Who wants to see an undefeated team? Anyone?
TCU has been one of the model citizens of the non-Big Six conferences this decade. They have been a consistent winner under Gary Patterson. The athletics budget has almost doubled in the past five years, growing from $21.1 million to $43.3 million. That puts them at the top of the MWC in terms of finances. They even have a certified star in the NFL in LaDanian Tomlinson. All they're missing is the validation of earning a BCS bid that Utah and Boise State have gotten.
That, and a full-sized fan base. TCU is undefeated and has been in the top ten for a while, but the Frogs can't sell out their 44,088 seat stadium. They're averaging less than 35,000 fans at each home game despite the recent success and being right next to the major Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area. By comparison, Mississippi State is averaging over 52,000 fans per game despite going through a clear rebuilding cycle and being located in Starkville, Mississippi.
The lowest drawing team in the SEC is Vanderbilt, and they're getting about two thousand more fans to games than TCU does. This is why the AQ conferences get preference in bowl bids. Outside the Big Six, only BYU averages more than 50,000 fans at home games and the next highest is Utah, who is selling out its 45,000 seat stadium. The Utes might draw 50K if they had the capacity, but we don't know if they can since they don't have the seats. In order to get on the same level as the AQ conferences, the biggest mid majors need to act as though they were in one both in terms of infrastructure and attendance averages.
Speaking of economics...
There have been some grumbles about the SEC contract with ESPN. Everything but the CBS game of the week gets passed through the filter of Bristol, Connecticut. Games get bumped to ESPNU, which almost no one actually gets. We have to sit through Andre Ware pretending to understand the conference once a week.
For all its drawbacks, you can't complain about the money whatsoever. Just about every conference game gets on TV, which means just about every game results in TV money. That helps out the budgets of the non-marquee schools and anyone who isn't that interesting during a down period. Compare that to the Pac-10, which has perhaps the worst TV contracts of any Big Six conference. The bad TV agreements mean that Washington State, while wallowing through its rebuilding years, gets a paltry sum of TV money compared with its conference brethren.
Whoever is big during a season will always get more money, but the have nots of any particular year in the SEC don't fall as far behind from a TV money standpoint as they do in some other leagues. That is without a doubt a plus.
Are we over it, or do we just not care about K-State?
Remember when any time a football player got a cough, coaches proclaimed that the flu was going through their program and it made big headlines? It seems like it was only a month ago.
Obviously, we must be over the whole flu thing because the leader of the Big 12 North division has the flu going through it. Then again, Kansas State is leading the Big 12 North, so maybe it's just that no one much cares about what goes on in Manhattan, Kansas.
In any other circumstances, maybe.
Normally when a player gets arrested in the middle of the week leading up to a rivalry game, it would be a big distraction for the team. In the case of Vince Vance and his lack of driver's license charge, I'm not so sure it will be. I'd guess that Vance has known at least a dozen teammates who have been similarly arrested during their stays at UGA. I mean, given the zealous enforcement policies of the Athens PD, getting a minor traffic violation is practically a rite of passage for Bulldog football players.
This one, especially since Vance won't be suspended, is a non-factor for the game on Saturday.
Probably not a coincidence.
I've alluded to this in a comment on a previous post around here somewhere, but I think it's worth another mention. I don't think it's an accident that the three coaches who have received reprimands from the SEC for criticizing the officials are in their second, first, and first years of tenure in the conference, respectively.
Bobby Johnson (in his seventh year) was able to word his criticism carefully enough to avoid a nastygram from the conference. Some other veteran coaches of the league (Saban, Spurrier, and now Houston Nutt too) have defended the conference's refs. Bobby Petrino, who has more head coaching experience than just his couple years in Fayetteville, has now publicly apologized for his comments.
Ripping refs wins you brownie points with your fans, but in the long run, it's best to stay on your conference commissioner's good side. Every coach, regardless of tenure, will go after the zebras every now and then and put themselves in jeopardy of a reprimand. However, when the world is getting on the conference's back about the refs, the savvy vets are the ones coming to the SEC's defense. That's probably not a coincidence.