Rights fee has cost SEC teams ESPN exposure
Published: Thursday, May 12, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, May 12, 2005 at 12:00 a.m.
For a lot of you, ESPN could have filled all of the dark time caused by the hockey lockout with re-runs of old GameDay shows just so you could make fun of Lee Corso's predictions.
But for the network, coming up with alternative programming has meant such insipid shows as "Stump the Schwab" - the story of a man with no life - "Battle of the Gridiron Stars" - where Peyton and Eli Manning see who can drink the most milk - and "Bowling Night" - which is as breathtaking as it sounds.
It has also meant a lot of college baseball on the ESPN galaxy of networks.
What it has not meant is a lot of SEC baseball.
The reason is simple. When the network began looking for replacements for the NHL, it started feeling out college baseball teams about moving games to different days of the week. According to Charles Bloom in the SEC office, the conference's schools were asking for different rights fees to move their games.
Not wanting its member schools to compete with each other to get games, the SEC told ESPN it would have to negotiate a deal with the whole league. ESPN found that the Big XII among other conferences wanted no rights fee. That's why you get Oklahoma vs. Nebraska every other week.
Privately, the SEC coaches are furious that other conferences are getting national exposure. Plenty of SEC games are televised, but only on a regional basis.
"It's just stupid," one visiting SEC coach told me. "We should be paying them to televise our games."
The biggest problem is that this may have been a one-time shot for the league if the NHL comes back to play next year. College baseball will be relegated to the fledgling ESPNU network with limited availability.
For a sport that begs for coverage and gets little attention nationally until the College World Series, it doesn't make a lot of sense to negotiate when you have no leverage.
Steve Spurrier has been busy since taking over the head ball coaching job at South Carolina. He has even taken it upon himself to give his new offense a nickname - The Cock 'n' Fire.
Maybe he just wanted to get the jump on Orlando Sentinel columnist Mike Bianchi, who came up with the Fun 'n' Gun when Spurrier and Bianchi both were in Gainesville.
"The Spur-Dog can name his offense but the best thing about being a sportswriter is we can still tell him how to run it," Bianchi said.
From what I hear about the head ball coach's offensive line, Chuck 'n' Duck might be more appropriate. Or, when you consider the mess Lou Holtz left Spurrier, how about Jail 'n' Bail?
Well, if Spurrier is going to name his offense, I had better act fast concerning Urban Meyer's offense at Florida.
The Spread 'n' Shred.
Get it? The Gators spread the field, then shred the defense? Clever, huh? No? Whadyamean it sounds like a disgusting breakfast cereal? OK, you do better.
Athens artist Stan Mullins decided on his own to build a 14-foot statue saluting former UGA coach Vince Dooley. It depicts Dooley being carried off the field by two of his players and will eventually be bronzed at a cost of $200,000.
It could eventually be an expensive doorstop. The university council at Georgia still has to vote on whether or not to allow it to be placed outside Sanford Stadium, and do not forget that Dooley's relationship with president Michael Adams is still testy at best.
Because the work was not commissioned, it could get interesting. But I don't believe anybody in Athens would be foolish enough to give the greatest coach in Bulldogs history another figurative wedgie.
In other news, the University of Florida has commissioned a statue that will be displayed outside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in honor of the man who did so much to change the history of the Florida-Georgia game.
David Eckstein has always been a throwback player so he is thrilled to be thrown back into a real league.
"It's more pure baseball in the National League," Eckstein told me after making me feel old again by calling me Mr. Dooley. "It's a lot more fun here. There's more managing. Everyone's not sitting around waiting for someone to hit a three-run homer."
Eckstein was let go by the Los Angeles Angels de Anaheim in and for the County of Orange, U.S.A./Earth and signed with St. Louis during the offseason. He's batting .299 for the Cardinals.
"It definitely has been a transition to see all the pitchers and get to know the tendencies of the hitters," Eckstein said.
Mark Richt may get some heat for not suspending defensive tackle Darrius Swain, who has to serve 45 days in jail after being cited a third time for driving with a suspended license, but it's misplaced criticism.
Richt has a history of showing firm discipline - remember 2003 when 11 Bulldogs missed the opener against Clemson? He has also suspended starter Kedric Golston for two games this season for his involvement in a bar fight.
Swain doesn't have the money to get his license reinstated. He shouldn't have been driving. But this isn't Tennessee. This isn't Arkansas. You have to give the Georgia coach the benefit of the doubt.
No matter which of the RPI baseball projections you believe, the SEC has 11 of the top 30 teams in the country. There is no question that the league is the best in the land, but what it also means is that a deserving team will be left out of regional play.
It could be Auburn, despite the fact that the Tigers have played half of their 50 games against Top 25 teams. Or Arkansas, which is tied for the most overall wins in the conference. Or Florida's opponent this weekend, Mississippi State.
The last two weekends of the regular season will be fascinating because there are only 4¶ games separating the top team and the 10th-place team.
Florida next week has one more non-conference game against Stetson. It was supposed to be a make-up game against Bethune-Cookman, but the Wildcats decided after they were eliminated from the MEAC Tournament there was no need to play any more baseball this season.
Bids to host regional baseball tournaments are due May 20 and Florida's will be slightly larger than last year's because the new NCAA format offers the potential for an extra day of baseball. Instead of three games on Friday, only two will be played and all regionals could go into Monday ... It all comes down to how Florida fares in the last two weekend series, but it doesn't help that UF is eighth in the SEC in attendance ... If Shaq had won the MVP would some half-baked Canadian columnist have claimed reverse racism? ... Eh? ... You can tell when Jeff Van Gundy is being "purposely vague." The bags under his eyes get bigger ... That purposely vague is a great idea, especially for those of us who are married ... I have fired my agent and hired my home slice Robbie Andreu to negotiate all of my endorsements deals (Tom's Big and Not Tall, The Foot Wedge, Ricky's Chicken Wing Sauce, etc.). He gets all the Diet Moutain Dew he can drink ... Be safe.
You can reach sports columnist Pat Dooley by e-mail at email@example.com or by calling 374-5053. You can hear The Pat Dooley Hour each weekday from 11 a.m. to noon on The Star 99.5-FM.
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