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SEC Headlines 4/10/2014

headlines-thuSEC Football

1. Are Columbia police having difficulty getting cooperation from a victim or witness in a case potentially involving Missouri wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham? Update: Investigation complete – no arrests will be made. Update II: Victim and roommate feared retaliation.  Girlfriend text:  ”The coaches talked to me and explained to (me) how serious this is and there’s no time to waste at this point.”

2. Certain people who show up for Mississippi State’s spring game may get dinner with coach Dan Mullen.

3. Is Alabama running back Derrick Henry poised for a breakout season? “During the Oklahoma game, I could tell that they didn’t want to tackle me.”

4. Alabama coach Nick Saban on his quarterbacks: “Cooper Bateman and Blake Sims have both done a nice job this spring and are improving very nicely.”

5. Position battle to watch at Georgia’s spring game?  Left guard.

6. Florida wide receiver Chris Thompson had only two catches last season but has been a standout performer this spring.

7. More debate over Vanderbilt’s decision to move its game against Ole Miss to LP Field.

8. More than 1.2 million fans watched Auburn play football in 2013 - more than any other team in the country.

9. South Carolina defensive tackle J.T. Surratt: “I wasn’t too boisterous last year, but this year I gotta step up into that roll and say more things now.”

10. Arkansas names Southeastern Louisiana associate head coach E.K. Franks as the program’s recruiting director.

11. With its entire starting group gone, plenty of opportunities along Tennessee’s offensive line.

12. Tennessee will have a flag football game for former Vols at halftime of the spring game.

SEC/NFL

13. Zach Mettenberger on his performance at LSU’s Pro Day: ”I’ve been saying for a couple of weeks now that I’m healthy, and good enough to go, and I don’t think all of y’all believed me. ”

SEC Basketball

14. The mother of Kentucky star Julius Randle denies an ESPN report that her son has decided to declare for the NBA draft.

15. Kentucky coach John Calipari on the NCAA: “The situation reminds me a little of the Soviet Union in its last years.”

16. Florida forward Chris Walker says he’s returning for sophomore year.

17. Ole Miss guard Derrick Millinghaus is planning to transfer.

18. Former Texas Tech guard Dusty Hannahs is transferring to Arkansas.

19. Former Missouri player Earnest Ross filed a restraining order against teammate Zach Price a before Price was arrested twice for assault.

20. Auburn coach Bruce Pearl has one more spot to fill on his staff.  Interviewed 12 candidates during the Final Four.

SEC History

21. How much did Bear Bryant make when he coached Texas A&M?  $15,000 plus 1% of the gate.

Extras

22. This is how you become a college football bag man.

23. Big Ten opening an office in New York City.

24. David Letterman’s replacement is Stephen Colbert.

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SEC Headlines 3/26/2014

headlines-wedSEC Football

1. A focus for Alabama’s offense this fall: get the ball to wide receiver Amari Cooper.

2. Auburn is motivated by talk of “flukish” wins over Alabama and Georgia, says Auburn OC Rhett Lashlee.

3. Auburn is rotating players as the Tigers get ready for their first spring scrimmage.

4. Auburn coaches like what they’ve seen from Derrick Moncrief in the secondary.

5. Florida coach Will Muschamp understands the high expectations and pressure following last season.

6. LSU is shuffling its linebackers as it arranges its defensive depth chart.

7. There’s a rivalry brewing in practice between offensive and defensive players on Mississippi State.

8. A redshirt year helped Ryan Buchanan as he prepares to be Ole Miss’ quarterback of the future.

9. Georgia coach Mark Richt is mulling punishment options for the four players who were arrested last week.

10. J.J. Green and Quayvon Hicks are adjusting to new positions at Georgia.

11. Tennessee coach Butch Jones wants to see more from his team now that spring break is over.

12. Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason discussed Tuesday’s practice.

