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Conference chatter

Hey, remember when conference commissioners were just some guy at a desk somewhere who popped up from time to time to run a meeting or rubber-stamp some punishment or contract someone had handed him?

Yeah, me neither. Hey, you hear about this week’s National Enquirer? Larry Scott apparently got caught hosting some 22-year-old blonde on his yacht. Jim Delany’s on the cover outside some bar with Mariah Carey. Rumor is Mike Slive’s going to rehab for Percocet addiction.

More seriously, I guess it’s time to catch up on some of the conference-wide developments we’ve seen the last week or so in the world of the SEC …

— When it comes to expansion fever, nothing’s changed as far as I’m concerned where the SEC is, um, concerned. The league is holding at 12 teams and has no reason not to hold at 12 teams.

So maybe the Pac-10 becomes the PacTexas-16. So maybe Notre Dame tells the Big Ten thanks but no thanks and it adds various Big 12 and Big East remnants to become the Big Sixteen. I still don’t think this forces the SEC’s hand–at least not right away.

Yes, the Big Sixteen Network and the hypothetical PacTexas-16 Network would both make money hand over fist, and that’s what this is all about, of course. But would they make so much money that the SEC would have to act immediately in response? Now? Before the summer’s even out? Remember that a giant pile of money divided 16 ways doesn’t go quite as far as a giant pile of money divided 12 ways. The other super-conferences’ giant pile will have to be quite a bit larger than the SEC’s to make the payola equal. (I swear, I finish this post, I schedule it for posting, and only then do I see that Dr. Saturday has already addressed this particular financial issue.–ed.)

Thanks to the SEC’s anchor of a fixed TV contract–a decision that looks worse by the day, no matter what Mike Slive might say about local TV-slash-multimedia rights–eventually that pile will be large enough to equal and surpass what the SEC is paying out. The Big Ten already distributed somewhere in the neighborhood of $3 million more to its schools than the SEC did this past year. But after the expansion, those figures are going to be roughly equal until the TV deal starts really opening up the financial floodgates … and even if they aren’t, it would be a long time before they translate into a competitive advantage.

Given that the SEC has lots of other advantages of their own–recruiting geography, greater ancillary revenue streams, more national “cachet”–there’s no need to rush into expansion. Let the other guys see if this 16-team business really works. See exactly how much money they’re squeezing out of their TV deals, how much they’re going to make in the future, what target the SEC will have to hit when they inevitably try to renegotiate with CBS and ESPN. Since the SEC isn’t going to take on dead weight like Texas Tech and Baylor, Texas isn’t in the picture, and none of the SEC’s potential targets–Florida St., Clemson, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech–are going anywhere. They’ll wait. The SEC can wait.

So why not wait? I know expansion is exciting and all, but we don’t want it. It means even fewer games against Florida and Tennessee. It means a possible disruption of the good thing we’ve got these days with LSU and Arkansas. It means reorienting–again–what it means to be an SEC member and an even further distancing the league from its history. We still don’t have any idea whether a 16-team superconference would even work.

So: it won’t surprise me if eventually the financial realities force the SEC to keep up with the Joneses, but this is one case where I’m perfectly fine letting other leagues take the lead.

— If you missed it, the league decided to leave the SEC hoops tournament alone and continue seeding based on the division standings rather than overall SEC record.

This is transparently stupid. For Tennessee to have to play a first-round game for the right to play an Ole Miss team 1. with a worse SEC record 2. against a weaker SEC schedule is 3. a joke. Divisional emphasis makes sense for football or maybe other low-number-of-games sports, but not here. It should be changed.

— You’ve probably heard by now, but Miss. St. gets to keep their cowbells, thanks in large part to Jay Jacobs of all people sticking up for them. Which I’m actually kind of OK with–I don’t care if State gets their cowbells or not (I know some Auburn fans find them an aggravation and unfair, but it’s State), and now those guys owe us one big time. I’ll be surprised if Mullen opens his mouth about our recruiting tactics again anytime soon.

More Jacobs news: he’s on the SEC’s Executive Committee, the only A.D. among its seven members. I don’t know what the Executive Committee does, exactly, but it can’t hurt.

Compare and contrast Mike Slive on the baseball tournament site and the football championship game site:

“Hoover does a terrific job.” He said the SEC still will explore alternatives and will bring different scenarios to the ADs for a vote during the fall …

Football? “The game is extraordinarily successful in Atlanta. We have no intention of moving it out of Atlanta.”

I’d rather see the baseball tournament stay in Hoover just because it’s good for the Birmingham area and all, but otherwise, no feeling one way or the other; I just think it’s pretty obvious which site is more likely to change in the near future.

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