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Slive Talks SEC Network, Reveals Little

We already knew that an SEC Network was on the way.  In fact, word had already leaked that it would be a partnership with — of course — ESPN.  Also that it would launch shortly before the 2014 football season, most likely in August of that year.

So what new information did commissioner Mike Slive provide when he spoke with USA Today this week?  See for yourself:

 

“Given the networks that have been developed, is there room for any more?  And the answer is: ‘At least one.’”

 

Simply a cute way of stating that after much research the SEC’s network is on the way?  Or could Slive have been suggesting there may be room for multiple SEC Networks, just as the Pac-12 has created seven different channels?

It’s possible that the SEC could launch eight channels with seven featuring content targeted toward two specific fanbases each (Alabama/Auburn, Arkansas/Missouri, LSU/Texas A&M, MSU/Ole Miss, Georgia/Florida, Kentucky/South Carolina, and Tennessee/Vanderbilt, for example) and the eighth serving as the SEC’s national network.  We didn’t say it was likely — and we’ve heard very little to suggest that would be the league’s direction — but it is a possibility.

Back to reality, however, Slive added:

 

“We’ve been looking at all of our options since we added A&M and Missouri.  As these conversations have evolved, we’ve not begun to focus clearly on what we think is the right way to go…

(There are) questions that need to be answered before final decisions are made.  Obviously, we would not make the decision to go in that direction unless we believed we would be successful.”

 

There’s clearly not a lot of new that came from this interview.  Everyone must still wait to see what the ownership split between SEC and ESPN will be, how much trouble the league will have getting cable and satellite carriage, how much the conference and ESPN will try to charge as a subscriber fee, and so on.

We’ve been told by an expert source on media rights from within the college sports industry that SEC schools will most likely bring in $30-35 million per year once the new Sugar Bowl partnership, college football playoff, SEC Network, and CBS and ESPN contract renegotiations are finalized.  This past year, the average payout for the league’s schools was $20.1 million, for comparison.  Not a bad bump if that’s indeed what it ends up being.

The commissioner said people could expect “an announcement within the next couple of months, if not sooner.”  But one thing that could be slowing down the negotiations and renegotiations with television partners is the continued uncertainty surrounding conference realignment.  It’s hard to plan a network — or networks — when it’s possible more schools could be joining the SEC in the coming years, months, weeks, days, minutes… you get the picture.

And even if the SEC stands pat with 14 schools, the value of other leagues’ television contracts will obviously have some bearing on what the SEC can grab from its TV partners.  In that sense, the expansion plans of the ACC or Big East or Big Ten, etc., would have an impact even on a 14-school SEC.

Stay tuned…

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Two Wrongs Make A Right (Sort Of), But SEC Should Open Up About Last Call Of UT-VU Game

We’ve waited until today to discuss the bizarro call at the end of Saturday’s Tennessee-Vanderbilt game because Wednesday is usually the day the SEC announces punishments and suspensions.  And members of the crew involved in last weekend’s contest were famously suspended by the league back in 2009.  So we wanted to see if any action was taken by the league before chiming in with our views on this mess.

For those who didn’t see it, Vanderbilt’s Jordan Rodgers was picked off by Tennessee defensive back Eric Gordon during the first session of the teams’ overtime contest.  Gordon’s knee got low to the ground as he caught the ball, but it did not touch.  Unfortunately, head linesman Gus Morris — with an obscured view — blew his whistle and ran to mark the ball down.  Only… no one on the field stopped playing and Gordon returned the ball 90+ yards for an apparent 27-21 game-winning score.

But Derek Dooley’s postgame celebration — like those at last year’s LSU and North Carolina games — was cut short.  Official Marc Curles informed the crowd of the following:


“The ruling on the field (is) the ball was fumbled, recovered by Tennessee (player Gordon) with his knee on the ground.  Therefore the runner is down, Vanderbilt’s series is over and Tennessee gets the ball, first and 10 on the 25 (yard-line).”

Technically, that should’ve been it for Gordon’s interception.  The Vol offense should have trotted onto the field and attempted to end the game with a touchdown or field goal.  The game should have continued.

But Curles’ crew reversed direction:

“The previous play is under further review.  Although the runner’s knee was ruled down, there was no whistle or signal.”

Upon review, it was clear that Gordon’s knee had not touched the ground and Tennessee was granted the touchdown and an immediate victory.

But here’s the rub — inadvertent whistles can’t be reviewed.  For the sake of player safety, once a whistle blows — right or wrong — the play is dead.  End of story.  Except in this case.

So in a way, two wrongs did indeed make a right:

* The linesman was wrong to rule Gordon down.

* The crew was wrong to review the play.

* But no one was going to stop Gordon on his way to the end zone in the first place, so Tennessee did deserve to win the game.