SEC Basketball

13. LSU’s season is over as the Tigers fell to SMU 80-67 in the NIT on Tuesday night.

14. LSU forward Johnny O’Bryant will “take everything into consideration” regarding his professional plans.

15. Casey Prather is heading back to his home state as Florida continues its NCAA Tournament run.

16. Here are five things that will and won’t matter as Florida gets ready for UCLA in the Sweet 16.

17. Kentucky’s “light bulb went on” in the SEC Tournament, says ESPN analyst Seth Greenberg.

18. Kentucky’s chance of winning the NCAA Tournament has increased from 1.9 percent to 4 percent, according to Nate Silver.

19. Here are six reasons Tennessee is still alive in the NCAA Tournament.

SEC/NFL

20. Could Houston draft Jadeveon Clowney and AJ McCarron? It’s at least a possibility.

21. Johnny Manziel’s time with Jon Gruden’s QB Camp will air on ESPN on Thursday.

Extra

22. Navy running back Will McKamey died Tuesday while in a coma. He was 19.

23. Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston had to be restrained during a baseball fight between FSU and Florida.

24. South Florida has killed its deal with basketball coach Steve Masiello. There was reportedly a “background-check discrepancy.”

25. Ex-UConn coach Jim Calhoun says he has no interest in the Boston College job.

26. Are the Detroit Pistons planning to make a run a Michigan State coach Tom Izzo?

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Slive’s Return For Another Year Is Good News For The SEC

Mike-SliveFile this one under: “Not a surprise.”

SEC commissioner Mike Slive revealed to The Birmingham News yesterday that he will stay on in his current position at least through the 2014-15 academic year.  With his contract set to run out this summer, some wondered if he might walk away.  Slive himself said last spring that he would take a few months to decide his future.

We, however, have said numerous times that there was no way in the world Slive would leave his post before the SEC Network actually launched.  To think he would step aside and watch someone else launch his crowning achievement was far-fetched at best.

The 73-year-old said:

 

“I’ve got too much going on.  I’ve got the (SEC) Network to work on.  I’ve got football schedule to solve.  We’ve got the NCAA restructuring.  We’ve got a lot of important issues to take care of.  I wouldn’t miss it for the world…

I’ll be here as long as you see me.  I’ll be working until I’m not working.”

 

Good.

While many fans take aim on authority — “The NCAA is out to get us.”  ”The SEC office is out to get us.  ”Slive is out to get us.” — the SEC’s current commissioner has done a spectacular job for the league.  He’s helped the SEC lead the way in television revenue via landmark contracts with CBS and ESPN inked back in 2008.  Now, seeing that league-specific networks are the future, he’s cut a deal with ESPN that will see the SEC Network reach more homes at start-up than any other conference channel in history.

Slive oversaw the league’s first expansion in 20+ years which has further increased the league’s wealth.   The SEC won seven consecutive BCS titles on his watch and nine of 15 (almost 10 of 16).  He led the way in terms of the soon-to-launch College Football Playoff.  He pushed hardest for full-cost-of-tuition scholarships and those will soon become a reality.  Hell, the league’s reputation as an outlaw conference has even been cleaned up a bit.

A bit.

About the only thing Slive has erred on — in our opinion — was botching the SEC basketball schedule and allowing countless longtime rivalries to wither away unnecessarily.  But if that’s the biggest misstep in 12 years of leading the league, well, that makes for a pretty good track record.

Slive’s return is good news for the league.

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The SEC Network Moves Up Its Launch Date

datechangeThe SEC Network will arrive one week ahead of schedule.  The launch of the new SEC/ESPN channel has been moved from August 21st to August 14th.  Dish Network — who finalized a deal with ESPN’s parent Walt Disney Company earlier this week — had a hand in moving the start-up date.

