SEC Network moves from ‘Project X’ to official reality

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Delayed due to the tragedy in Boston last week, the SEC Network is officially a public go.  And, as is the case on the field… in the NFL draft… on the recruiting trail, the preeminent football conference in the country is poised to once again top all others in revenue streams as well.

At a press conference in Atlanta Thursday morning attended by dozens of league luminaries, including all 14 head football coaches, commissioner Mike Slive unveiled the creation of the aptly-named SEC Network.  The joint venture with ESPN will officially launch in August of 2014, and in Slive’s words “marks the first time a conference will launch a network in collaboration with its primary rights holder.”

The hugely-profitable Big Ten Network was a joint venture with FOX Sports, which is not that conference’s primary rights holder.

While the conference would not get into financial specifics, with Slive saying only that they “believe this network will be very successful in terms of distribution and in terms of significant revenue,” it’s expected the SEC Network will be at least on par with its Big Ten counterpart.  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.

The SEC should easily approach $10 million annually for each member school within five years.

“The SEC Network will provide an unparalleled fan experience of top quality SEC content presented across the television network and its accompanying digital platforms,” said Slive in a statement. “We will increase exposure of SEC athletics programs at all 14 member institutions, as we showcase the incredible student-athletes in our league. The agreement for a network streamlines and completes an overall media rights package that will continue the SEC’s leadership for the foreseeable future.”

Below are some notes from this afternoon’s much-hyped press conference:

— Three football games per week for 13 weeks and approximately 45 football games annually will be broadcast on the SEC Network annually.  Only two of the games per year, however, will be televised on Thursdays.  “We’re a Saturday league,” said Slive.

— CBS will no longer own the “exclusive window” for Saturday mid-afternoon SEC games as the network will televise games in three time slots: early afternoon (noon-ish), mid-afternoon (3:30) and evening (seven-ish).  CBS, though, will maintain the first choice of games involving SEC schools.

— The network will air 1,000 hours of live sporting events in its first year, with 450 of those hours coming on the network itself and 550 on various digital platforms.  Additionally, each SEC school will provide its own original content for the network.

— AT&T U-verse is the first media company to sign on as a distributor of the SEC Network.  Based solely on the number of football games that will be available, expect the likes of DirecTV, Dish network, Comcast, Time-Warner, et al to sign on at some point before the August launch date next year.

— The SEC and ESPN also announced that they have extended their media rights deal through 2034.  ESPN president John Skipper stated that he “believes this is the largest agreement in all of sports.”

Dismissed Rutgers FB-turned-wrestler returns to football team

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After a pit stop in another sport, Razohnn Gross‘ athletic career in Piscataway has come full circle.

Shortly before the start of the 2015 season, Rutgers announced that five football players, arrested a couple of days earlier in connection to an assault, had been dismissed from the program.  Nine months later, Gross returned to RU athletics, albeit as a wrestler.

Another nine months later?  Nj.com is reporting that Gross has rejoined the Scarlet Knights football program.  The fullback is currently taking part in spring practice with the team.

The arrests of Gross and the others early last September was the result of what had been an ongoing investigation by the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office and the New Brunswick Police Department. The investigation initially kicked off in the spring following a reported home invasion in New Brunswick. Per reports, three men wearing masks forced their way into the home and left with an undisclosed amount of cash and marijuana as five students were held at gunpoint.

That was followed by the five football players allegedly attacking a group of individuals that left one of them, a student, with a broken jaw.  That attack, reportedly (ahem) unprovoked, was directly connected to the incident mentioned above.

It was reported at the time of Gross joining the wrestling team that he was “accepted into a pretrial intervention probationary program last month” and, if he “stays out of trouble for the necessary time, his record will be cleared.” Gross has stayed out of trouble since; in fact, RU’s wrestling coach, Scott Goodale, has been effusive in his praise for how he has taken advantage of the second chance.

USF dismisses player arrested after being shot in road-rage incident

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It’s been a rough last few days, to say the least, for Hassan Childs.

Over the weekend, the South Florida defensive back was hospitalized in stable condition after being shot Saturday night.  Sunday, Childs was arrested and charged with three counts of aggravated assault and one count of misdemeanor marijuana possession in connection to a road rage incident the night he was shot.  Childs allegedly pointed a gun at least twice at a man, Jovanni Jimenez, and his family and was ultimately shot three times by Jimenez.  Jimenez hasn’t been charged as he’s claimed self-defense.

To add insult to literal injury, the senior safety has now been dismissed from his football team by first-year Bulls head coach Charlie Strong.

“When you look at this university and how great an institution it is, and the football program, it is a privilege to represent this program,” Strong said according to the Tampa Bay Times. “And there are standards and there are values that we uphold, and our players understand it is an obligation and it is a responsibility to represent it the right way.”

Childs played in a total of 26 games during his time with the Bulls. Eight of those appearances came during the 2016 season. He was credited with 16 tackles during what turned out to be his last season with the program, setting career-highs with five tackles in games against East Carolina and Navy.

In 2013, his first year with the program, he led the team with three interceptions. Those were the only picks of his career.

Five-star LB out for rest of Ohio State’s spring after shoulder surgery

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Some negative injury news comes with a bit of a silver lining for one of the highest-rated members of Ohio State’s 2017 recruiting class.

Urban Meyer confirmed Tuesday that true freshman linebacker Baron Browning will miss the remainder of spring practice because of an injury.  The early enrollee underwent surgery Tuesday morning to repair an unspecified issue in his shoulder.  The Buckeyes head coach declined to reveal the details surrounding the issue that led to the medical procedure, although one report indicated it’s a torn labrum.

The good news for OSU is that Browning should be able to return to football activities at some pint in June.  Barring a setback, he’s expected to be a full participant in summer camp at the start of August.

A five-star member of the Buckeyes’ 2017 recruiting class, Browning was rated as the No. 1 outside linebacker in the country; the No. 4 player at any position in the state of Texas; and the No. 11 player on 247Sports.com‘s composite board.  Only two signees in an OSU class that ranked second nationally were rated higher than Browning (.9936) — cornerback Jeffrey Okudah (.9954) and defensive end Chase Young (.9953).

Browning is expected to contribute immediately as a true freshman this season.

Kentucky transfer WR Jeff Badet moves on to Oklahoma

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Jeff Badet may have left Kentucky, but he hasn’t climbed out from underneath the Stoops coaching umbrella.

On his personal Twitter account Tuesday morning, Badet revealed that he will continue his collegiate playing career at Oklahoma.  The Sooners, of course, are coached by Bob Stoops; the wide receiver’s former program, the Wildcats, are coached by Mark Stoops.

Badet chose OU over another Big 12 school, West Virginia.  The receiver had paid a visit to Morgantown late last month.

In mid-January, the Wildcats announced that Badet had decided to transfer out of the UK football program.  Badet is on schedule to graduate in May, meaning he’ll be eligible to play immediately in 2017 for the Sooners.

A three-star member of the Wildcats’ 2013 recruiting class, Badet was third on the team in receptions and receiving yards as a true freshman.  A leg injury in spring practice the following year — a tennis ball to the eye didn’t help either — led Badet to miss the 2014 season.  Returning in 2015, he was third in receiving (29-430); in 2016, he led the team in receiving yards (670) and yards per catch (21.6).

That latter number was tops in the SEC and sixth nationally.