SEC ponders 9th game, with ESPN push

By: Wally Hall
Published: Friday, April 25, 2014
Arkansas coach Bret Bielema, right, and LSU coach Les Miles talk before a game Nov. 29, 2013 at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, La.
Photo by Michael Woods
Arkansas coach Bret Bielema, right, and LSU coach Les Miles talk before a game Nov. 29, 2013 at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, La.

An announcement is expected at the coming SEC meetings in Sandestin, Fla., a lovely place to meet, about whether the league will go to nine conference games before schedules are completed for the 2016 season.

Commissioner Mike Slive has said he will meet with all the athletic directors before the meetings commence to discuss one of four formats:

Eight league games without permanent crossover rivalries.

Eight league games with permanent rivals.

Nine league games without permanent crossover rivalries.

Nine league games with permanent rivals.

Slive recently said all four options had advantages and disadvantages.

ESPN most likely will campaign for a nine-game conference schedule. It should, because the SEC Network doesn’t want to wake up some Saturday morning with its big game being something like Georgia Southern at Vanderbilt.

A nine-game conference schedule would assure more quality broadcasting time, which means more advertising revenue. Plus, ESPN is already advertising the SEC Network and encouraging fans to ask their cable or satellite supplier if they are carrying the SEC Network.

Cable and satellite suppliers have to pay for the right to carry the SEC Network, so there most likely will be an increase in subscriber fees - probably not too high, but increases each year.

A nine-game conference schedule might also help stop the trend of declining attendance at some schools not named Alabama, Auburn and LSU.

The future of the NCAA is something to keep an eye on.

Some are already questioning why the five power conferences (SEC, Big 12, Pac-12, ACC and Big 10) need the NCAA.

Those conferences are running the new College Football playoffs. And if they decided to start their own postseason basketball tournament, well, everyone loves Cinderella during March Madness, but it is the big schools that buy the bulk of the tickets.

A little more controversy surrounding the possible unionization of Northwestern University college athletes has some people scratching their heads and others crying interference.

Northwestern Coach Pat Fitzgerald initially seemed to endorse his football players voting for a union, but it has since been reported he has urged his players, who are expected to vote today, to vote against unionization.

Fitzgerald has tried to clear it up by saying change is needed, just not unionization.

Dabo Swinney is known as a deeply religious coach. It is his life. His walk. His calling.

Recently a group named Freedom From Religion Foundation filed a complaint against Clemson’s head football coach, claiming he has violated his players’ constitutional right at the publicly funded school.

The complaint stated: “While student-athletes can pray, conduct Bible studies and engage in religious activities, the coaching staff, as public employees, should not be doing that with their student-athletes. He has every right to be a religious person and to engage in these activities. But he doesn’t have the right to do that as part of his university coaching position.”

Obviously it is a case for separation of church and state,but not one athlete was named in the complaint.

No one has accused Swinney of witnessing or evangelizing, but just being a part of prayer groups and Bible studies that are totally voluntary.

Swinney has pointed out he has coached players from many different faiths and hasn’t had one complaint. The good news is Clemson is backing its head coach, who said Thursday his players have three rules they must follow: Go to class, give good effort and be good citizens.

That sounds like a winning formula.

Swinney’s past three teams have gone 32-8.

Sports, Pages 19 on 04/25/2014