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SBD/Issue 242/College Football PreviewPrint All
The college football season kicks off tonight, and THE DAILY brings you our season preview issue, offering news and analysis around some of the biggest issues facing the sport. We delve into the SEC's landmark 15-year deal with ESPN, the rising payouts to smaller schools for non-conference games and changes at on-campus facilities. We also look into the crystal ball and see who some experts believe will meet in a little more than four months in the BCS championship game. It's been a long time since Tim Tebow and Urban Meyer celebrated in South Florida, so let's head back to school!
BIG DRAW: In Atlanta, Mark Bradley wrote "plunk a big-time college game under the off-white roof" at the Georgia Dome and "see how many empty seats you espy." The SEC championship is an "automatic sellout," along with the Chick-fil-A Bowl and Chick-fil-A Kickoff, which this year "comes on a weekend when the Braves are home and NASCAR is running at Atlanta Motor Speedway." Bradley: "I've been around this nation of ours, and I can tell you there's no other major city ... that behaves as we do on autumn Saturdays. Simply put, we care more about college football than we do about anything else" (AJC.com, 8/31).
Many SEC Schools Using Increased TV
Revenue To Renovate Sports Facilities
SOUTHERN COMFORT: Slive said of the conference's TV deals with CBS and ESPN, which are worth a combined $3B, "We didn't want to be just another property. ... We were able, ultimately, to enter into the historic 15-year agreements and not necessarily have to go through some of the difficulties that the Big 10 and the Mountain West and the NHL Network have had in creating their own channels" (CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION, 8/31 issue). In Memphis, Ron Higgins wrote the new TV contract "certainly hasn't affected season ticket sales" for SEC football teams; Ole Miss, Mississippi State and LSU all have already set school records for season-ticket sales. However, some opposing coaches are "shaking their heads" since the new TV arrangement "even stretches the SEC regional telecasts to markets across the nation." Higgins noted the "traditional bottom-feeder SEC schools suddenly have the ability to recruit nationally because they are on TV every game in football and every conference game in men's basketball" (Memphis COMMERCIAL APPEAL, 8/30).
COMMUNICATIONS 101: Baton Rouge ADVOCATE Exec Editor Carl Redman wrote the SEC's new media policy shows that the conference "clearly wants control over information and news" regarding all league activity, and it is "not difficult to imagine incremental pressure, year by year, by the SEC and its members to get even-greater control over the media." The SEC has "lucrative contracts for coverage with a handful of media giants," while member schools "have their own Web sites that can push the party line." Redman: "Perhaps they hope to end up as the only sources of information and reap a windfall in subscription and ad sales revenue. If the SEC and its members insist on this insane policy and manage to make it stick, media exposure will drop." If the SEC can "get away with this, you can bet other agencies and groups will try the same thing" (Baton Rouge ADVOCATE, 8/30).
WHISTLE BLOWERS: The CHRONICLE's Wolverton notes of the SEC's 12 head football coaches, eight earn at least $2M annually. Florida's Urban Meyer tops the conference at $4M per year, followed by Alabama's Nick Saban ($3.9M) and LSU's Les Miles ($3.8M). UT's nine assistant coaches will earn a combined $3.3M, while Alabama's football staff will make $2.7M. But athletics officials are "quick to remind disgruntled observers that the majority of coaches' compensation is covered by corporate endorsements, private donations, and other outside money." But Wolverton notes "despite those arguments, it's getting harder to make a case for rising pay, which shows no sign of abating" (CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION, 8/31 issue).
NEW AND IMPROVED: The BTN will debut several new programs this month, including the "Football Four-Pack," a quartet of new shows that will air at 10:00pm ET Tuesday through Friday. The opening of each of the net's primetime football telecasts this season also will include a special performance by Rascal Flatts interlaced with a montage of Big Ten highlights. The net's football and men's basketball telecasts during the '09-10 season also will be available to viewers outside the U.S. and Canada on www.BigTenTicket.com. The following lists the schedule and hosts for the net's "Football Four-Pack" programs (BTN).DAYSHOWHOSTSTues."Breakdown"Dave Revsine, Howard Griffith, Chris MartinWed.
"Sites and Sounds" Rick Pizzo, Troy VincentThurs. "Behind The Schemes" Revsine, Gerry DiNardo, Glen MasonFri. "Big Ten Football and Beyond" Revsine, DiNardo, Griffith, Teddy Greenstein,
Charleston Southern Will Earn
$450,000 For Playing At Florida
IT DOESN'T MATTER IF YOU WIN OR LOSE? In Orlando, Jeremy Fowler wrote by playing Florida on Saturday, Charleston Southern will receive the "kind of college football exposure only the Gators can provide," including the "recruiting visibility of the talent-rich state of Florida" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 9/2). The L.A. Times' Bill Plaschke said, "It's not just about the money, it's about the perception. They will be on national TV for people to see them as an underdog, as a team that is willing to swing for the fences, as a program that's willing to take a chance, as a program that's willing to embarrass itself to learn about itself. It is what college athletics is about." Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan: "They're going to get a paycheck they never could have gotten that many other schools are going to get. This is the best thing that could happen to them." But FanHouse.com's Jay Mariotti said, "What about these kids? I think you're exploiting them" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 9/2). ESPN's Michael Wilbon said the BCS "should penalize teams that have these games." Wilbon: "I call it pay for slay." But ESPN's Tony Kornheiser argued, "If Charleston Southern is offered a game with Florida for that kind of money, 100 times out of 100 you have to take that game for the exposure" ("PTI," ESPN, 9/2).
