New TV deal puts spotlight on SEC hoops

Published: Thursday, January 7, 2010 at 3:06 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 7, 2010 at 3:06 p.m.

Like most college basketball players, Arkansas sophomore guard Rotnei Clarke looks forward to games on national television.


Maximum exposure

A look at Florida's remaining men's basketball games on national television:

Jan. 9 — at Vanderbilt, noon, ESPN2
Jan. 12 — Kentucky, 9 p.m., ESPN
Jan. 21 — at Arkansas, 9 p.m., ESPN or ESPN2
Jan. 23 — South Carolina, 6 p.m., ESPN
Jan. 31 — at Tennessee, 1 p.m., CBS
Feb. 4 — at Alabama, 7 p.m., ESPNU
Feb. 13 — Xavier, 7 p.m., ESPN
Feb. 18 — Auburn, 7 p.m., ESPN or ESPN2
Feb. 20 — at Ole Miss, noon, CBS
Feb. 23 — Tennessee, 9 p.m., ESPN
March 2 — Vanderbilt, 9 p.m., ESPN
March 7 — at Kentucky, noon, CBS

"That's everyone's dream, to be on TV playing college basketball," Clarke said. "That's a huge factor. I think that was a big factor in me coming to Arkansas."

Under the Southeastern Conference's new television deal with CBS and ESPN, Clarke and the rest of the league will get more national and regional TV exposure. The landmark 15-year deal with the two networks — worth close to $3 billion — ensures every SEC men's basketball game is televised this season.

Other highlights of the deal, which starts Saturday, include:

* A minimum of 31 conference games will be televised on ESPN, ESPN2 or ESPNU.

* Seven conference games will air on CBS or ABC.

* The semifinals and finals of the SEC Tournament will be televised nationally on ABC. Previously, SEC Tournament semifinal games were broadcast regionally instead of nationally.

SEC commissioner Mike Slive said improving men's basketball coverage was a priority when he entered negotiations with the two networks.

"We felt we were underexposed, particularly in men's basketball," Slive said. "So when we began negotiations with ESPN, we made it a major element of our negotiation that we wanted to improve our basketball television package.

"In retrospect, basketball is the sport that may have benefited the most."

For Florida basketball fans, it will mean more chances to catch the Gators on national TV. Of Florida's 16 SEC games, 11 will air on national television. Florida's SEC opener Saturday at Vanderbilt will air on ESPN2, and its home opener Tuesday against Kentucky will be on ESPN.

In addition, UF's final non-conference game Feb. 13 against Xavier will air on ESPN.

"ESPN, that's the channel that swings the biggest stick," Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said. "The exposure and the ability for our kids to get on television this season, it's only going to benefit all of us down the road."

The biggest benefit could come off the court. With a television deal that rivals major conferences like the ACC and Big East, SEC coaches now are armed with a recruiting tool that can help them land the best prospects in the nation.

"Kids want exposure," Auburn coach Jeff Lebo said. "To get your team on regional TV, on national TV, that's something you can sell."

A drawback of the new deal will come when some teams are forced to make tight turnarounds. Because ESPN added Thursday night to the broadcast window for SEC games, some schools will be forced into playing on Saturday with one day of rest after playing Thursday night.

SEC associate commissioner Mark Whitworth said the league received approval from athletic directors of each school before scheduling the Thursday-Saturday games. The league also made a mandatory requirement for schools to have a home game at either the front or back end of the Thursday-Saturday contests.

"It's worth it to have more exposure," Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl said. "You can't have it both ways. You can't ask for more TV and not be willing to be more flexible. If the game is in on the schedule, you have to play it."

Florida has three short Thursday-Saturday turnarounds on the schedule this season. The first comes later this month. On Jan. 21, Florida plays at Arkansas at 9 p.m. and then will return home to face South Carolina at 6 p.m. on Jan. 23. Two more Thursday-Saturday turnarounds will come in February (Feb. 4 at Alabama, Feb. 6 Mississippi State), (Feb. 18 Auburn, Feb. 20 at Ole Miss).

"It's going to be tough," Florida coach Billy Donovan said. "No question you are going to have to plan well during the week to deal with fatigue and travel and preparation. I think we maybe have one instance where we play at 7 (against Auburn), then have to travel and have a noon game on Saturday (against Ole Miss). But I think all the coaches realize it's good for the league."

Contact Kevin Brockway at 352-374-5054 or at and follow at

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