The voice of the SEC is staying home, according to a report. Dan Wolken of USA Today reports Paul Finebaum will sign a new contract with ESPN to remain a fixture on SEC Network and a contributor to ESPN’s college football coverage.
Finebaum was already expected to be on hand at SEC media days next week in Atlanta as the future of Finebaum’s media career was in some question. While ESPN may be looking for ways to trim the budget where it can over the years, it was never likely to let the possibility of Finebaum leaving the network to become a reality. Finebaum is a major asset to the SEC Network and ESPN, and letting him go to a competitor in the industry would have been a tough blow to the SEC Network’s weekday programming.
Fox and the Big Ten Network were previously reported to be looking to make a major sales pitch to Finebaum. Landing Finebaum from ESPN and the SEC Network would have been a tremendous victory for FOX, FOX Sports 1, and the Big Ten Network. But in the end, Finebaum just seems to belong where he is today.
Per Wolken, the official announcement of Finebaum’s contract could be made sometime on Friday. It would certainly make sense to have this announcement made before the SEC media days get started on Monday.
South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier blew a gasket on the topic about his coaching future. That was the reaction of Paul Finebaum, SEC Network analyst and popular radio voice throughout SEC country. Finebaum was a guest on the Dan Patrick Show Friday, with Chris Mannix filling in for Patrick, and he discussed Spurrier’s recent self-created firestorm that was ignited at SEC media days in Birmingham, Alabama last week.
“I was embarrassed for him,” Finebaum said of Spurrier. “He came off like the crazy uncle in the attic. There was no explanation, there was no reason.”
“For whatever reason I think he saw this item in the local paper… and he blew a gasket,” Finebaum said. “Steve Spurrier doesn’t need to remind me or you or anyone else of his résumé. He’s one of the greatest coaches in college football history.”
“He turned a dead story into a two-day story.”.
The first year of the SEC Network, powered by ESPN, was a massive success that exceeded even lofty expectations. Paul Finebaum, the longtime voice of SEC football, was a key part of the new network’s lineup in year one, and it looks as though we are going to get more Finebaum in year two.
“You can expect to see more of Paul and see him out on location with us as much as you’ve seen and even more so,” ESPN Senior Vice President of College Networks Programming Rosalyn Durant told AL.com. “He’s a tremendous asset to the Network.”
Finebaum’s four-hour radio show is simulcast on the SEC Network during the week, and Finebaum also appeared at the desk for SEC Nation, the SEC Network’s alternative to ESPN’s College GameDay. Sometimes Finebaum would even make an appearance on GameDay through the wonders of satellite to offer his takes and opinions on any number of subjects, but mostly focusing on the SEC.
How much more Finebaum does that mean? That much is unknown at this time. Viewers will just have to wait and see what the network has planned. ESPN has already made plans to reshuffle its College Football Final line-up by removing Mark May from the show and replacing him, Lou Holtz (retired) and Rece Davis (taking over as GameDay’s host) with Adnan Virk, Joey Galloway and Danny Kanell.
Oh, you thought Bobby Bowden‘s quotes about Jameis Winston (he thinks FSU fans would say Winston was an embarrassment to the university) were entertaining? Well how about this other nugget that was shared during a radio interview yesterday. When asked about Florida State’s old decision to not join the SEC in the 1990s, Bowden suggested it would have been too difficult for Florida State to win a national championship in the SEC when compared to the ACC.
“I felt [Paul] that it was too difficult to win through the SEC to win a national championship,” Bowden explained to Paul Finebaum on the Paul Finebaum Show on ESPN Radio and SEC Network [audio]. “I felt like our best route would be to go through the ACC and that did prove out to be correct. But, I don’t know if we could have made it through the SEC.”
At the time Florida State joined the ACC (in 1992), the balance of power was not as much in favor of the SEC as it can be perceived to be today. The SEC had not had a national championship since 1980 (Georgia) and the ACC had seen two schools win a national title since with Clemson in 1981 and Georgia Tech earning a split national title in 1990. Alabama did win the 1992 national title but Florida State ran right through the ACC from the start and finished the 1992 season with a No. 2 ranking and the 1993 season as the national champion. As far as Bowden’s comments are concerned, it seems to hold water. The Seminoles won a second national title in 1999, at which time the SEC was beginning to rise to its more dominant form of the BCS era. Florida (1996) and Tennessee (1998) each won national titles on the way.
And in case you forgot, Florida State was crowned the final BCS national champion just two seasons ago and was a part of the first four-team College Football Playoff this past January.
By being in the ACC, Florida State was the dominant force for an extended period of time. The same may not have been the case had the school joined the SEC in the early 1990s, but over the course of time an argument could be made that Florida State could have been every bit a national title contender as any other program in the conference. It just never would have been the program.
Maybe he knows it already. Perhaps the idea has not yet settled in, which would make sense considering the announcement is not even a day old. New SEC commissioner Greg Sankey will take over the role once Mike Slive officially steps down from his post in Birmingham in August. The second Sankey takes over the job, he will instantly become one fo the most powerful people in college sports.
You can debate whether Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany or Slive of the SEC has the upper hand in the world of college sports for days. Each has a solid case to be made. You cannot go wrong with either. Delany will remain in office in the Big Ten, but Sankey succeeding Slive is about as lateral a move as the SEC could have possibly made. That should mean Sankey’s power position among conference commissioners will stay steady alongside Delany and ahead the figureheads representing the ACC (John Swofford), Big 12 (Bob Bowlsy) or Pac-12 (Larry Scott).
The transition of power in the SEC offices should be a smooth one. That tends to be the case when you can find the next commissioner just down the hall following years of service in the SEC offices and taking on a key role in the running of the conference underneath the commissioner. That is what the SEC is getting with Sankey, so it should very much be able to keep the status quo. Sankey will oversee a conference that has settled in with realignment changes, added a successful sports network in partnership with ESPN and is continuing to see profits on the rise. Things are going well for the SEC, including football despite not being crowned as a national champion for a second straight season.
“He is a quiet, engaging guy,” SEC Network host and commentator Paul Finebaum told AL.com back in October. “You would think he is like Mike Slive’s younger brother. There is no doubt (about) how they have been able to work together so well.”
Despite being able to follow in Slive’s footsteps without conducting a complete overhaul of the conference, there will be some new challenges and tasks for Sankey to oversee. Autonomy is here and power conferences are on the verge of taking advantage of new protocols and regulations. Monitoring those changes will be the responsibility of Sankey, and communicating with his new peer sin other conferences as well as his own conference’s leadership will be key. Sankey may just be there to carry out the wishes of the university presidents within the SEC, his opinions and thoughts will carry a great distance with tremendous volume. What he says will matter.
More importantly, Sankey has developed quite the reputation by having an influence on a number of the big topics floating around college sports today. Sankey has been involved with promoting player welfare. He has been helping to lead the charge to have schools provide full cost of attendance stipends that are finally coming this year. Sankey knows the issues, and seems to be on the cutting edge of the changes going on in the world of college sports.
Being the voice of the SEC will carry some great demands and expectations, but Sankey appears to be a leader who will be comfortable handling those responsibilities.