UPDATE 5/21: It's official. He's coming to the SECN.
The lineup of people that Mike Slive got to attend the SEC Network reveal was very impressive. One person was conspicuous in his absence, though, says Michael Smith of the Sports Business Daily:
Also worth noting was who didn’t attend. There was heavy chatter about the absence of Paul Finebaum, the popular Birmingham radio host whose contract recently expired, making him a free agent. The consensus is that Finebaum will play an important role as a personality on the SEC Network.
Now wouldn't that be something. F-baum is one of the most prominent and controversial media folks in SEC country. He can draw an audience, that's for sure, but he's known for then playing that audience like a fiddle. The talk radio world that he's mastered is a very specific kind of sports media. I'm not sure his strengths will fit the overall tone that the conference's leaders will want to set for their new creation.
Then again, ESPN owns all of the network. It has a long history of broadcasting radio shows on television, and Finebaum himself (though not necessarily some of his callers) is kind of tame compared to some of the things that happen on ESPN's First Take. John Infante of Bylaw Blog fame suggested to me a few weeks ago that putting Finebaum's show on the SECN might boost ratings in what is normally a dead time for sports TV, and he's right. Having a three-hour daily program with a popular host in the afternoon would make scheduling a lot easier. ESPN's half of the joint "content committee" might push for him pretty hard.
It's one thing for us to discuss on whether Paul Finebaum would make sense for the SECN. It's another for it to be the consensus among the media folks in the room at the SECN announcement. Finebaum has been off the air for an oddly long time now, and the longer he doesn't have a show, the more speculation about him being on the SEC Network will increase.