August 30, 2008

Roundtable: How big is the SEC-ESPN deal?

At the College Basketball Roundtable each week, we ask each member of the coverage staff for their opinion about a topic in the sport.

  • What will be the impact of the SEC's new 15-year TV deal with ESPN?

  • There long has been a perception that the SEC has great athletes but lacks great basketball players. Former South Carolina coach Dave Odom often talked about how wrong that way of thinking was.

    This new TV deal which is great news for the SEC should be the beginning of the end of all that. Vanderbilt's Shan Foster hit a remarkable nine 3-pointers in a row, including one with 2.7 seconds left in overtime, to beat Mississippi State last season in one of the best performances and best games of the season. But not many people saw it because it wasn't on national TV. That won't be a problem anymore. Fans outside of SEC country won't be able to look past the league any longer.

  • The impact of the SEC's 15-year agreement with ESPN will be felt far and wide, not only for the 12 schools in the league but its competitors on the recruiting trail.

    The SEC gets triple the games on ESPN or one of its networks starting in 2009-10. Triple the amount. It's like going for happy hour and finding out it's 3-for-1. Anybody turning that down?

    It's an unhappy hour for other leagues with lousy TV deals. They know who they are. The SEC's deal not only takes available slots from other leagues on the only cable sports network that really matters, but it replaces them with games from one league, the SEC.

    Can't you just hear this: Well, son, you can go to school in that other league if you don't care about your parents seeing all of your games on TV, or you can come here.

    Lots of leagues get lots of exposure. But with games on the ESPN family on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday once the deal begins, none will get more than the SEC. There isn't a league in America that wouldn't trade places.

  • It's a jackpot deal, literally in the wallets of the league teams and figuratively on the recruiting trail and in public perception.

    First, the amount of money that will be flowing into SEC coffers is incredible, so it's a case of the rich getting richer in some respects. In addition, the schools that need to upgrade their facilities now have the means to do so.

    Second, recruiting just got a bit easier. Now, no matter where a recruit lives, his family can see him on TV at least a few times each season. If you've dealt with prospects, TV time is vital and don't think SEC coaches won't be pounding that point home.

    While the SEC generally has been king of the hill when it comes to football, it has lagged a bit in basketball. That doesn't need to be the case anymore.

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