Shane: SEC football-Lifestyles of the rich & famous

By Shane from Centerpoint

Southeastern Conference officials, including coaches, athletic directors, and presidents just completed their annual spring meetings. These meetings were held down in some elite hotel resort located near Destin, Florida. Yes, one of those places down on the “Emerald Coast” – a place that is home to the most beautiful white beaches in the world. Wow! I wonder how much it cost to finance that huge extravaganza? Probably a fortune! Oh well, that shouldn’t be a problem since the SEC just split ONE-HUNDRED AND THIRTY-TWO MILLION dollars (2008 profit) among the twelve members!

In spite of commissioner Mike Slive’s claim that the SEC could suffer during the current recession, indisputable proof exists showing that this “super” conference is producing huge financial profits.

We’re in the middle of a “sad” recession, which is about as close to a depression as you can get. Everybody is suffering and cutting back somewhere, but Slive and the S.E.C. crew went first-class anyway.

I’m rather surprised, myself, even though I probably shouldn’t be. I thought that maybe the SEC might’ve met in downtown Atlanta, Georgia. Atlanta has 5 or 6 venues that could’ve accommodated a meeting of that size, and with a much lower price tag. Why not Birmingham, Alabama? The SEC home office is there. Birmingham would’ve given the SEC everything free just for the publicity.

Honestly, my point about the expense of the annual meeting being excessive is true. However, when you consider the fact that any one of the head coaches could’ve financed the Destin gig out of his own hip pocket, you can clearly understand why the meeting took place in a southern “paradise”. These coaches, much like the blue-chippers they covet, will accept only the best, including a vacation resort for holding three days of meetings. Maybe there is an unwritten rule that all SEC conference meetings must take place at a luxury complex near golf courses and the Gulf of Mexico.

Haven’t you noticed that almost everyone who is associated with the college football side of the SEC makes a tremendous amount of money? On top of that, each school gets huge “dividends” at the end of every year. Head coaches, coordinators, assistants, and all who help run these programs are enjoying the monetary benefits of those fifty-dollar tickets that are sold to millions of dedicated fans every year.

By the way, that $132 million payout from this year’s money-haul is small-time compared to the piles of money SEC members will stack-up when the two new television contracts kick-in. The league’s television revenue is expected to double next year. According to calculations, the SEC should rake in almost $3 BILLION over the next 15 years.

Who knows? In a couple of years SEC officials may hold their annual spring fling on some remote Caribbean island purchased with league profits. In fact, the SEC is undoubtedly one of the most successful businesses in existence. Should the people who run it try to appear more cognizant of the fans who support them, and recognize their struggles by meeting in a more modest, cost-effective location?

Apparently, Florida president Bernie Machen wouldn’t. He wants to rewrite the SEC spending manual. In spite of the recent revelation that the school’s trustees approved a budget with $42 million in cuts — and the fact that the University faces the greatest funding crisis in almost four decades — Machen wants to make head football coach Urban Meyer the highest paid coach in the SEC. Makes you wonder how many schools across the country have budget cuts enacted and at the same time are giving their head coach a raise?

I don’t know about you, but I want to get in on some of that Destin action. Anyway, I do believe the SEC is about to earn enough money in the next ten years to buy a small country, and I do think the league has everything in place to guarantee its financial security for years to come. However, the SEC needs to find a way to turn some of those huge profits into some form of benefit for the average fan that buys their product. A generous gesture like that would not only be fair, but it might also serve to enhance the SEC’s image from a perception standpoint. One thing is certain – the SEC has got the money.

—Shane writes a weekly column for the Call News and the Capstone Report.