The SEC Needs a Conference Network, and Soon

The Big 12 saga is becoming more hideous by the hour, it seems. The conference has no cohesion, and the multitude of leaks are only making things worse.

First they were going to take West Virginia. The press release was done and the commissioner had plans to go to Morgantown. Then that got put on hold has some members made a push to accept Louisville instead. Word leaked that it was a battle between Texas, who favored WVU, and Oklahoma, who favored Louisville. Then word leaked that it wasn't just those two fighting again and both Big East schools might get invites to get rid of the impasse. While all this was going on, the Big 12 floated news of a conference-wide network earlier this week. Oklahoma was caught off guard because Texas already has a network and OU is planning on one of its own.

Maybe you might contest the notion of Missouri being a good fit for the SEC, but I defy anyone to find fault with the school for trying to get out of that league. It's kind of sad that WVU and Louisville are fighting all the way to the halls of Congress to find a way into the Big 12, but that just tells you how much worse things are in the Big East.

Watching this go on has lead me to this conclusion: the SEC needs a conference-wide network, and it must set one up soon.

Right now, times are better in the SEC than they've ever been. There is no discord among the members, and the two new schools coming aboard (let's face it: Missouri's happening) are overjoyed to be here. From day one, the Big 12 was never as stable as the SEC is now thanks to distrust between Texas and Nebraska.

With all that said, I would hate to see SEC members fight with each other and build up the level of acrimony that we currently see in the Big 12. While the issues in that conference didn't begin with the Longhorn Network (again, Nebraska never really liked Texas from the start), the LHN's existence kicked the dysfunction up several notches. Plus now that Texas has a network, Oklahoma also has to have one to satisfy the president's ego. The chances of ever having a level playing field within the conference, and the trust that comes with that, are gone forever.

As of right now, no one in the SEC has publicly mentioned a desire to start up a private label network. I've said before that I think Florida is the only state in the league (besides Texas, now) with a population large enough to really support one. However Oklahoma has fewer people than any state in the SEC except Mississippi and Arkansas, yet OU is planning to start one. If a school really wants a network as a vanity project, it will apparently start one.

The temptation to create a private label network will always be there if it is a possibility contractually, and it will only grow if the Longhorn Network really pays off the way Texas wants it to. Therefore, the SEC should start up a conference network as soon as possible (i.e. before the LHN turns into a big cash cow) to take away that temptation. The Big Ten has shown that a conference network can be quite lucrative for everyone anyway, and the Pac-12 has shown that you can successfully get contracts in line before you even announce the thing. It's a win all around.

I want to believe the loyalty to the conference is enough to keep harmony reigning and prevent the powerful schools from ever stabbing the less powerful ones in the back (like Texas and Oklahoma tried to do to Iowa State, Baylor, and the Kansas schools). Perhaps it really is in the SEC. However, starting a conference network is the perfect way to ensure that it never becomes an issue and keeps the blight of private label networks away for good.

I'm probably just overreacting to the Big 12 soap opera with this blog post, but college athletics has never been this cutthroat with schools across the country openly trying to pull power plays over each other. I never, ever want to see that happen within the SEC. Not only would the start of a real SEC Network bring a lot of extra income to everyone, it would take that concern away entirely.

Make it happen, Mike Slive.

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