College football has frequently been in the sports news the past few days, this providing a relief from stories about athlete’s mental health in favor of discussing mounds of money that are just plain mental. The biggest story involves Oklahoma and Texas switching conferences from the Big 12 to the SEC, this immediately setting up a thriving betting pool on how many points either team would be an underdog to against Alabama in the league championship game.
Although it professes to be different, professional football is very much in line with the other major sports when it comes to developing players for entry into the top league. Baseball has its assorted minor leagues, basketball has the G League, hockey has the AHL & ECHL, and football has the SEC. The only difference is in salary arrangements, as given how college players are now free to license and market their own image, the schools are breathing easier as this means that much less money they have to hand out under the table.
The impetus behind Texas and Oklahoma wanting to join the SEC is — surprise! — money. Part of the SEC universe is its own television network, which curiously enough broadcasts sporting events in lieu of that icky education stuff. The SEC Network has a not unsubstantial upcoming agreement with ESPN involving what is reported to be some $300 million a year of Mickey & Minnie’s money pouring into the SEC school’s coffers. Can’t imagine why Texas and Oklahoma would want in on that meal ticket.
It gets better in the world of high rollers. Texas has its own television network (Longhorn Network) which presently has an agreement with ESPN. Talk is that the money ESPN still owes the Longhorn Network will quite nicely cover the amount Texas and Oklahoma would owe their present conference to skedaddle over to the SEC. For the record, the total amount ESPN and the Longhorn Network agreed on for a twenty-year deal equals one year of the SEC Network-ESPN alliance. Math is easy.
The Big 12, which, in a touch of irony, has an agreement with ESPN, is understandably crying foul and has sent the network a cease and desist letter accusing ESPN of trying to lure other teams from the Big 12 into seeking fortune elsewhere. ESPN has responded by labeling the accusations balderdash and folderol, adding that it has been far too busy deleting all online references to Maria Taylor for such scurrilous doings.
And there you have it. The SEC continues on its chosen course of being NFL Jr., only without salary cap or labor issues. Other conferences and schools can only grit their teeth and hope that, as national attention and increasingly insane amounts of cash get tossed about like confetti in the stadium student section, the locals will still turn out to support their team.
Which should be what college sports is about. But I’m not silly enough to pretend that’s the case.