end in 2012.

*  South Carolina fans — one of the most loyal if not the most loyal fanbase in the SEC — continue to increase their school’s ticket sales.  After many years of filling Williams-Brice Stadium to witness losing football teams, it’s good to see Cock fans finally rewarded with a product that equals their support.

*  As for Alabama… it’s good to be the king.  Tide fans continue to sell out Bryant-Denny Stadium.

*  Mississippi State hasn’t had the best of home games so far in 2013.  With stadium expansion on the way, MSU’s attendance is on to watch now that Dan Mullen’s halo has been tarnished a bit.

*  Traditional football powers Auburn and Arkansas have new coaches.  LSU has a coach who seems to win 10 games every single season.  Yet all three schools have seen a decline in attendance through September.  Welcome to the new college football reality — fans are more finicky.

*  Vanderbilt fans who hope to keep James Franklin in Nashville at year’s end had better start snapping up tickets to Dudley Field.  Franklin has campaigned long and hard for better attendance in what is the SEC’s smallest venue.  Should VU’s coach depart for greener pastures, expect fan support to be a motivating factor.

*  Anyone wondering about the temperature of Gary Pinkel’s seat at Missouri need only look at the Tigers’ attendance figures to arrive at the answer.  His seat is hot and he needs to win.  To date, he has.  He’ll need to keep that up now that the SEC portion of Mizzou’s schedule has arrived.  With massive expansion projects coming to the MU campus, the school can’t afford to see a revenue drop in its football program.

 

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Georgia Kicker Morgan Will Miss This Week’s Carolina Game

suspended-man-on-hookGeorgia placekicker Marshall Morgan will not have his suspension lifted this week.  The Bulldogs’ top kicker will have to miss two big games — Clemson last week, South Carolina this week — due to a summer arrest for boating under the influence.

The University of Georgia has the SEC’s toughest policies regarding failed drug tests and arrests involving drugs or alcohol.

Walk-on kicker Patrick Beless and Adam Erickson remain the Dawgs’ backups, though Mark Richt won’t allow them to speak with the media.  “They’ve got enough to think about right now.  I don’t need them becoming media darlings right now.”

For Georgia, the school’s stance on drug/alcohol-related issues is somewhat self-defeating (and we don’t mean on the field).  On the one hand, UGA school officials can stand proud amongst their SEC peers knowing that they don’t put up with things that a lot of other folks do.  On the other hand, the annual start-of-the-season suspensions give the uninformed the impression that Richt runs not a tight ship, but a prison barge — “His guys are always in trouble.”

In reality, at most places, Morgan would be back kicking in a key SEC showdown this week.  And at other places, he would have never been suspended at all.

Just another reason we’re in favor of the Southeastern Conference taking control of such matters with a one-size-fits-all policy.

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The 2014 SEC Schedule Is Now Available

scheduleMike Slive and the SEC have released the 2014 football schedule and their choice of 8/21/13 as the release date has some significance:  “One year from today, August 21, 2014, the SEC Network will be launched, marking an historic day in the almost 80-year history of the Southeastern Conference,” the commish said via press release.  “One week later, the SEC Network will kick off the 2014 football season with a conference game between Texas A&M and South Carolina scheduled for Thursday, August 28 in Columbia, South Carolina.”

The 2014 schedule once again features the 6-1-1 format with one permanent foe from the opposite division as well as one rotating opponent.  The league continues to weigh what schedule format it should adopt for the long haul.

Each school’s league schedule is listed below, complete with immediate reaction/observations:

 

ALABAMA
Sept. 20 – FLORIDA
Oct. 4 – at Ole Miss
Oct. 11 – at Arkansas
Oct. 18 – TEXAS A&M
Oct. 25 – at Tennessee
Nov. 8 – at LSU
Nov. 15 – MISSISSIPPI STATE
Nov. 29 – AUBURN

The Tide will open conference play against Florida in an early-season doozy.  The back half of Bama’s schedule stays true to form with traditional rivals LSU, MSU and Auburn bringing up the rear.



ARKANSAS
Aug. 30 – at Auburn
Sept. 27 – vs. Texas A&M (Arlington)
Oct. 11 – ALABAMA
Oct. 18 – GEORGIA
Nov. 1 – at Mississippi State
Nov. 15 – LSU
Nov. 22 – OLE MISS
Nov. 29 – at Missouri

Arkansas’ new season-ending rivalry with Missouri will indeed kickoff next year in Columbia.  The Hogs also have a tough back-to-back with Alabama and Georgia in mid-October, but both games will be at home.


AUBURN
Aug. 30 – ARKANSAS
Oct. 4 – LSU
Oct. 11 – at Mississippi State
Oct. 25 – SOUTH CAROLINA
Nov. 1 – at Ole Miss
Nov. 8 – TEXAS A&M
Nov. 15 – at Georgia
Nov. 29 – at Alabama

The Tigers’ schedule appears to be quite dangerous with LSU, South Carolina, Texas A&M, Georgia and Alabama all on the docket.  Don’t expect to hear Auburn fans moan, however.  They like playing UGA every year and that’s part of the reason their schedule will be so difficult.


