ATLANTA,Ga—With one stroke of a pen, ESPN confirmed that SEC football is the best conference in college football. In Birmingham, Ala. during SEC Media days, one of the first presentations was by ESPN, the worldwide leader in sports.
For the casual observer, this was a marketing opportunity for the dominant broadcaster of college sports. For those of us who follow sports every day, a dramatic shift was introduced to the college football world. Most people haven't figured it out yet but they will soon see a remarkable difference in the Fall of 2009.
SEC Football will dominate television coverage. So what are the implications of more national television exposure? For starters, much better recruiting. Recruiting is the lifeblood of every football program. I predict you will see highly rated ACC commitments switch to an SEC school come signing day in February.
With the ESPN deal, the SEC just got elevated to a higher status, and everybody else moved down. Of course, high school football players want to be on television when they go to college. The best chance to be on the ESPN highlights is to play in an ESPN game. So recruiting will largely favor SEC schools quickly.
Almost every SEC game will be on television on Saturdays. The commitment to the SEC gives huge exposure to every SEC school. ESPN committed the entire network, including ABC, ESPN2, ESPNU and digital coverage. As a bonus for SEC fans, CBS and Fox Sports will pick up additional games.
Every SEC school will receive millions of dollars a year in television revenues which gives them a huge advantage for recruiting, coaches and facilities. With nearly $3 billion in revenues committed to the SEC over 15 years, an entire generation of kids will know about Rocky Top and the Gator Chomp. The best quarterbacks will play in the SEC.
Who are the biggest beneficiaries of the ESPN deal? At first look, you tend to think of the national powerhouse teams like Florida, Georgia, LSU, and Alabama. The reality for each of these teams is they already have rosters with the best picks in their states and some national superstars. It's hard to improve on a consistent top-five recruiting class but these SEC leaders will get even better players. Primarily better quarterbacks and running backs.
For teams like South Carolina, Tennessee, Auburn, Arkansas, Miss State, and Ole Miss the exposure will be a game changer. South Carolina gets a significant in-state advantage over rival Clemson, and it may be all they need. The Palmetto state elite will gravitate more to the Gamecocks because they want to be seen on television. The Gamecocks will continue to recruit their golden triangle and get more talented players in Georgia and Florida.
Tennessee will continue to recruit nationally with more success and will get great players from Florida, California and Texas with the increased exposure. Auburn will re-emerge as a dominant player when national recruits visit their campus. The Tigers will have a stronger foothold in South Georgia and Florida.
Arkansas will be stronger by expanding its base of recruiting into Texas and will get their share of four and five-star players. Mississippi State and Ole Miss will lock down the in-state talent and get more players from Florida and Texas.
The SEC will soon be a huge magnet for the top talent in the country. Combine the passion for SEC football with the power of television and Saturdays just got a lot better. Life is good.
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