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Is the S.E.C. Network a Good Idea?

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"Magnum Force" was a fine film which provided a suitable sequel to "Dirty Harry" and presented Clint Eastwood at the height of his game, long before he sullied his reputation by making a chick flick and had to redeem himself by casting Uga in a movie.

I'm still bitter that Uga wasn't even nominated for an Oscar, by the way. If Henry Fonda can win an Academy Award for playing the crotchety estranged father of Jane Fonda, why can't Uga receive recognition for playing the University of Georgia mascot on film?

Anyway, the most memorable line from "Magnum Force" is this: "A man's got to know his limitations." Evidently, Paul Westerdawg lives by that mantra, as he stated frankly and forthrightly about the proposed S.E.C. T.V. network:

I was going to blog about this, but it's too complex for my attention span.

Personally, I think Paul, the undisputed heavyweight champion of the Dawgosphere, is selling himself short, but I respect his candor and I will confess that I have mixed emotions about the idea. For the most part, my misgivings arise from the fact that the Big Ten and the S.E.C. largely are analogous conferences and the Big Ten's attempt to pursue the same course appears to be fraught with peril and danger at every turn.

The Big Ten Network is scheduled to begin airing this August and, to no one's surprise, Brian Cook has confronted squarely the issues the fledgling enterprise is encountering, sifting through the league's noncommittal public statements and concluding that the Big Ten's insistence that its "conversations" with various service providers have been "productive" are indicative of impending disaster. While Brian has inched incrementally towards a wary optimism, it took the hiring of Big 12 commissioner Kevin Weiberg as the new channel's vice president of university planning and development to persuade the Lawgiver that the Big Ten Network might not be a huge fiasco . . . and even that endorsement is dependent upon the confidence that the league will win its game of chicken with the cable companies.

We in the S.E.C. know a thing or two about playing chicken!

I have many of the same worries about the prospects for the S.E.C. Network, worries which Sunday Morning Quarterback shares, as well. However, it seems unlikely that another major conference commissioner will be resigning his post to assume a lesser role at our local league channel and recent comments by S.E.C. commissioner Mike Slive have not assuaged my concerns, as Slive had this to say at the conference spring meetings (with emphasis added):

No question, there would be football and basketball on it. I think there's something like 8,720 hours of programming available. Obviously, part of that would have to be significant football and basketball. The other piece that our presidents and chancellors are very interested in is it would create an outlet for non-athletic content from our universities, which have good communication schools. There are a lot of events on our respective campuses that might find their way onto an SEC network.

Don't get me wrong; I quite agree that we in the S.E.C. have good communication schools. That, though, is not why we would watch the S.E.C. Network. Pete Holiday knows why we would watch the S.E.C. Network:
Football and Basketball would feature most prominently, and some of the weaker programs would presumably get increased air time, but where I think the network would be most valuable is in airing the various other sports that the SEC participates in. Getting more regular season baseball and softball games would be outstanding. Gymnastics and golf would even bring in some viewers.

Pete has hit the nail squarely on the head. Assuming the S.E.C. Network did not follow Versus, the Mtn., and the bowl games broadcast on the N.F.L. Network down the black hole of broadcasting obscurity, it would have the ancillary benefit of televising more games in the revenue sports, but marquee S.E.C. football games seldom are relegated to second-class status on the airwaves, however much I may have found it frustrating having to listen to last year's loss to Kentucky on the radio. (No matter how badly I feel about a poor performance by the Bulldogs, Larry Munson always finds a way to make me feel worse.)

In protest of the fact that the Scarlet Knights' most recent bowl appearance was not televised on basic cable, Rutgers alumna Kristin Davis declared that she would not wear a shirt again until an appropriate apology was issued. Also, she went with all-black undergarments in tribute to Johnny Cash.

The true virtue of the S.E.C. Network is, as Pete says, the additional exposure that other sports will get. As someone who follows the Diamond Dogs and the Gym Dogs using on-line real-time stat-trackers, I would love to be able to watch a few more baseball games and gymnastics meets on live television. The same holds true for golf and tennis, of both the masculine and feminine varieties. Be honest, now . . . even if you don't care one whit for track and field, wouldn't you have loved to have seen Jennifer Dahlgren hurl a hammer on T.V. on a regular basis? Five hours' worth of the N.C.A.A. Championships hardly sufficed as an alternative.

The S.E.C. has sent at least one team to the College World Series for 15 straight seasons. Shouldn't Southeastern Conference baseball games be regular television viewing rather than only occasional fare? Shouldn't Georgia's numerous successful sports teams get the air time they deserve? Wouldn't you like to see Suzanne Yoculan and Manuel Diaz winning national championships for the Red and Black?

Over at The Wishbone, Kyle McInnis has proven that great Kyles think alike:

I can certainly see the regional sports fan being more interested in SEC Olympic sports than the consistent jumble of regional and national sports programming of the FOX Sports outlets. Plus, the clear trend in sports programming is more fractionalization of media outlets, not less. Networks are become more and more specialized, including ESPN. The SEC is simply following the trend and trying to cut out the middle man by creating its own network.

What I really want out of the SEC channel is pure propaganda, an antidote to Mark May, Mike Lupica and all the other writers and commentators who the SEC fans cry about. On the SEC channel, we'll always be the best.

We need to let Mike Slive know that that is what we want from our S.E.C. Network. I don't need "an outlet for non-athletic content from our universities"; I couldn't care less about non-athletic activities at 11 of the conference's 12 member institutions and, between three different alumni magazines, at least two newsletters, a variety of e-mails, and donation-soliciting telephone calls from a school that didn't exist when I was a student which now wishes to lay claim to me because my major today would fall under its aegis in spite of the fact that my undergraduate degree is from a college founded in 1801 rather than in 2001, I have all the non-athletic information about my alma mater that I could ever need.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I went to a first-class law school. I know that already; now shut up and show me the highlights of the game I just attended in person!

Give me more S.E.C. sports across the board . . . football, basketball, football, baseball, football, gymnastics, football, tennis, football, golf, and football. Give me the promise of no longer having to watch third-tier S.E.C. sporting events on a media outlet named for the president who sent troops to burn my home town to the ground.

Now give me all that on a channel I can find on my television, tell me up front how you're going to avoid the problems the Big Ten appears to be encountering, and spare me the non-athletic content except during commercial breaks. Do that and I'm on board for the idea.

Go 'Dawgs!