The Southeastern Conference’s annual meetings are taking place this week in pristine Destin, Fla. These year-end vacations for the SEC jet set are usually mostly fun and games — and not that much business — along the Gulf of Mexico before the commissioner divides all the millions between the schools.
This year, it’s big business. There will be important talk of TV and bowl options. And, of course, there’s the money. This year, that payoff is expected to be yet another record, topping last year’s take of more than $120 million.
Somewhere, former SEC commissioner Roy Kramer must be proud. Back in my days in Birmingham in the early part of the decade, I was often a critic of the SEC boss, but the man was wise and ruthless. He understood what was coming and where the marketplace would lead. He was saying as far back as 1999 that a bowl for every team without a losing record would be a good thing. He told me as far back as 2001 that getting rid of the I-A and I-AA labels should occur, too, with the implication being that flooding the market with new “major” teams would drive down the prices of game guarantees for teams in his league. On those, he looks prescient today.
He also understood a decade ago, I suspect, that his pet creation known as the Bowl Championship Series would evolve into the dominant entity in college sports. Which, of course, it has. The NCAA and not even Congress have been able to seriously challenge the BCS conference commissioners’ power grab.
Please indulge me as I channel Roy and offer some advice to current SEC Commissioner Mike Slive and the gang: Forget the nice-guy approach. Yes, it’s admirable that you’ve cleaned up the cheating and gotten the teams off probation and out of whack-the-rat mode. But no one cares. What they really care about is money — specifically, making a lot of it and not sharing much of it with freeloaders.