W ho influenced the SEC the most in the last year? This list is about not only power to shape things, but the influence to shape opinions of SEC fans, which in turn helps shape the conference. Here is our list of the ten most powerful people in the Southeastern Conference.
10. Tim Brando (follow on Twitter @TimBrando)
Tim Brando is the face of college football on CBS. The blowhard is known for giving his opinion. His opinion matters because it is disseminated on national television and his radio program. He knows how to annoy and get a reaction. He behaves in a confrontational manner on Twitter, but there is little doubt that what he says matters because of his platform.
9. Jimmy Sexton
Sports agents aren’t getting as much attention today as they did 2007-2010, but it is hard to argue that Jimmy Sexton has influenced the SEC. He continues to land top pro prospects like Trent Richardson, Julio Jones and coaches like Nick Saban and Jim McElwain just in the Alabama family. He also represents USC’s Matt Barkley and even represented the buffoon USC coach Lane Kiffin. Sexton’s greatest power in the SEC is to shape coaching searches. He represents many clients and routinely utilizes job openings and strategic leaks in order to land pay raises for his stable of clients. Sexton is feared by some athletic directors who know he almost has a monopoly on the top talent.
College athletics is big business. How big? The numbers are in the billions. TV contracts are worth billions and retail sales of collegiate goods are at least $4.6 billion per year. The Collegiate Licensing Company was founded by former Alabama player and Tennessee coach Bill Battle in 1981. Since then the growth in collegiate sales has been substantial. In fact, licensing to the larger schools net as much as $7-8 million each year, according to this report. This is a big reason for the rise of SEC schools. The popularity of SEC football allows the schools to earn significant income from fans. This in turn fuels investment in coaches and facilities, which for the SEC yields championships which yields still more revenue from sales fueled by the championship excitement. Wonder how the SEC ranks in terms of sales? In the last fiscal year ending July 31, 2012, CLC ranked Alabama #2 in sales, Kentucky #3, Florida #4, LSU #6, Georgia #8 and Auburn #11.
7. LSUFreek (follow on Twitter @LSUFreek)
Times have changed. When was the last time you heard someone talk about an article in the newspaper? It is all about the Internet now. And one voice is unique and transcends platforms speaking to blogs, forums and even Twitter. LSUFreek describes himself as a “Photoshop artist by day, RN by night.” That is only half the story. LSU Freek’s reaction to the major scandals, failures and successes is more anxiously awaited on discussion forums than any columnist’s opinion or blogger’s rant. Terrance Donnels is the creator of these animated works of art. Donnels’ rise to fame is a combination of his wit, talent and the Internet. The animations would not work in print, so LSU Freek’s art has to be considered an evolution of the newspaper’s political cartoon—only that people care about sports. In an interesting Yahoo feature on LSU Freek, there is this fascinating bit of history about Terrance Donnels’ grandfather that tells us something about LSU Freek and the evolution of art and technology:
“John’s father, also named John, was a brilliant artist – a man who used to make beautiful paintings in the French Quarter until one day he bought a camera and discarded his brushes and easels for photographs. He opened a gallery in the Quarter. By the late 1960s, Johnny Donnels was so famous, stars like Dustin Hoffman and Angie Dickenson came to New Orleans just to be profiled by him.”
LSU Freek’s influence is a testament to how things have changed in sports journalism. As newspaper’s decline, Internet message boards become a source of not only community but setting opinions. There is one voice that transcends the sectarian nature of SEC message boards and speaks to all of these fragmented communities—that voice is LSU Freek.
6. Larry Templeton (former Mississippi State AD and now SEC consultant)
Larry Templeton is another important SEC consultant. Templeton was involved in the previous television negotiations back in 2008-2009. Templeton also had a role in transitioning the SEC from a 12-team conference into its current 14-member roster. Templeton’s major role was figuring out the schedule. You can’t get much more important than that.
5. Florida President Bernie Machen
Bernie Machen almost left Florida this last year, but in January he was convinced to stay. Machen has played an important role in academics for the University of Florida. He was also an important voice during the recent SEC expansion. Machen also played a role in bringing Urban Meyer to Florida. He has also been a voice calling for a college football playoff. Machen voiced the need for a playoff as early as 2006.
4. Chuck Gerber (former TV executive and now consultant)
Mike Slive plays a major role in shaping the future of a college football playoff. Who is close to Slive, the SEC and also involved? Chuck Gerber. Gerber was involved in past SEC television negotiations including the 2009 contracts. You might remember the $3 billion payday the SEC scored in the deals with CBS and ESPN. When the BCS began to look at a college football playoff, Slive made sure Gerber was one of the consultants included in the analysis.
3. Paul Finebaum (follow on Twitter @finebaum)
Paul Finebaum is the most important voice covering the SEC. His position in Birmingham places him at the epicenter of the most Balkanized football rivalries in college football. His show is the heartbeat of the SEC. Finebaum’s influence has been recognized with features in the Wall Street Journal and the New Yorker. Finebaum was included on a similar list compiled by the Orlando Sentinel back in 2009.
1. Mike Slive & 2. Nick Saban
The two most powerful men in the SEC are the same today as they were last year, the year before last year, or the year before that. SEC Commissioner Mike Slive is one of the most powerful men in college football, according to SI. He tops any list of powers in the SEC. Behind Slive is Alabama football coach Nick Saban. Saban is now recognized as one of the greatest coaches in the history of college football. Also, Saban holds significant power in the state. By virtue of his position and success, if Saban wanted the state of Alabama to add a lottery because it would help the football program, the lottery would be on the ballot before the end of the year. And, unlike previous votes, it would probably pass.
VISIT TOMORROW FOR: The five most important blogs in the SEC