April 4th, 2014
The news that DISH Network had paired with Disney to bring college football fans the ESPN SEC Network has set the college football world on high alert for this upcoming season. The nations most popular conference (winning six of the last seven national titles and countless awards and embarrassing losses for the Big10), will be just a click away for fans who follow the most prestigious conference in college sport.
The SEC Network and its accompanying digital platform will air more than 1,000 live events in its first year, including at least 45 exclusive SEC football games, more than 100 menâ€™s basketball games, 60 womenâ€™s basketball games, 75 baseball games, 50 softball games and events across all of the SECâ€™s 21-sports. The network will be an all-access pass to nationally competitive events, news and information, expert analysis, classic games and in-depth features on the most storied conference in college athletics.
The move is certainly exciting for Dish customers and fans who can now get the network when and wherever they please, but it also represents the larger movements within college football that are shaping the entire foundation of the sport, and it’s something both diehard fans and casual observers should pay attention to.
First, the move to network channels has paralleled an absolute explosion in money in college sports. While the antiquated notion amateur status has eroded over the last decade or two, the TV contact explosion has set that path on high speed in the last 5-7 years. Â This of course is already more or less leading to that old model of college sports all together. BUT, the more interesting aspect might be the de facto delineation of power to the individual conferences themselves, something that could honestly spell more doom for the NCAA as a whole.
The conference realignment has led to bigger conferences and the uprooting of traditional rivalries and team relationships, but that doesn’t scare the NCAA. What terrifies that organization (or at least it should) is the potential for the “power” five conferences (ACC, Big10, SEC, Pac12, Big12) to break apart from the NCAA entirely. (The Texas Longhorns might get their own.)
Essentially, the fate of the NCAA and it’s control on college athletics (and however that may look) could come down to whether they can weather the storm of out of control profits from the power conferences that could eventually revolt.
The advent of the new network system and their over-the-top nature makes the situation perfect for fans and something they should be excited about. What makes the move even more interesting, however, is the side show between the NCAA and conferences, and fans should just sit back and enjoy the ride.