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Tennessee upsets No. 21 Auburn for first road win vs SEC West team since 2007

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It’s been a long time coming, but Tennessee (3-3, 1-2 SEC) finally got a chance to celebrate a win in SEC play with a road 30-24 win against No. 21 Auburn (4-3, 1-3). Auburn had three turnovers, including one fumble returned for a touchdown by Tennessee, and a missed field goal in a disappointing showing at home that will drop Auburn out of the rankings and pretty much eliminates Auburn from the SEC title hunt already.

Tennessee quarterback Jarrett Guarantano passed for over 300 yards and two touchdowns to fuel the Tennessee offense on the road. It was the first time this season Guarantano had more than 172 yards in a game and came one game after throwing two touchdowns without an interception against Georgia on the road.

The Tennessee win brought an end to a handful of streaks within conference play as well. The win was Tennessee’s first in SEC play since beating Vanderbilt on November 19, 2016, snapping a 11-game losing streak in SEC play. It was the first road SEC win since October 1, 2016 at Georgia. It had been even longer since Tennessee enjoyed beating a team from the SEC West, and even longer since doing so on the road. Before today, Tennessee’s last win against the SEC came against Ole Miss on November 13, 2010, and the last road win against the SEC West was on October 13, 2007 against Mississippi State.

The win was Tennessee’s first over Auburn since October 2, 1999. The last time Tennessee won a road game at Auburn was the previous season on October 3, 1998. Tennessee had lost six consecutive games against Auburn before their win today.

The loss sinks Auburn to their third loss in the SEC. In a division that also includes Alabama (and LSU), the chances the Tigers make a return trip to the SEC Championship Game are just about gone for good. Auburn still gets a crack at Alabama in the Iron Bowl, but Auburn will also have to play at Georgia and hope Alabama stumbles twice before their Iron Bowl meeting just for the scenario to present itself for Auburn. And that’s very unlikely to happen. The loss could also have an impact on Washington, who lost to Auburn in the season opener. If the Tigers don’t turn things around, that loss loses some of its quality argument for the Pac-12 favorite Huskies down the line, if it hasn’t already.

Tennessee now returns home with a win in SEC play in their pocket. The only problem is next week’s opponent just so happens to be No. 1 Alabama so the good vibes may not be rolling for too long. Nick Saban has yet to lose a game against one of his former assistants, which means it will be up to Jeremy Pruitt to find a way to break that streak. Daniel Bituli, who was ejected for targeting in the second half, will miss the first half of next week’s game against the Crimson Tide.

Auburn, now already three games back in the loss column in the SEC West, will look to break a two-game losing streak in conference play with a road trip to Ole Miss next week.

Jim Delany was highest paid conference commissioner in 2017-18; NCAA president Mark Emmert’s salary climbs to nearly $4 million

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The life of a conference commissioner is not an easy one given the amount of criticism from just about every level but at least they are well compensated for their troubles.

Really well in most cases.

Thanks to the latest round of 2017-18 tax returns from the various Power Five conferences and the NCAA being released, we now have a good picture at how everybody stacks up and business booming has resulted in even larger paychecks for most. Here’s the latest figures for the Power Five and NCAA President Mark Emmert:

  • The Big Ten’s Jim Delany moved into the top spot as the highest paid commissioner thanks to a reported $5.5 million paycheck, per USA Today.
  • Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott was not far behind his Rose Bowl counterpart with over $5.2 million in compensation, according to the San Jose Mercury News.
  • Big 12 head honcho Bob Bowlsby was bumped to a total of $4.1 million.
  • ACC commissioner John Swofford took home slightly over $3.5 million.
  • SEC leader Greg Sankey was by far the best bargain of the group, with the most recently appointed commissioner making right around $2 million last year.
  • Emmert’s salary was the biggest mover of the group of power players as Yahoo! Sports notes his take-home pay jumped 60% by going from $2.4 million the previous year to $3.9 million. All told, the NCAA’s public face has seen his salary jump by some $2 million since 2015 alone.

As you all know, the compensation for the student-athletes officially remained at $0 in pay for the same time period.

Alcohol sales expected to be hot topic at SEC spring meetings

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It just means more… beer?

