Sunday, August 15, 2010

CBS and the SEC

Mike Aresco, CBS’s suit in charge of college football, is apprehensive and vexed. Formally, he has the title of Executive Vice President, Programming - CBS Sports. What gives this grizzled veteran of ESPN and CBS Sports excessive gastric burn? CBS, after all, owns THE premium pick of games from THE perennial preeminent conference in all of college football (SEC) each week to choose from, sometimes two picks for programming. One doesn’t rise to that level of responsibility without always fretting over ratings. When Mike Aresco looks at the horizon of the landscape that is quickly approaching, he’s come to the realization that this is a Tebow-less SEC, and suits like him are paid to wear glasses, have an arched brow and look and be worried.
"It is going to be different. You don't have (Tim) Tebow now," Aresco said. "That's something you notice immediately. Some of the numbers Tebow was responsible for. You can't underestimate star power in television. Even if we do well in ratings, maybe they'll be slightly lower. I guess it's a question of expectations. You want people to have reasonable expectations. Obviously, the very beginning of the season will go a long way toward what kind of season we'll have."
OMG – Oh my Gosh! A Tebow-less SEC! Can it survive? Will it endure? The man who negotiated the historic 15 year deal with the SEC is now worried that there won’t be a ROI.
What the city slicker from NYC doesn’t get, is that the SEC was all the rage before Tebow, and will be a huge, smash hit going forward. People pay premiums for premium quality. Here is some data to help ease his mind.

The SEC is 6-0 all time in the BCS National Championship Game (since 1998). Officially now, the combined National Championship wins of the other (5) conferences, does not equal the win total alone of the SEC. Of course, the last (4) in a row have gone to the SEC. So Mr. Aresco, the story line is trying to figure out which TEAM from the SEC will be placed into the game. I can assure you that the SEC will show up. Mr. Aresco, having served the WWL you ought to know how to hawk the hype. All of that theater is compacted in 8 weeks worth of conference games for each school, over a short 3 months period to heighten the tension. Also Mr. Aresco, the beauty of college football is its evolving nature, not cause for trepidation or sense of apprehension. New stars emerge as the old ones move out. (See Next Tebow). Like tidal waves, it has happened that way for ions and ions. Celebrate it. The rest of the league does.
Still need more hard facts Mr. Aresco? It’s not just a one trick pony league. Since 2001 the SEC has finished with at least two schools in the top six of the final USA Today Coaches Poll, SEVEN out of the last NINE years; FIVE of last SIX; FOUR in a row, including three years where they had THREE teams in TOP 10. HALF, a full half of the league (6 teams) has had at least one top 10 season in that span: Auburn, Alabama, Tennessee, Florida, LSU and Georgia. From that list, two have won multiple championships; two have won one and the other two didn’t win a title. However, in both of those cases, those teams make an arguable case that they were playing the best ball of anybody at the end of the season: Auburn – undefeated and UGA – got squeezed out of the NC game, both ended with the number 2 position in the poll. In fact the 2007 in which UGA finished 2nd, the SEC teams emerged with the top two spots. All six teams have not only been in the top six, but each has also either finished the year being 1 or 2. All time in the BCS era SEC has beaten Big 12 (3 – OU twice & TX), the Big 10 (2 – TOSU both) and ACC once (FSU). The dominance is growing; during the last four years the average victory margin was almost 17 points, 3 scores (16.8 pts); none trailed in the 2nd half. So prior to Tebow era in the SEC there was good football played; while the GPOOE graced us with his presence there was good football, and with most teams in the top 25 (6), including two of the top three teams the outlook for the SEC remains very bright, or in Mr. Slive words the “Golden Era” of SEC football continues.
It is depth of the league that makes the SEC is the best. Since 2001 all 12 teams have went bowling. Maybe other conferences can say that as well; I haven’t researched it, but here is the kicker and why SEC “bottom feeders” aren’t Weak Sisters University. During the last four years traditional “2nd division teams” of Kentucky, South Carolina, Mississippi and Arkansas have knocked off a team that has finished in the top six of the polls. Additionally those teams that have been in the top six have gone 39-1 out of conference with 7 dominating BCS bowl wins, but managed a loss to a wannabe in league play. That’s dominance; that’s depth; that’s the pinnacle.

Mr. Aresco, take a page off the big brother notebook and market teams: helmets, logo’s and jersey more than faces and you’ll be just fine. Add in the pageantry, coaches, tradition and rival aspect and you have a superior product to big brother. People want to be connected with a winner. In college football that winner is a TEAM from the SEC – that IS THE star. Mr. Aresco, what you are missing is summed up by the immortal words of Erk Russell: BIG TEAM; little me – not Tim Tebow.

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