This past Thursday the SEC and ESPN announced the launch of the SEC Network, a multimedia conglomerate that will host 24/7 coverage of over 1000 SEC events starting in August 2014. The agreement is set to last until 2034, meaning that for the next 20 years the SEC will be able to broadcast games and original programming through both the SEC and ESPN family of networks. “The SEC Network will provide an unparalleled fan experience of top quality SEC content presented across the television network and its accompanying digital platforms,” Commissioner Mike Slive explained in a statement Thursday (ESPN.com) Slive, accompanied by ESPN President John Skipper, went on to state that the on-the field quality of SEC play, and the intensity of SEC fans, makes the formation of an “all-SEC, all the time” network beneficial for sports enthusiasts and business people alike. (Check out Tyler Thompson’s post from May 2nd “What does the SEC network mean for you?” http://kentuckysportsradio.com/?p=132667).
With the increase of media coverage that will result from the SEC Network, programs that are trying to get on their feet will now have a new opportunity for exposure. This means that Women’s sports and less televised programs now have a chance to spend their well deserved time in the spotlight – looking at you UK Hoops– and schools that have historically struggled in the major sports have just been handed an almost unfair recruiting advantage. You’re welcome, Mark Stoops. It might just be me that thinks this, but it feels like the pieces are falling into place for the new Kentucky Head Coach. Stoops has already accomplished step one in the rebuilding process: he’s harnessed the power of the #BBN and now has a firm foundation in Lexington. The added exposure coming from the SEC Network is a gold mine for the Kentucky Football program, and Coach Stoops has shown that he has the tools to take advantage of such an opportunity.
There’s a catch, however, as there always is. The SEC is going to get filthy rich from this new deal, and with money comes greed. There has been talk that with the new network deal, the SEC will extend it’s conference schedule from 8 games to 9. If this happens, it will mean two things for Kentucky Football:
- First, the rivalry game with Louisville will most likely get dropped. Let’s be honest with ourselves and admit that Louisville has a pretty solid football program, and dropping them from the schedule is the most logical choice. Dropping the Louisville game hurts the fan bases of both schools and the revenue that comes from the Governor’s Cup will be lost, but a 9 game SEC schedule accompanied by a rotating series with Louisville would be devastating for a program trying to re-build.
- Second, Kentucky will pick up a game with an opponent from the SEC West, which further compounds an already impossible schedule. This means the Cats will play the likes of Bama, LSU, and Johnny Football… every year. It’s hard to compete in the SEC period, but adding another conference game will make it that much more difficult for schools like Missouri, Vandy, and Kentucky.
The question is: do the benefits outweigh the draw backs? The keys to success will be patience and persistence. Stoops has done some impressive things so far, and excitement is higher than ever… but the transformation will not happen in one season. The defense will be fine (thoughts and prayers to Ashely Lowery) this year, but the offense is going to take some time to come together, so expect the SEC defenses to put a lot of pressure on the quarterback and make it hard to get in a flow. It’ll be a struggle at first, but the SEC Network will help lure recruits into the conference and Mark Stoops will be there to dress them in Blue and White. Thoughts?
The sun shines bright, folks. Keep the faith.
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