Observations:

* Officials will make mistakes.  Just as coaches make bad play calls and players put the ball on the turf, officials will blow calls.  It happens.  And with our current technology we certainly see every missed call over and over and over again.  Mistakes are part of the game.  Always have been, always will be.

But…

* We believe the league needs to better explain how it was that Curles flipped on his mic and told the Neyland Stadium crowd that “there was no whistle or signal,” when clearly Morris did blow his whistle — it was audible during the live broadcast on ESPNU — and did run onto the field to mark the ball down.

So far, SEC coordinator of officials Steve Shaw has put out only the following release:


“On the last play of the Vanderbilt-Tennessee game, in overtime, the Tennessee defender intercepted the pass, his knee did not touch the ground and he returned the interception for a touchdown.  During the play, the head linesman incorrectly ruled that the Tennessee player’s knee was down when he intercepted the pass by blowing his whistle and giving the dead ball signal.  The play was reviewed as if there was no whistle on the field, and as a result, overturned the incorrect ruling.  By rule, if there was a whistle blown, the play is not reviewable.”

So how is it a crew could claim that a whistle was never blown when it clearly was?  More than a question of a correct or missed call, this situation creates doubts about the credibility of SEC officials.  In a world where many fans honestly believe the SEC office and its refs are “out to get” their favorite teams, it’s bad practice to have a crew openly mislead tens of thousands of fans in the stands and hundreds of thousands — if not millions — of fans watching at home on television.

We’re not calling for heads here.  As we noted above, mistakes happen.  But the league needs to comment on the crew’s decision to review that play after a whistle had been blown.

*  Watching the Tennessee-Vanderbilt situation unfold, the Immaculate Reception game came to mind.  It’s become an urban legend that the officials in that game phoned upstairs to see if they would have police protection should they rule that Franco Harris did not catch that now-famous, deflected pass from Terry Bradshaw.  Legend has it they were told they would get no such protection so they quickly returned to the field, ruled the play a touchdown, thrilled thousands of Steeler fans at Three Rivers Stadium, and promptly got the heck out of Dodge.

If Tennessee had had its third victory in two years taken off the board, you can imagine the reaction of Volunteer fans.  Certainly, the SEC officials had plenty of motivation on Saturday night to correct their blown call… even if it meant breaking another rule to do it.

* How lucky was the SEC that it was the Tennessee-Vanderbilt overtime session that ended under bizarre circumstances and not the Alabama-LSU game of earlier this month?  Had the Game of the Century ended in such a way, here’s betting the SEC office and perhaps Mike Slive himself would have had to give comment.

* James Franklin and Vandy fans can be upset that the letter of the law wasn’t followed in this case, but they shouldn’t complain too loudly.  In reality, it was the interception that was the difference in the game.  Praying for an inadvertent whistle is simply pleading for a technicality.

We said the same thing when Tennessee fans complained last season that LSU’s T-Bob Hebert had taken his helmet off seconds before the actual end of the Vols’ loss to the Tigers.  Could a flag have been thrown?  Yes (though as former coordinator of SEC officials Rogers Redding told us… that’s a discretionary call).  But did Tennessee deserve to win because a player took his helmet off a couple of seconds early?  Of course not.

Just as Vanderbilt didn’t deserve to win on Saturday because an official mistakenly blew his whistle.

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SEC Headlines – 1/14/11 Part Two

1.  ESPN basketball analyst Jimmy Dykes believes the three best teams in the SEC are Kentucky, then Georgia and Vanderbilt.

2.  How might the stars — and I use that term loosely — of Florida’s 2010 offense be worked into Charlie Weis’ pro-style system?

3.  Urban Meyer says “the Gators are going to get better” under Will Muschamp.

4.  Georgia linebacker Justin Houston has until tomorrow night to declare for the NFL draft.

5.  Here’s an early look at UGA’s 2011 offensive line.

6.  Trey Thompkins is leading the Dawgs’ basketball resurgence.

7.  Randall Cobb’s many talents will be difficult for Kentucky to replace next season.

8.  Wildcat linebacker Danny Trevathan will return to Lexington for his senior season.

9.  John Calipari wants his team to put aside individual goals and make a “commitment to win.”  (The Cats are 13-3.)

10.  UK’s lack of depth puts a lot of pressure on big man Eloy Vargas.

11.  South Carolina’s offense has to come from its defense.  (Pay site.)

12.  ESPN’s “GameDay” crew will be in Knoxville for tomorrow’s Tennessee-Vanderbilt game.  (Think Bruce Pearl’s situation might come up?)

13.  Struggling against three-point gunners, the Vols will now have to face Vandy’s John Jenkins.

14.  Festus Ezeli has been coming up big for the Commodores.

15.  This writer says Ezeli is putting up “AJ Ogilvy-type numbers — without all the drama.”

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