It certainly could in the SEC as early as this upcoming season depending on how the league’s annual spring meetings in Destin, Fla. go next week. As Sports Illustrated reports ahead of everybody’s trip down by the beach, repealing an archaic conference rule banning alcohol sales in the general public sections of stadiums is expected to be the hot button topic that will drive the conversation among school presidents, athletic directors and coaches:

Many of the conference’s high-ranking administrators are optimistic that league presidents will not only seriously discuss the alcohol ban but will overturn an archaic policy that exists in no other major conference. The bylaw will be “front and center” during the four-day event at the Hilton Sandestin Beach Resort, says one athletic director; another AD says it’s “the main thing.” The administrators spoke to Sports Illustrated on a condition of anonymity.

It probably goes without saying that SEC fans have been clamoring for overturning the rule and expanding sales beyond the club areas where adult beverages are currently allowed to be sold. The conference is one of the few holdouts in this area as college football has swung back from being relatively dry the past decade-plus. Half the Big Ten will permit sales in 2019 and other programs like Oklahoma became the latest big program elsewhere to join the trend earlier this month.

There’s two positives supporters of an SEC repeal will no doubt trot out next week, the first being the increased revenues schools can make by opening up sales and the other being the decrease in binge drinking just prior to kickoff. The latter in particular is not something likely to escape the conference presidents given some of the game day atmospheres in the league.

We’ll see if things ultimately get over the finish line in terms of a repeal after a few years of discussion but it probably speaks to the health of the league that throwing a few drinks back is the topic de jour down in Destin this year.

Thanks to resurgence under Kirby Smart, Georgia donors have contributed $140 million the past two years

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Kirby Smart is just plain good for business at Georgia as much as the head coach is for the Bulldogs on the field.

Like, really good for business.

The Athens Banner-Herald recapped a number of the financial figures for UGA athletics’ recently approved 2020 budget and while the overall $153.89 million figure was notable and the projected $44.5 million distribution from the SEC Network somewhat striking, it was one nugget buried in the story that was really eye-opening:

‘Fueled by the football team’s success the last couple of seasons under coach Kirby Smart, donors have contributed about $140 million total over the last two years.’

$140 million over two years!

“Sustainability in college athletics is an ongoing challenge and we are fortunate to be one of the few institutions being on solid ground,” AD Greg McGarity told the board.

We’ll say. That $140 million figure over two years is slightly more than what fellow SEC peers Kentucky and South Carolina brought in just last year in terms of total revenue, per USA Today’s finances database, and even if you split it in two is still a figure that greatly exceeds most Group of Five programs entire budget. And keep in mind this is just donations for the Bulldogs, not revenues from media deals, ticket sales and other items.

Given that UGA has made the national title game and the Sugar Bowl the past two seasons, it’s probably not a huge surprise to see a big uptick in donations but that quite the whopper of a figure thanks to the Smart-led resurgence in Athens.

Wyoming set to ask the state for funds to help with War Memorial Stadium renovation

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Add Wyoming to the long, long list of FBS schools hoping to complete a facelift for their home stadium over the next few years.

According to the Gillette News Record, the Cowboys are all set to ask the state for nearly $50 million in funds to help with the renovation of War Memorial Stadium and other athletics projects such as a pool.

“On the lower west side, the treads and the risers in the bleacher section and the press box are far below Mountain West Conference standards and we need to find a way to upgrade that,” athletic director Tom Burman told the paper. “We’re going to need, as part of our vision, to make fans feel better, whether it’s back-rests or chair-backs or better concessions. They have an expectation level of what Saturday football’s supposed to be like and it’s very different from what we provide.”

The total cost for the stadium and pool, which are not being separated in the request to the state for funds, is expected to cost $74.2 million. Some $24.6 million is expected to be fundraised by the school with the rest covered by the money provided by the legislature.

War Memorial Stadium seats just over 29,000 people for Cowboys home games but has really only seen minor renovations to upgrade the venue in 2004 and 2010. Given that the venue was built in 1950 and only expanded to near its current capacity in the 1970’s, it’s understandable why the school wants to upgrade the home football experience as a result.

Wyoming opens their 2019 season in Laramie against Missouri on August 31.