Slive adds SEC Network to extensive legacy


Southeastern Conference commissioner Mike Slive, second from right, takes the podium after ESPN President John Skipper during a news conference announcing the launching of the SEC Network in partnership with ESPN on Thursday in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Amis)

Published: Thursday, May 2, 2013 at 6:34 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, May 2, 2013 at 6:34 p.m.
The unveiling of the SEC Network in Atlanta on Thursday was typical Mike Slive. It wasn't hurried, it was well thought out and it will be a tremendous success. That's what we have come to expect from the SEC commissioner. The SEC Network isn't a knee-jerk reaction. If it was, we'd have had one a long time ago. The league started seriously talking about it seven years ago, but there were concerns. So the SEC waited for other leagues to try it out. You be our guinea pigs, Big Ten and Mountain West. We'll see what problems you have and whether we can solve them. And the SEC did by becoming partners with ESPN for the longest rights agreement ever. Distribution? We've got your distribution. It's called the Ocho. ESPN has more networks than HBO.


So here we are, with an SEC Network ready to launch in August of 2014. If you're like me, you can't wait. But the league did. It waited until a digital website could be launched in 2009. It waited until it could see the numbers from the Big Ten's effort. In Nashville at the SEC Tournament, Slive told me he was waiting until the hoops season was over so the announcement wouldn't take away any attention from March Madness. The league even waited another week to make the announcement because of the tragedy in Boston. While we contemplate how our viewing habits are going to change when there is an SEC Network, I also wonder this — I've had many conversations with SEC officials who have expressed a concern over sagging attendance at football and basketball games. Wouldn't it be counter-productive to show more games on TV? It's just the way of the world today, an almost if-you-can't-beat-them attitude. They're talking about increasing revenues by $1.5 million per team per year with this deal. That'll pay for a lot of soccer balls and batting cages. And almost every football and basketball game is on TV now anyway. I have high hopes for the SEC Network because I have been waiting for someone to develop “30 for 30” type of documentaries on things that were important to me, but may not be a big enough deal to warrant a national piece. For example, I'd love to see one on Steve Spurrier. Or Billy Donovan. Or the Rick Pitino Kentucky years. Or the LSU baseball dominance. Or Florida's national title run in soccer. Believe me, I could give them a list of 100 that I would sit and watch. Maybe I'm watching too much TV. Certainly, the time is right for the SEC to strike with seven straight national titles in football and 149 in all sports since 1990. The SEC is white-hot right now even if its basketball image is low. The exposure this network will give to basketball, with more than 100 games being televised, has to help. I was on Tim Brando's national radio show Thursday, and he said this will be Slive's legacy. Possibly. The guy has done so much right in the last 11 years that I think his legacy will be more extensive than simply starting a network. But the SEC Network, once referred to as Project X by Slive, is going to be a big deal in so many ways for the 14 teams that make up the league. It was interesting that the announcement came in a city without an SEC team — Atlanta. But Atlanta may be the biggest SEC city in America. It's a mixture of alumni from every school in the conference. It's an SEC world. The rest of you are just living in it. And now you're about to be bombarded by it. Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at dooleyp@gvillesun.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.

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