The news was conveniently planted on ESPN on Monday that the SEC would explore the idea of is own College Football Playoff during its spring meetings in Destin, Florida next week.
This news doesn’t just happen. It gets leaked. Ask yourself why something like this might get leaked? Who might stand to benefit from this news getting leaked and what might their end game be?
The answer to each of those questions is, in order: 1) To apply pressure on the rest of college football. 2) The SEC 3) Getting the expanded College Football Playoff that has since been shut down by the rest of the sport.
That’s what’s going on here. The SEC is upset that the rest of the sport won’t just cowtow to their every demand.
The Perfect Scheme
See, the SEC thought it had played its hand perfectly. They would get their expanded College Football Playoff, they would add Oklahoma and Texas, they would land at least half, if not more of the Playoff field each year. This would continue to grow their brand and the gap between themselves and the rest of the sport.
It was all perfectly planned out. Until it wasn’t.
Pete Thamel’s ESPN report linked above noted, “One variable that shouldn’t be underestimated is that SEC commissioner Greg Sankey is still mad about the way the College Football Playoff expansion talks collapsed earlier this year. He’s been openly vocal about his displeasure, and that’s going to guide league decision making. There’s been a general erosion of trust on the collegiate commissioner landscape since the chaotic COVID-19-addled summer of 2020.”
Oh no. Well let’s hope Greg Sankey isn’t upset.
This is written like a press release on behalf of the SEC. “You wouldn’t want Greg Sankey upset now, would you?!”
So now, the SEC is threating the idea of running is own Playoff.
Let them have fun. I can’t think of anything more boring than the same 16 teams that will be playing each other all season long then forming an eight-team playoff with half of their conference and doing it all over again to crown an… SEC Champion? It certainly wouldn’t be a National Champion.
But the SEC would do this by betting on the idea that their strength over the sport would continue to grow and separate itself as the clear No. 1 conference in college football, therefore making the other leagues meaningless in terms of the competitive landscape.
New TV Contracts Coming
But that is unlikely to happen. With the Power 5 conferences TV contracts all due up in the coming years, there is plenty of competition for the content. Not only are ESPN and FOX in the mix, as they have been for years, but now we are seeing interest from NBC, CBS, Amazon, Apple and other streamers with big money to spend.
When competition for a product increases, so does the price.
I’m not sitting here saying the SEC won’t continue to be able to pay out more TV money to its teams compared to the other leagues or that it won’t be the strongest league in the sport (at least in football), but if the other Power Conferences stick together, this isn’t going to end well for the SEC.
They can kick and scream, whine and complain all they want, but they won’t win. The numbers from the rest of the sport will win out.
The SEC will likely make overtures to do whatever benefits them, the entire sport be damned, as they’ve done for a long time. But can the rest of the sport band together?
Can they also stand up to their biggest partner in ESPN? They should. It’s not as hard as it seems. Just ask Bob Bowlsby. And you know what, it’ll feel darn good too, and will preserve the greatest sport in America.
Let’s see if they all have the back bone.