ESPN’s senior VP of programming Justin Connolly told The Birmingham News:

 

“I think we looked at it as an opportunity both in consultation with Dish and then generally speaking to provide a little bit longer window of time for consumers and fans who may be making a decision in terms of provider…

As you can expect, we’re king of over the moon to have a national satellite-provider on board five months before launching.  It gives us an opportunity to make it clear to others that there’s real value to our distributors and options for consumers, too.”

 

Another possible motive of this date switch is to put more pressure on those big providers (DirecTV, Comcast/Time Warner) who’ve yet to reach a deal to carry the network.  The channel’s first live games (Texas A&M/South Carolina and Vanderbilt/Temple) won’t air until August 28th as initially scheduled, but now SEC fans will have two weeks to “miss” wall-to-wall football programming.

Knowing the fervor that surrounds the kickoff to a football season in the Southeastern Conference, this move is a bit like dangling a bag of weed in front of Willie Nelson for two weeks.  Eventually it’s gonna get smoked.

This also allows ESPN to provide more glimpses of the network on the main channel and it allows social media to do its thing.  Within seconds of the channel’s launch, those fans with the network will be giving the SEC Network a thumbs-up or thumbs-down.  Two weeks of such chatter on Twitter and Facebook should help push the interest of SEC fans into the red.  If DirecTV, for example, starts seeing customers across the South dump them for Dish Network, DirecTV will likely begin to take negotiations with ESPN a bit more seriously.  The same goes for cable-providers if they see clients switching to AT&T U-verse.

Connolly on DirecTV:

 

“It’s funny, I prefer (fans) talk about (DirecTV discussions with ESPN) because it seems to incite a Twitter riot.  We continue to have conversations across the board, including with DirecTV, and they will I’m sure take notice of the deal with Dish.”

 

They likely will.  And the more customers they start to lose to Dish, the more notice they’ll take.  We suspect the major carriers will all eventually cut deals with ESPN for the SEC Network.  It will likely take a while — perhaps into August — but the odds of the SEC Network not being picked up are slim.

Just be prepared for more back-and-forth stories on this topic all summer long.

 

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Rumored Deal Between SEC Network/Dish Only One Piece Of A Major Agreement

sec-network-logo-2jpg-bbd247c008a80ca3Back in January, The Sports Business Daily reported that Dish Network was expected to finalize a deal with the Southeastern Conference to pick up the new SEC Network.  That contract has finally been signed and the league’s start-up channel does indeed have its second partner (AT&T U-verse being the other).  As it turns out, however, the SEC Network was simply one small component of a much larger agreement.

ESPN announced yesterday that it’s parent company — The Walt Disney Company — had reached a deal with Dish that will provide that satellite-provider’s customers access to “Disney’s robust lineup of top quality sports, news and entertainment content across televisions, computers, smartphones, tablets, gaming consoles and connected devices.”

Disney content — from ABC, ESPN, and all of the company’s other subsidiaries — will now be available to Dish subscribers via live and video-on-demand services like WatchESPN, WATCH Disney, WATCH ABC Family and WATCH ABC.  This is an enormous agreement that shows Dish’s determination to someday catch front-running satellite provider DirecTV.

As an added bonus, the SEC Network — which DirecTV has yet to agree to carry — could help Dish flip some customers across the SEC footprint.  DirecTV’s calling card for sports fans is its pro sports packages — NHL Center Ice, MLB Extra Innings, NBA League Pass, and of course the NFL Sunday Ticket.  Dish will now have two major college/ESPN networks — the Longhorn Network and the SEC Network.  College versus pro?  In Dixie, Dish should get a boost from the SEC Network alone… unless DirecTV eventually cuts its own deal with SEC/ESPN or The Walt Disney Company.

As we told you last month, Dish Network currently has 14 million subscribers.  AT&T U-verse has about 10 million.  That’s 24 million subscribers who’ll be able to watch the SEC Network from launch and that’s a far better number than any previous conference network had at its launch.  Part of that is thanks to the Dish/Disney umbrella deal, yes, but give the SEC credit for wisely partnering with the media empire of ESPN — and by default Disney — in the first place.

