ACC v. SEC Money Numbers

On the heels of Tomhawk Nation's much talked about "What It Take$ To Be Consistently Successful In College Football" piece comes this this 4-part series from  It is a re-print an ran in August of last year, but is very relevant today.

The news that the Big Ten plans to pursue expansion plans has set off a wave of speculation about the potential impact on all the other major college conferences.

It’s also reminded us of the central role that money and television play in college sports.

To give you a glimpse into the sort of things that conferences are weighing right now when contemplating their future decisions, we’ve decided to take a look back at an article we wrote last August. It’s a in-depth piece by Jon Solomon of the Birmingham (Ala.) News that compares the financial strength of the ACC and the SEC.

Part One discusses the SEC's TV package and includes some (now very funny) quotes from ACC officials and members.  Nine months ago some of them (Bowden) apparently thought the ACC would get a package equal to that of the SEC.  Now it appears the ACC won't approach half.  The SEC is undoubtedly the better product, with more passionate fans and a higher quality of play, but there is also no question that the SEC got lucky with its deal.  ESPN is kicking itself for dolling out a deal of this size before the economy went in the tank.

In Part Two, there is some particularly distressing news for ACC fans. 

“There’s a reality that we all know: If the game is a blowout, there’s a tendency to get out of the game,” Gerber said. “Now the tendency will be to go to another SEC game. You have people moving from one game to another, and that’s how you grow ratings. …

“ESPN will promote the SEC quite a bit. ESPN has never been one to make a commitment of that size (the SEC package) and not promote it. They do it better than anybody.”

It’s not just SEC football that will be plastered all over ESPN. The SEC used football to leverage significantly more exposure for men’s basketball, the bread and butter of the ACC.

Last season, the SEC was guaranteed only a Tuesday night game on ESPN or ESPN2. Starting in 2009-10, the SEC will be on ESPN or ESPN2 on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, plus more games on over-the-air syndication. In addition, the SEC men’s basketball tournament semifinals and final will be on ABC. Previously, only the championship game was aired nationally, on CBS.

“We made basketball a priority in our negotiations,” [SEC Commissioner] Slive said. “We’ve been woefully underexposed.”

That's particularly bad because SEC schools are now spending their way towards quality basketball programs much like they did with football.  They simply have a lot more money than almost anyone else.  ACC fans had hoped to leverage basketball into a big contract, but that does not seem likely now. 

Part Three paints a pretty bleak picture for ACC schools. 

*  Tennessee defensive line coach Ed Orgeron makes only $150,000 less than new Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney.

*  Auburn lured popular North Carolina assistant Tommy Thigpen away from his alma mater during the offseason despite downgrading his title. A linebackers coach who made about $150,000 annually at UNC, Thigpen is making $250,000 per year as the safeties coach for the Tigers.

“There’s no doubt that the SEC has raised the bar (on financial matters) in some ways in recent years,” North Carolina athletic director Dick Baddour said.

Whereas Florida State has delayed a plan to build a $20 million indoor practice facility for football and other sports, Georgia is moving ahead with a $40 million plan to renovate and expand its football and athletic department facilities.

And it’s not as if SEC schools were hurting before the new TV contracts. Of the top 15 revenue-producing athletic departments in the country in 2007-08, six were SEC schools, according to the latest data compiled by the U.S. Department of Education.

The Big Ten and the Big 12 each had four schools in the top 15, joining Notre Dame. The only ACC school that cracked the top 25 was Duke.

And the SEC continues to spend wildly while the ACC instituted spending freezes and cuts, had some schools force their coaches into furloughs, and even had a few schools post posted losses.

Part Four shows a chart with Gross Receipts, TV Breakdowns, and Revenue Breakdowns.

After reading those four, what are your thoughts on conference expansion?  Should FSU look to join the SEC to avoid getting left in the dust financially?  Or is it wise for FSU to be by far the top dog in the ACC (in football), win a lesser conference, and take advantage of its easier route to the championship?

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