FLORIDA
Sept. 13 – KENTUCKY
Sept. 20 – at Alabama
Oct. 4 – at Tennessee
Oct. 11 – LSU
Oct. 18 – MISSOURI
Nov. 1 – vs. Georgia (Jacksonville)
Nov. 8 – at Vanderbilt
Nov. 15 – SOUTH CAROLINA

The Florida-Tennessee game — so long the traditional SEC curtain-raiser for both schools — gets dropped all the way back to October in 2014.  The Gators get a tough West Division draw with both Alabama and permanent foe LSU on tap.

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Forde Nails It On NCAA’s Amateur Status Rules

gfx - they said itThe big story today has been that of Johnny Manziel and an NCAA investigation into alleged cash-for-autographs deal.  Many — especially those in Texas — have focused on the rule supposedly violated rather than on the violation.  As if it’s OK for a college player to break a rule if it’s a dumb rule.

Earlier today, we at MrSEC.com explained why the NCAA’s rule protecting amateur status is in place.  This afternoon, Pat Forde of Yahoo! Sports has traveled some of the same road.  He, however, went deeper into the troubles that would arise should the NCAA just throw up its arms and say, “Everyone can get paid.”

A snippet:

 

“Let’s say the (Ed) O’Bannon case against the NCAA breaks the amateurism dam.  Let’s say college athletes can suddenly be paid for appearances, for autographs, for doing commercials, etc.  Let’s say a school’s boosters are free to massively overpay a five-star recruit for his “autograph” in hopes of swaying him to their alma mater.

Who is going to handle the business side of the young players’ sudden profitability?

Agents, naturally.

Those rules would have to be changed, allowing players have agents.  Some — including Southeastern Conference commissioner Mike Slive — believe that may be a good thing, because schools could have some control over the process.

But anyone who thinks agents would sit around waiting for star athletes to get to college is fooling themselves.  They don’t wait for them to turn pro as it is now.

And so the trickle-down effect would really get going.  Agents and runners would be all over the kids in high school or earlier.  Many already are involved with elite high schools prospects, especially in basketball, no matter what the rules say, but this would only accelerate the process.”

 

Forde’s views on a high school world gone mad go on from there.  They’re views we happen to share.  All those in favor of just opening the flood gates when it comes to paying players should take the time to give it a read.

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SEC Bowl LineUp Coming Into Focus; Be Ready For Griping

stacks of bowlsIt doesn’t look as though there will be many surprises when the Southeastern Conference reveals its new bowl lineup.  As expected, the league will partner with two new bowls as it branches a hair to the east and an inch to the west.  For the most part, the league’s roster of bowl will be pretty similar.  Here’s how things are expected to shake out (in most years) beginning in 2014:

 

Allstate Sugar Bowl (New Orleans):  Will get the highest-ranked SEC team that does not gain an invitation to the College Football Playoff to face off against the highest-ranked Big XII team not making the playoffs.

Discover Orange Bowl (Miami gardens):  Will get an occasional SEC squad (as part of a rotation with the Big Ten and Notre Dame) to face a team from the ACC.

Capital One Bowl (Orlando):  Will get the first selection from the remaining SEC teams.  A Big Ten team will be the foe in most years with an ACC squad serving as a potential fallback.

 

The SEC office will determine which league teams fill the remaining six bowls.

 

AutoZone Liberty Bowl (Memphis):  Will feature SEC against Big XII

Belk Bowl (Charlotte):  Will feature SEC against ACC

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl (Nashville):  Will feature SEC against ACC or Big Ten

Outback Bowl (Tampa):  Will feature SEC against Big Ten

Taxslayer.com Gator Bowl (Jacksonville):  Will feature SEC against ACC or Big Ten

Texas Bowl (Houston):  Will feature SEC against Big XII

 

At MrSEC.com, our biggest complaint is the SEC’s decision to simply remain in its current footprint (with Charlotte — a just off the South Carolina border — being a slight exception).  Our next biggest complaint is that the SEC will not see a single Pac-12 team in a bowl game.  In our view, the league should have looked at the Pinstripe Bowl (an SEC team in the snow at Yankee Stadium… yes, please) and/or the Maaco Bowl Las Vegas (that’s the correct name).  SEC fans would likely enjoy a Christmas trip to the Big Apple or Sin City.  Alas, the league has taken the predictable path instead.

As for the griping we mentioned in the headline, Mike Slive said earlier this offseason that he an the league office take heat over bowl selections anyway, so they might as well just start deciding who goes where.  Makes sense, but the complaints are only to going to grow louder.  Over the next six years — that’s how long these new bowl contracts will run — imagine how many fanbases will yelp that the league office hates their schools and loves another when their school is assigned to play in a lesser bowl game.  If you like conspiracy theories, you’re gonna love this new bowl-distribution plan.

Other than that?  Yawn.  It’s business as usual.  Staying Down South to play teams from just three conferences, one of which — the ACC — SEC squads see regularly anyway.  We see it as a missed opportunity for the Southeastern Conference.

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Which SEC School Will Be The First To Go Nuts With Its Hoops Court Design?