For the sake of comparison, DirecTV has about 20 million subscribers.  The deal to combine Time Warner and Comcast would cover another 33 million subscribers.  Those companies are bigger than Dish and AT&T U-verse so it makes sense that they would be slower to sign an SEC Network deal than smaller companies trying to catch them.

Either way, SEC fans with DirecTV or Time Warner/Comcast will now have one more option if their own provider doesn’t pick up the SEC Network by late-summer.

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ESPN Launching Conference Channels On The Internet

computer-tv-love-childWhile they won’t stack up well against the new SEC Network, ESPN has announced plans to launch a number of conference-dedicated “television” channels over the internet.  According to Variety, the channels will be “stocked with live events and on-demand replays” all streamed over the internet and available through Apple TV and Roku devices.

The leagues receiving the additional online coverage will be the ACC, America East, Atlantic Sun, Big West, Horizon, Mid-American, Metro Atlantic Athletic, Missouri Valley, Northeast, Ohio Valley, Southern, Sun Belt, Southland, Mid-Eastern Athletic, Southwestern Athletic and Central Intercollegiate Athletic.

Think folks in the ACC are happy to be a part of that group?

John Swofford’s conference sold its media rights to ESPN in May of 2012, limiting the league’s ability to launch an additional ACC Network on television.  While the league’s schools signed a grant-of-rights agreement last year that most consider to be binding, if there is further shifting on the collegiate landscape it will likely start in ACC country.

To watch the new channels you’ll need either Apple TV or Roku plus a subscription to a satellite/cable-provider affiliated with WatchESPN.  That might seem like a lot of steps today, but as television and the internet continue to merge into one pipeline over time, these new online channels could grow in value.

WatchESPN exec Damon Phillips notes that “one of the benefits of a digital network is, because it’s event-based programming, you might have five games per day or one game per day.”  In other words, you can click and watch any one of a number of football or basketball games all airing at the same time.  Whereas with a traditional television network, the SEC will have to schedule its games throughout the day so they can air separately.

While it may be a digital benefit in Phillips’ eyes, here’s guessing most fans would prefer to turn on a TV network and watch one game after another rather than turn to an internet channel, pick one game, and miss all the others airing at the same time.

In case you’re wondering, there will be an SEC digital network as well as the new television channel which launches in August.  That digital network will be run by ESPN as well.

 

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Batten Down The Hatches; Knight Returning To Rupp For ESPN

bobby-knightBobby Knight hates Kentucky.  For several years he wouldn’t say the name of the school while doing his ESPN job.  And he’s no fan of John Calipari, either, having said in 2009: “We’ve got a coach at Kentucky who put two schools on probation and he’s still coaching.  I really don’t understand that.”

So we suspect you’ll have an easier time understanding why it’s a big deal for Knight to serve as color analyst for tonight’s ESPN broadcast of Arkansas’ visit to Rupp Arena.  UK fans aren’t likely to roll out the blue carpet for the irascible, lippy ex-Indiana coach.

Rece Davis — who will call the game with Knight — says the whole thing has been “manufactured.”

 

“I don’t see it being anything more than a manufactured issue… I just think to manufacture something out of comments from several years ago, I’m not going to spend a lot of time worrying about it.  I don’t see where it’s really that pertinent anymore…

There could be a vocal minority of people that might yell and boo and scream.  But he has without fail in our SEC travels treated people with tremendous graciousness and has been accommodating for pictures and autographs… People are sometimes surprised when they meet him how gracious and how funny he can be.”

 

Well, sure they’re surprised.  He spent decades being a jerk on and off the court.  This one’s definitely not safe for work, but if you watch these outtakes from a Knight-hosted golf show during his days at IU, you’ll see what a gracious and accommodating fella he can be.

