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Jumbo Package: How the SEC and ESPN killed the Big 12

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Your latest Crimson Tide news and notes.

Florida vs Alabama Photo by UA Athletics/Collegiate Images/Getty Images

Happy Monday, everyone. If you’d like to do a bit of reminiscing this morning, USA Today put out a nice gallery from the 2020 Alabama championship season for your enjoyment.

The topic du jour hasn’t changed. In a desperation move, Big 12 brass met with the presidents of Texas and Oklahoma yesterday.

The one thing that was missing from the whole realignment saga was the timing. Why now, and why does it seem so urgent? Sam Khan, Jr. at The Athletic has the missing piece to that puzzle.

In May, the Big 12 inquired about preemptively renegotiating its TV contracts with partners ESPN and Fox, which expire in 2025. The response from the networks was tepid; they showed no desire to revisit the deals. That came just five months after ESPN handed the SEC a massive 10-year, $3 billion deal for its first-tier television rights, a contract that won’t start until 2024.

It’s clear where the Big 12 sits in the pecking order in the eyes of the networks and Oklahoma and Texas have mobilized accordingly.

We now have identified the catalyst. Texas and Oklahoma saw the SEC get that big TV cheddar back in December and probably put feelers out at that time. The Big 12 then tried to get the networks to the table and was told to piss off. Meanwhile, SEC schools see Texas and Oklahoma as an opportunity to renegotiate what is already the most lucrative TV deal in college sports, by a wide margin at an estimated $500 million annually between the two concurrent ESPN contracts, before it starts in three years.

If killing a conference was a crime, ESPN execs would be on trial as we speak. The Big 12 as we know it is toast. The question now: will there be an appetite for one of the major TV networks to give a similar deal to another conference with college football’s ratings so heavily skewed to the South? If not, then the SEC becoming the lone superconference by adding only the richest few programs from the other leagues, creating a de facto pro league while the rest of the former FBS plays college ball, isn’t so far fetched. Clemson fans are already getting a bad case of FOMO.

Matt Hayes has even more on the TV money.

One industry source I spoke with said there is a “strong possibility” that ESPN buys out the 2022-2023 seasons from CBS (the current SEC television home) with cash and game inventory from other conferences.

ESPN paid Texas $250 million for the Longhorn Network, the exclusive home of all Texas sports. That deal runs through 2031, but the Longhorn Network would likely be folded into the SEC Network and the payout of the final 10 years of the contract folded into the SEC coffers.

ESPN lost nearly $50 million on the network over the first 5 years, and folding it into the SEC Network would be a lifeboat of sorts.

Texas having to roll its Longhorn Network into the SEC Network because the former is bleeding money would be just the slice of humble pie they need.

Chris Vannini has a passionate rebuke of the changing landscape that will undoubtedly resonate with many fans of the sport.

It sucks that it’s become impossible for fans of many teams to drive to road games, all while the price of home game tickets, parking and concessions have gone up.

It sucks that college sports over the past decade-plus has chosen to give up what makes it special. I’m not talking about amateurism — the fact that players can now make money is long overdue. I’m talking about the regional flair, the communities, the charm and the history. There’s a connection with alumni and your opponent. The vast majority of us care more about our rivals and goofy trophies than we do who wins the national title.

It’s not pro sports. It’s supposed to mean something more. There aren’t 30 “teams” we care about. There are a hundred unique communities. But pettiness and greed have won the decade, and this move by Texas, Oklahoma and the SEC could cement this path toward ending that forever.

It’s hard to argue with any of that. Bottom line, though? When the rubber meets the road, we will still watch, and they know it.

ESPN’s FPI has the trip to College Station as the toughest game on the schedule, as expected.

ESPN FPI Projection: 65.6% chance to win

The toughest game on the schedule per ESPN’s FPI for the Crimson Tide, Saban knows Alabama’s trip to College Station against preseason College Football Playoff contender will not be easy. Texas A&M brings back a wealth of starters on both sides of the football and finished one win short of a Playoff berth last season — meaning the Aggies are hungry at seizing opportunity in the SEC West. Kyle Field will come alive and be rocking for this one, especially if Alabama comes in unbeaten, on the nation’s longest winning streak and ranked No. 1.

A 66% chance at winning the toughest game on the schedule is a pretty nice place to be.

Alabama placed 16 on preseason All-SEC teams, half of those on the first team.

Offense

WR – John Metchie III

OL – Evan Neal

Defense

DL – Phidarian Mathis

LB – Will Anderson Jr., Christian Harris, Henry To’oTo’o

DB – Josh Jobe, Malachi Moore

Mathis is making some noise. He is definitely a name to watch.

Najee Harris opened camp as the starting RB in Pittsburgh.

After Friday’s practice, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin was asked about how the running backs were dividing the reps so far, and he said Pittsburgh didn’t take Harris from Alabama in the first round to have him watch.

“We’re not micromanaging it at this juncture,” Tomlin said. “We’re rolling those guys through. Obviously, he’s getting a lot of work and a lot of significant work in the first group because that’s where we took him.”

He is going to be a monster in that offense.

Landon Dickerson hasn’t yet signed with the Eagles, and this nugget may give some insight.

Two years ago, Alabama All-American Quinnen Williams missed the New York Jets’ first practice of training camp because he hadn’t signed his contract. As the No. 3 pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, Williams was due a signing bonus of around $21.6 million, and how to pay it became the sticking point.

The Jets wanted to pay the bonus in two installments – one in 2019 and one in 2020. Williams and his representatives wanted all or the bulk of the bonus paid in 2019, while he remained a resident of Alabama, rather than in 2020, when he planned to have relocated to New Jersey. The difference was the income tax rate of the two states.

Taxes for rich folk tend to get a little steep in that part of the country.

Cecil Hurt has a basketball roster breakdown for you.

The team will be built starting in the backcourt, a potentially lethal combination of speed and athleticism with Jahvon Quinerly and five-star freshman J.D. Davison pushing the ball upcourt while Shackelford and senior Keon Ellis provide firepower on the wing.

There will be an assortment of mid-size talent as well: Burnett (who could also be a shooting guard), freshman Jasuan Holt, sophomore Darius Miles, Gurley as an inside-outside scorer and Gary as a threat to rebound and perhaps stuff an opponent through the rim in the process.

We already talked about the immense frontcourt potential on Friday. It may take them a few games to come together with so many new pieces, but this team has a chance to be dangerous. folks.

Last, this is amazing and terrifying.

@thewingroves

Basketball robot makes crazy half-court shot!! #fyp #basketball #olympics

♬ original sound - The Wingrove’s

Yeah, those things are going to take over the world.

That’s about it for today. Have a great week.

Roll Tide.