Mike Slive

Slive: SEC Network announcement coming in April

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Talked about and speculated on for a year or more, the SEC Network is about to take its biggest step yet toward becoming a reality.

Commissioner Mike Slive confirmewd to Pat Forde of Yahoo! Sports Thursday that a formal announcement regarding the creation of the SEC Network is expected to be made in mid-April.  Slive stated that the conference’s focus right now is on the league’s and the NCAA’s basketball tournaments, after which details regarding the highly-anticipated network will be unveiled.

It’s believed that the SEC Network will officially launch in August of 2014 — “after the expiration of current third-tier TV rights contracts” Forde writes — although a more definitive timeline will likely be detailed next month.  It’s also believed that ESPN — as in the Big Ten/FOX marriage — will be a heavily-invested partner in the venture.

In the most recent update to what’s previously been labeled “Project X,” the Sports Business Journal reported there were three issues that were close to being resolved, including obtaining local TV rights from current conference members.  Those rights are currently held by the likes of IMG College, Learfield Sports and CBS Collegiate Sports Properties.

Last September, the SBJ wrote that “[t]he Pac-12 had to go through similar negotiations with the rights holders when it started its networks. The league eventually agreed to pay $100 million over eight years to get those local TV rights back.”  The website predicted that the SEC would have to shell out even more to obtain the local rights than did the Pac-12.

Regardless of the amount of money the SEC must fork over on the front end to obtain those rights, the back end will likely be flush with cash.

In May of last year, Ole Miss athletic director Ross Bjork was quoted as saying that “the SEC Network will be every bit as big as the Big Ten Network” financially, a projection with which most analysts agree.  The past two years, each member of the Big Ten outside of Nebraska — as a “new” member, the Cornhuskers are not yet entitled to a full share — received $7.2 million and $7.9 million from the conference’s network alone.  That number is expected to at least double to the neighborhood of $15 million annually per member by 2027.

Thanks to the increased conference footprint with the additions of Missouri and Texas A&M, being on par with the Big Ten Network might be setting the bar a tad low for the SEC’s version.  Come next month, though, we may have a better idea exactly how far into the financial stratosphere the SEC Network will climb.

Expansion rumblings once again swirling around Big 12

Matt Ritchey
Associated Press
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Expansion in major college football has been in hibernation for a couple of years now, but it appears movement on that front could be imminent.  Or it could not.  One of the two.

Over the past 24 hours or so, a handful of stories have surfaced that, once again, have the speculation swirling around the Big 12 when it comes to that conference getting back to matching its numerical name.  From analytics to potential expansion candidates to the 800-pound Longhorn in the middle of the room, the Big 12’s annual spring meetings this week figure to at least begin — or, more specifically, continue — the process of settling the expansion/conference title game/league network issues that are all inextricably intertwined.

To wit:

— Monday, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby confirmed that in research performed by an analytics outfit hired by the league, a 12-team conference with an eight-game league schedule and a championship game is the best model for one of its teams qualifying for the college football playoff.  Right now, the Big 12 is the exact opposite of that model, with 10 teams, nine conference games and no title game.

According to Bowlsby, the first combination would increase a league’s chances of sending a team to the playoffs by five percent.  As Chuck Carlton of the Dallas Morning News asked, would that slight bump be enough to get everyone onboard with expansion and a title game?

“Some would say we want every advantage we can get,” Bowlsby said. “Others may say it’s not enough to blow up a good scheduling model.”

From Carlton’s report:

Bowlsby said the Big 12 is scheduled to receive “two major reports” in Irving. In addition to information on the title game, Navigate will examine scheduling models for a 10-, 12- and 14-team conference and the variables involved.

In February, Bowlsby said he hoped to have an answer to the expansion question, one way or the other, this summer.  Just how close Bowlsby gets to that timeline will depend on how things go in Phoenix this week.

— Boise State, BYU, Cincinnati, Houston, Memphis and UCF have all been mentioned as potential candidates if the Big 12 opts to expand.  According to the Memphis Commercial Appeal, the UofM has been lobbying the conference for inclusion in a next round of expansion if it comes.

University of Memphis president M. David Rudd sent a promotional publication – highlighting the finer points of the city and its major university – to University of Texas president Dr. Gregory Fenves in December, showcasing the U of M as a possible Big 12 expansion candidate.

Rudd said the publication, entitled “Memphis Soul of a City,” captures “the passion and proud history of Tiger athletics including a historic run by our football program.”

The Memphis publication highlights the city’s top Fortune 500 companies, its overall attributes and the U of M’s attributes, including its recent athletic accomplishments, particularly the turnaround by the football program. Tiger football has gone 19-7 the past two seasons.

— And, finally,that 800-pound Longhorn we spoke of earlier.

It’s long been believed that Texas is not in favor of expanding the conference, especially at the expense of folding its Longhorn Network into a conference-wide network, with Texas Tech and TCU, for their own reasons, following in lock-step with the state’s flagship institution.  According to a report from the Cincinnati Enquirer, the conference is one vote shy of garnering enough support to expand.

It’s believed seven of the 10 schools favor expansion. But Big 12 bylaws call for a super majority vote of 75 percent (so at least eight schools) to make a major change. Texas is believed to be influencing Texas Tech’s and Texas Christian’s decisions to also be reluctant to expansion.