 

Bobby Knight Golf Outtakes

 

As The Lexington Herald-Leader’s John Clay wrote yesterday: “I am sure the Big Blue Nation will treat ESPN color analyst Bob Knight with dignity and respect when the legendary Indiana coach visits for Thursday night’s Kentucky-Arkansas game.  After all, hasn’t Knight always treated people the way he would want to be treated?”

Exactly, like the last rant in the clip above.

ESPN had to put out a statement supporting its decision to assign Knight to a Kentucky game:  ”We expect Bob Knight to provide fans with expert and informative analysis as he has done on other game assignments.”

Look, typically we’re not supportive of booing and jeering, but if Wildcat fans let Knight have it for his insults over the years and his once childish refusal to say “Kentucky” on the air, well, so be it.  He’s earned it.

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DirecTV Emails About SEC Network Only Confirm What We’ve Been Telling You From Day One

dishnutYesterday it was reported that DirecTV officials are responding to SEC fans’ emails asking for the new SEC Network with a “not at this time” type of form email.  SEC fans immediately took to Twitter to slap some sense into the satellite giant.

But here’s the thing: We’ve been saying since Day One that the SEC and ESPN will be in for one helluva fight to land their start-up network on the nation’s biggest carrier in time for its August launch date.  Here’s what we wrote back on May 2nd of last year, just moments after the SEC/ESPN press conference to formally announce the channel’s creation:

 

“AT&T U-verse was announced as the SEC’s initial carriage partner.  Not to sneeze at AT&T U-verse, but the fact that a more well-known provider such as DirecTV, Comcast or Time-Warner isn’t onboard already might give you a pretty good idea of what ESPN and the SEC are charging for carriage.  Meaning: A lot.  Asked about other distributors, ESPN’s reps pointed out multiple times that AT&T U-verse is the fastest growing distributor in the country.  Fine.  But you the viewer need to prepare for the carriage battles we’ve warned you about.”

 

So, technically, we’ve been talking about the wars to come since before Day One.  But did you notice that we listed DirecTV first in our list?  That’s because DirecTV at that time did not carry the Pac-12 Network(s).  Well, it still doesn’t.  And having just inked a fresh new agreement to hold onto the NFL “Sunday Ticket” package, you can be certain that the folks at DirecTV are feeling that they’re in a position of power when it comes to their SEC/ESPN negotiations.

According to OutkickTheCoverage.com, SEC fans emailing DirecTV have received this email:

 

“I understand you would like to know if SEC Network will be available on DIRECTV.  We know how important it is for you to have access to this channel to keep your service.

After careful review, I have confirmed that DIRECTV has no current plans to carry the SEC Network.  While we are unable to comment on future programming decisions, we are always reviewing our programming options to make sure we bring you the best possible TV experience.  Thus, I have forwarded your request to DIRECTV Management for future consideration.  We often make changes based on customer feedback like yours.”

 

Honest translation: “You’ll get the channel when the SEC and ESPN stop demanding a fee that we won’t pay… and your email has bupkes to do with that.”

DirecTV’s stance is not at all unexpected.  As we’ve warned on numerous occasions, these types of negotiations often turn ugly and just as often they aren’t settled until right before or right after a new channel launches.  (Or in the Pac-12′s case, never.)  This particular battle is only now heating up.

MrSEC.com has learned that the SEC office recently assigned a group of MBA students at at least one member university to dream up an online campaign that will put pressure on cable/satellite-providers to pick up the SEC Network.  This is how the game is played.  There’s a reason the phrase, “Call your local cable-provider” has become part of our national lexicon.

While the DirecTV email — and its authenticity — are debated on Twitter, it’s still believed that the SEC Network is set to announce Dish Network as a partner at some point.  As we noted last month, Dish co-founder Charlie Ergen is a University of Tennessee graduate and booster.  He also oversees America’s second-place satellite provider.  Obviously, then, there are a couple of reasons for Dish to pick up the SEC Network before DirecTV does.

