While the playoff question has been swirling around SEC spring meetings, other topics have gained some newsworthy status in the last few days, such as the scheduling for the conference that now has 14 teams and Steve Spurrier's push to pay players out of the coaches' own pockets.
Another big topic that has been broached is the league following in the footsteps of the Big Ten and now the Pac-12 by creating its own television network.
Matt Hayes at Sporting News reports that folks in the league are mighty confident in the big payday ability of the dedicated network being discussed by the conference. Says Ole Miss athletic director Ross Bjork, "The SEC Network will be every bit as big as the Big Ten Network."
Folks are excited. Up until last season, my question has always been whether it will really be every bit as big as the Big Ten Network. I mean, really?
Yes, the SEC is the nation's premier conference in college football. Yes, the regular-season games do big numbers nationally for CBS and when they are in the primetime spotlight of ESPN/ABC.
Certainly the fans are passionate and watch their teams at every turn. The conference title game prints its own money, and the SEC is the main focus of the early-season kickoff games we've seen in Dallas and Atlanta.
However, none of that has anything to do with its own network. When a network is being discussed, it is about subscribers and potential subscribers. It is about how to get the product on the right package deal and sell it to cable providers.
If the SEC Network is poised to push using the same model as the Big Ten, Texas A&M is the major cog when it comes to this SEC Network helping the league push toward the Big Ten's numbers.
The Big Ten has massive population hubs—the metropolitan areas that comprise the Midwest from Minneapolis through to the East Coast and Philadelphia. Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Columbus and Indianapolis all factor into this huge population mass from which the Big Ten is able to draw revenue by forcing its network into the "standard package."
Originally Atlanta, Tampa, Nashville, Orlando, Memphis and New Orleans were the crown jewels of the metro areas an SEC Network would be marketed to.
Not anymore. While the power of the conference lies in Birmingham, the subscribers fees for forcing the SEC Network onto a "standard package" all lie in the west—Texas, that is.
Houston and Dallas being in the top five metro areas in America is a major reason that now is the time for the SEC to push its own network. While Miami and Charlotte have always hung as markets with interest for the SEC to push to, Houston and Dallas are now truly in the "SEC footprint," and that makes the conference a major player from a population standpoint.
While everyone is talking about the Aggies getting slaughtered by the SEC West gauntlet and wondering if the spread offense is going to work, they ought to be patting Texas A&M on the back. Without those two major population hubs, the SEC Network wouldn't have quite the same potential as it possesses right now.