Credit Oregon and Nike for starting two trends that are taking over college sports.  One is the necessity for darn near every school to have umpteen alternate uniforms.  The other is the growing practice of creating funky designs for a basketball court.

This is what Oregon’s court looks like:

 

oregon-court

 

That’s a salute to the state’s forests for those who can’t figure it out.

Now UCF — that’s Central Florida — is planning to get in on the act with a blacktop design that’s designed to mimic the look of outdoor courts:

 

ucf court

 

The University of Memphis recently allowed fans to vote on its new court design.  A few other schools have already gone in the same direction.

Eventually, an SEC school will go the whole nine yards with its court, too.  It’s really just a matter of time.  One website has already mocked up an Oregon-style, bayou-themed court for LSU:

 

lsu court

 

Love the cattails/corndogs in the design.

So which SEC school will be the first to go all-in with a new hoops court?  Here’s guessing it will either be a Nike school or a school that’s already shown a willingness to trot out dozens of different uni designs in football, basketball or both.

Best guess?  We’d put a buck on Mississippi State and Missouri, two schools that have worked hard to create/rebuild their brands in recent years.  MSU has gone uni-crazy through adidas.  Mizzou has allowed Nike to relaunch its look from the ground up.

If you’re looking for a long shot, consider Florida.  The Gators have been more than willing to trot out any new hoops or gridiron uniform that Nike has sent them.  If the Kings of Swoosh tell UF a new court design would help further the school’s brand and attract recruits, we would expect Billy Donovan to OK such a move.

All that said, here’s hoping this is one trend that does not spread to the Southeastern Conference.

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WOW Headlines – 6/17/13

Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel tweeted over the weekend that he “can’t wait to leave College Station”
Florida LB Antonio Morrison has been arrested on simple battery charges after punching a nightclub bouncer
Former Tennessee star Eric Berry on new coach Butch Jones: “He’s trying to do things the right way.”
Florida G Michael Frazier is a finalist for the USA Under-19 basketball team
Tennessee F Jarnell Stokes is a finalist for the USA Under-19 basketball team
Follow the Southeastern Conference every day on MrSEC.com and twitter.com/mrsec

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Whoever Replaces Slive Will Face A “Larger” Challenge

mike-sliveLet’s start with the obvious: SEC commissioner Mike Slive is one of the most powerful men in college sports.  Along with Big Ten commish Jim Delany, Slive seems to always be a few steps ahead of pack.

An ex-ESPN employee who’s sat in on meetings with a number of conference commissioners recently told MrSEC.com that Slive and Delany are such strategic thinkers that they’re often operating on a completely different level from their counterparts in other leagues.

Slive hasn’t gained his power through bluster.  He works a room, calms conversations, keeps bringing all parties back to the topic at hand, and then manages to build a consensus without anyone realizing how exactly he’s done it.

Put it this way: If you’re traveling with two wanted droids on Tatooine, you want Slive in the brown robe talking to the Stormtroopers.

According to Eric Hyman – who has worked with Slive as AD at South Carolina and now at Texas A&M – it is Slive who makes the Southeastern Conference strong:

 

“I’ve known him for a long time and he’s a visionary.  He’s brilliant intellectually.  He’s got tremendous political acumen.  He’s adroit in what he does and how he maneuvers things.

He knows where he wants to take the league and he gets a consensus in that direction.  There’s no division.  We all say the things we feel (as individual institutions), but the conference has a bond and is as strong as it is because of Mike Slive.”

 

While Slive has mastered the role of calm, cool leader, he’s also benefited from the fact that the Southeastern Conference has long been an all-for-one, one-for-all kinda neighborhood, even before his arrival.  If there’s another conference whose member institutions have always marched arm in arm it’s the Big Ten.  So it coincidental that Slive and Delany are the best at what they do?  Obviously not.  Slive and Delany are excellent leaders, but their talents are enhanced by the esprit de corps that exists among those they are leading.

Slive recently had this to say to The San Antonio Express-News:

 

“One of the hallmarks of this league is the fact that we talk about being a family.  It may sound sort of naïve, but that’s the sense I got out of the (spring meetings).  It’s “This is tough, but we’re going to find a way through it.  We’re going to make a decision – as long as it’s thoughtful, reasonable and with an open dialogue – and, once we make it, we’ll move on.  That’s just the way we’ve always done it.’”

 

Ah, but here comes the rub.

The bigger conferences become, the more difficult it will be to keep everyone on the same page.  There are more voices in the room, more opinions on every topic.

The math is pretty simple, really.  If you and three friends are going to dinner, reaching a consensus on where to eat is one thing.  If you and 13 friends are going to dinner, good luck getting everyone to agree on a restaurant.

Slive is now 72-years-old.  Delany is about 65.  It won’t be too many years before new leaders have taken over the SEC and Big Ten.  Those leagues will no doubt try to find men – or women – who have just as much foresight and polical savvy as their current commissioners.

But whether those new leaders will have as much success as Slive and Delany will in part be decided by how well 14-school leagues – not 12- or 10-team leagues – can be managed.  The bigger the conferences, the bigger the challenge.

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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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