Texas Tech has long fallen in line with Texas. Both are public universities that have been in the same league together since 1956, when they were in the Southwest Conference. Texas and Texas Tech were founding members of the Big 12 in 1996.

TCU is believed to be following Texas’ lead because the conference’s power broker reportedly helped the Horned Frogs get into the Big 12 four years ago.

In other words, we’re right back to where we’ve been on multiple occasions in the past: as Texas goes, so goes Big 12 expansion.  Or doesn’t go, as the case may be.

Iowa State lands Duke grad transfer Evrett Edwards

DURHAM, NC - SEPTEMBER 26:  Evrett Edwards #2 of the Duke Blue Devils reacts after a play against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets during their game at Wallace Wade Stadium on September 26, 2015 in Durham, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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Duke’s secondary loss will turn into Iowa State’s gain.

In a tweet posted to his personal Twitter account Monday, Evrett Edwards announced that he will continue his collegiate playing career at Iowa State.  The defensive back visited Ames in the middle of April, pulling the trigger on a decision two weeks later.

Maryland and Troy were also potential landing spots for the graduate transfer, who will be eligible to play immediately for the Cyclones this fall.  The upcoming season will be Edwards’ final year of eligibility.

After redshirting as a true freshman in 2013, Edwards played in 25 games the past two seasons. He was listed as the top backup at the Bandit safety position throughout the 2015 season.

Saban or Bear? Bobby Bowden would side with current Tide coach

JACKSONVILLE, FL - SEPTEMBER 29:  University of Alabama coach Nick Saban chats with coach Bobby Bowden of Florida State University September 29, 2007 at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
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Thanks to Alabama’s run to yet another national championship this past season, an old debate has once again been stirred up: Nick Saban or Bear Bryant.

Suffice to say, both head coaches, one a Hall of Famer and the other soon to be one, carry as impressive a résumé as there is in the profession.

Saban has been a head coach at the collegiate level for 25 seasons, from Toledo to Michigan State to LSU and now at ‘Bama.  In that span, he’s won 191 games, seven conference championships (one MAC, six SEC) and, most importantly/impressively, five national titles.

In a coaching career that spanned 37 years, including 25 seasons in Tuscaloosa, Bryant won a record six national championships and 14 SEC titles.  His 323 wins were a record upon his retirement, and are now third in FBS history behind Penn State’s Joe Paterno (409) and Florida State’s Bobby Bowden (377).

The latter head coach certainly knows a thing or two about running a successful football program, and did it during both Bryant’s reign and Saban’s.  During a radio interview, Bowden was asked which run has been more impressive, Bryant’s or Saban’s.  And, in the end, the FSU legend went with new school over old.

“That’s a pretty good question,” Bowden said by way of al.com. “I’d say probably what Nick Saban is doing (is more impressive) because football is more balanced now. I think when coach Bryant came to Alabama in 1958, I think it was unlimited recruiting. You could sign all the kids you wanted, and he’s gonna get most of them.

“There was an old saying back in those days, ‘He’s gonna get his and he’s gonna get yours.'”

The biggest argument for Saban is what Bowden hinted around, that the current Tide head coach’s run has come with an 85-man limit on scholarships while the likes of Bryant had unlimited scholarships to hoard players and stash them on his roster.  Then there is one-third of Bryant’s titled being shared, as well as two other championship seasons actually ending with a bowl loss, something that could never happen under the old BCS system or the current College Football Playoff.

And all of that’s without mentioning the fact that Saban won titles at two different schools.

While what Bryant did at Alabama is certainly legendary and deserves to be remembered that way, Bowden’s right: what Saban has accomplished is indeed more impressive than the Bear.  And, really, it’s not even that close.

Alabama schedules 2018 game with The Citadel

NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 19:  Cupcakes from Little Cupcake Bakeshop on display as Jason Binn of DuJour celebrates January cover star Nick Cannon with Elite Daily, Related Rentals, Invicta and Philipp Plein at PHD Terrace at Dream Midtown on February 19, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for DuJour)
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Let the cupcake talk commence in three… two… one…

Tuesday morning, The Citadel announced that it’s reached an agreement with Alabama on a game during the 2018 regular season.  The game is scheduled for Nov. 17 and will, obviously, be played at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa.

The 2018 meeting will mark the first-ever between the Bulldogs and the Crimson Tide.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for our program,” head coach Brent Thompson said in a statement released by the school. “These games are important for many reasons, and they allow us to provide our cadet-athletes with once-in-a-lifetime experiences. I’m excited that our team will have the experience of playing in front of more than 100,000 fans against one of the premier teams in college football.”

From the release:

Since the NCAA split Division I football into subdivisions in 1978, current FCS programs have seven total victories over current SEC teams, and The Citadel has earned four of those seven wins. The Bulldogs are 11-75-4 all-time against current members of the SEC.

The game against Citadel is the third of four non-conference games for ‘Bama in 2018, with the other announced two against Louisville (in Orlando) and home against Arkansas State.  UA also has future non-conference games scheduled against USC (2016, in Arlington, Tex.) and Florida State (2017, Atlanta)