The start of the much anticipated SEC Network will be officially announced Thursday, and South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier seems to be the voice of reason as the conference and ESPN prepares to pat itself on the back.
The SEC Network is going to be a gold mine for the schools. The Big Ten Network has generated reported $7.9 million and $7.2 million payouts for each of its schools in 2011 and 2012, and there's not much reason to believe the ESPN-fueled SEC venture will generate less revenue. There's a good chance the payouts will be much higher for the SEC schools.
And without the players, the conference networks would have no programming and wouldn't be dragging in nine figures of revenue, and therefore lies a pretty obvious problem.
At least Spurrier can see it and has the courage to say something about it.
Spurrier, who has been a proponent of paying the college athletes who help him make millions of dollars (hello, Bob Stoops), used the announcement of the SEC Network to beat that drum again, according to The State newspaper (the full story is subscription only):
"As the commissioner and the presidents and the athletic directors all say, we are going to make a whole lot more money,” Spurrier said to The State. “My question is, ‘When are we going to start giving a little bit of it to the performers?’ Football and basketball players. It won’t do any good probably, but I’m going to still keep yelling for them. They bring in an awful lot of money for all of us.”
Pay the people who are risking injury and being asked to practice year round to generate millions of dollars for the school? That's not the NCAA's company line, Steve. Everyone is in it for the pure love of the game, remember? Now, back to the grandiose announcement of the SEC Network that will eventually create billions in revenue for schools ...
The biggest reason for the network probably won't be talked about much today. There will be quotes about how great it will be for the fans, and for the players to get further exposure on TV and for the schools to spread the word of higher education or whatever nonsense we'll be fed during the announcement. But it's all about money, as it usually is in college athletics. Well, it's all about money in college athletics except when it comes the athletes.
At least Spurrier has a good common sense understanding of what's right.