To date, the SEC Network is still officially partnered only with AT&T U-verse, a company that as of November had 10 million subscribers nationwide.  DirecTV has 20 million subscribers.  Dish has 14 million.  The new ConHugeCo merger of Comcast and Time Warner will give that behemoth 33 million subscribers, or about 70% of American households.

You think the DirecTV negotiations could turn nasty?  If Comcast’s conquest of Time Warner gets regulatory approval, that SEC Network battle could go nuclear.  If nothing else, it would seem that any inroads the SEC and ESPN might have made with one or both of those cable giants would be complicated by the news of their marriage.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, there’s a good chance many SEC fans won’t be getting the SEC Network when it launches in August.  And with the SEC putting three football games per Saturday on its channel, that’ll lead to a lot more angry consumers emailing or calling their cable/satellite-providers.

Which is exactly what the SEC desires.

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Top Five Quarterback Signees For 2014

RECAPJohnny Manziel, AJ McCarron and Aaron Murray are all gone.

And that’s just the start of it. The SEC will look very different at the quarterback position next season thanks to the departure of so much talent.

The good news for the league is there will be plenty of talented quarterbacks arriving this fall.

Here are the top five quarterback signees in the SEC in the 2014 class.

1. Kyle Allen – Texas A&M

Allen enrolled early at Texas A&M with the hope of competing for the Aggies’ starting job. He won’t be the same kind of quarterback as Johnny Manziel, but that’s OK. Allen (6-3, 200) has all the tools to be a big-time college quarterback. Allen was ranked the nation’s No. 1 pro-style quarterback by ESPN, Rivals, Scout and 247Sports. He earns our No. 1 spot as well.

2. Sean White – Auburn

White turned heads last summer when he was named the Elite 11 MVP. Former NFL quarterback and ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer said White “paints a picture” when he throws the ball. White (6-1, 200) will likely have to wait his turn behind returning starter Nick Marshall and Jeremy Johnson, who showed plenty of ability as a freshman last season. But White will be in good hands as he learns from coach Gus Malzahn.

3. Will Grier - Florida

Grier was Florida’s most important prospect in the 2014 class. The early enrollee could see the field early depending on how Jeff Driskel plays when he returns from his leg injury this fall. Grier (6-2, 190) is exactly what Florida needs – a talented passer with the ability to run. He rushed for close to 3,000 yards during his high school career. Grier will have quarterback competition in his own class after Florida stole Treon Harris away from Florida State on signing day.

4. Brandon Harris – LSU

Harris will bring versatility to LSU’s offense. Coach Les Miles raved on signing day about Harris’ ability to throw the ball down field and make plays with his feet. Harris (6-3, 180) was ranked the nation’s No. 5 dual-threat quarterback by Rivals. Harris enrolled at LSU for one reason: “to compete and start as a freshman,” he said last summer. He’ll have a chance to do that this fall.

5. David Cornwell – Alabama

Like most quarterbacks on this list, Cornwell enrolled early to get a head start on his college career. Cornwell made it clear earlier this month he plans to compete for the starting quarterback position this fall. Incoming transfer Jacob Coker might have the upperhand in the competition, but Cornwell will have an opportunity. Cornwell (6-5, 240) is a big prospect with a tremendous arm. His skill set should fit in perfectly with coach Nick Saban’s offense.

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Alabama’s Saban Explains The Decline In Signing Day Suspense

gfx-they-said-it4Speaking with ESPN this morning, Nick Saban admitted that while there “is some suspense involved” today, there clearly isn’t as much as there used to be.  Alabama’s coach explained why:

 

“I think the way recruiting’s set up now guys make decisions early, which is helpful.  Most of the guys know what they’re gonna do today, which is also helpful to us being able to manage the numbers and get the best players.”

 

Asked about his ability to land 5-star prospects, Saban ignored the question and spoke only of how top-rated guys will have to come in and get to work like everyone else.

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