The Univ. of Kansas (KU) has proposed building a 3,000-seat, $34M tower on the east side of Memorial Stadium that "could pour $40[M] more into campus academics," according to Mara Rose Williams of the K.C. STAR. The $40M total would mark the "largest contribution to the student body, the faculty and research programs that the university's Athletic Department has ever made." KU Associate AD for External Relations Jim Marchiony: "We believe the revenue from sale of seats at a minimum will pay for the construction and our commitment to the university." Marchiony added that the tower "would house a university Gridiron Club and 'complement the existing west-side scholarship suites.'" Williams notes the KU Board of Regents "will consider the construction and the related revenue proposal at its" September 16 and 17 meeting in Topeka (K.C. STAR, 9/3). KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little said that it has "not yet been determined how the university would receive the money and over how much time it would be distributed." KU AD Lew Perkins said that the tower "could be ready by the beginning of the next football season." Perkins added that exact details of the structure were "still being worked out," but its seats "could run from end zone to end zone and feature both indoor and outdoor seating" (LAWRENCE JOURNAL-WORLD, 9/3).
KEEPING UP WITH THE JONESES: Texas Tech Univ. (TTU) AD Gerald Myers said that the school feels a "constant struggle to compete with the fat cats of the Big 12 Conference -- Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska and Texas A&M -- which have much larger football stadiums, and in turn, much deeper pockets." But in Texas, Adam Zuvanich noted TTU has "narrowed the gap somewhat in recent years, which has helped them become more of a player between the lines." TTU Deputy AD & CFO Bobby Gleason said that the athletic department's most recent operating budget of $48M was "about the middle of the road compared to the rest of the Big 12, and it's grown substantially during the last decade." Gleason added that TTU had an athletic budget of "about $12[M] in 1996, the conference's first year, and last year they generated about $10.5[M] in revenue from football alone." Gleason and Myers said that inclusion in the Big 12 has "provided the biggest boost -- Tech receives about $8[M] annually from the conference's bowl payouts and national television contracts for football and basketball -- and they said increased ticket sales have also helped." Zuvanich noted TTU's football attendance has climbed "from an average of 42,215 fans per game in 2000 to an all-time high of 53,625 last year" (LUBBOCK AVALANCHE-JOURNAL, 9/2).
Renovations Feature New Entrance With Brick
Archway, Large Vanderbilt Stadium Sign
"The Tony Barnhart Show" Debuts On CBS
College Sports Network Tuesday At 9:00pm ET
GIVING FANS WHAT THEY WANT: The Tuesday night time slot, previously occupied by either volleyball or game repeats, comes at a time when Barnhart believes college football fans will be "starved for content." Each hour-long show will begin with opening remarks from Barnhart, followed by interviews with guests, panel discussions, and previews of upcoming games. Guests will include coaches, administrators, college presidents and media members, but also some "unconventional guests" such as U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) on the debut show Tuesday and pollster/political consultant Frank Luntz on September 15. Penn State Univ. President Graham Spanier is confirmed for October 13. Barnhart: "We want to sort of step outside the comfort zone of college athletics to bring in some different voices." The format itself will evolve as needed, and Aresco said events like the Army-Navy game or other storied rivalries will give the show a "unique opportunity" to bring more of a central theme to a given episode. The show will be promoted across various CBS platforms, including CBS Sports, CBS College Sports Network and CBSSports.com. Bass Pro Shops has signed on as the show's presenting sponsor.
SPEAKING OF TOPICS: The SEC's record TV deal with ESPN is typical of the issues that are likely to be discussed on the show. When asked how other leagues might compete, Barnhart said they may turn to "a combination of both" league-run networks and bigger contracts with TV partners. Barnhart said, "I think you're going to see leagues certainly try to close the gap on what the SEC has." He added it is "not beyond the realm of possibility" that conferences could partner with each other to collectively negotiate TV deals. Another hot topic in college football is the dearth of minority head coaches at the FBS level; there are just nine such coaches at the start of the season. Barnhart said college athletics "needs to do a better job when it comes to minority participation. We all know about the head coaching level, but the other great issue that people don't talk about as much is at the administrative level. In theory, a 'Rooney Rule' would be a very good thing. The question I have is the practical application of it, because there is no one single entity that has an umbrella over Division-I college football. The NCAA doesn't really control it. It's done at the conference level by the commissioners."
The Rose Bowl will host the '10 BCS National Championship on January 7. Can the Gators repeat? Will Oklahoma or Texas come out of the Big 12 and earn their second BCS title? Or is this the year Joe Paterno's Nittany Lions climb back to the top of the charts? Virtually all major sports publications/Web sites have picked Florida as the preseason favorite, with Texas looking like their most likely opponent based on the projections lists here.
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