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Would the SEC Benefit Monetarily If Ole Miss Disappeared?

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After reading Mike Bianchi's blog post today for the Orlando Sentinel that the SEC should expand through contraction and drop Ole Miss and Mississippi State, no one would blame the Ole Miss blogger for going to a George Bailey-like place in their mind.  Split the money 10 ways instead of 12.  Put that way, it's an interesting question.  Put this way:

The SEC should do things more like the Big XII (-II).

it sounds like Bianchi is a certified lunatic.

But is it true?

First, why Mississippi State and Ole Miss?  Bianchi asserts that the two Magnolia State schools contribute nothing to SEC revenue, the lion's share of which comes from football on television deals and bowl revenues (about $150 million in 2009).  Dan Beebe, we are reminded, lost two "name schools" in Colorado and Nebraska, but expects to have the same amount of television revenue split between the remainders, meaning a net gain for everyone who stuck around.  There is no way, Bianchi tells us that, ESPN would say, "Without the Egg Bowl our deal is off!"  He did not say it, but we are sure Bianchi meant to remind us that because the fan base is split between the Rebels and Bulldogs, we (I use the "Mississippi" we here) have the smallest "fan base" from which to pull, except for Vanderbilt, which has practically no sidewalk fans.  If we assume a "Big 6," which is only reasonable, Bianchi spares the other members of the "small 6" (Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Arkansas, South Carolina) this analysis.

 

Why does he do that?  IDFK!  The easy answer (probably the one Bianchi would give) is bigger stadium, bigger stadium, books, and basketball.  But that doesn't fit neatly into Bianchi's "all about business" rationale for this little hypothetical.  Here's why:  First, when Ole Miss goes bowling, it performs as well as any other SEC team in terms of eyeballs.  The 2009 and 2010 Cotton Bowls achieved ratings of 4.5 and 4.4, respectively, outperforming all SEC bowls except, predictably, the BCS Bowls and the Capital One Bowl.  The Outback Bowl, on equal footing in terms of selection priority with the Cotton Bowl, has performed below the Cotton Bowl with Auburn in 2010 and South Carolina in 2009.  Second, in the last ten years under the CBS contract (four of which were uncomfortably awful for the Rebels), Ole Miss has been in the coveted "game of the week" spot 12 times.  Florida, Alabama, LSU, Georgia, and Tennesse outperform all others with 30+ games (Florida has 47!), but "Big 6" school Auburn (22) is closer to Ole Miss than it is Georgia (35) or LSU (35).  Full disclosure:  Arkansas leads "small 6" schools at 20 appearances.  The Rebs' 12 ranks 8th. 

Bianchi could take those numbers and say that UK is necessary because of basketball and Vanderbilt is necessary for our academic reputation.  But what does that have to do with business?  The revenue the conference makes off of basketball is about $35 million, negligible compared to what it makes off of football.  And, seriously, we're the SEC; our academic reputation is not something that gives us the night sweats.  He cannot explain how the Gamecocks get the free pass over the Rebels. 

Wouldn't excising Mississippi cost us the multi-million dollar conference championship game?  Yes.  Next question.

Did he say anything else that makes his idea sound reasonable?  Not really.  Though, he did break with journalistic professionalism by defending his own piece in the comments section with this gem:

I would say that UCF — the third largest university in the country within the 19th-ranked TV market, would be more valuable to the SEC than Mississippi schools.

Wait?  Where is UCF located again?  Oh, right.  He is accurate, though.  Rutgers, Houston, et. al. prove that being in a big market puts eyeballs on the screen.

Was this all a big joke?  Maybe.  I'm not sure.  He can't be very serious with the suggestion that the SEC would be better off with Central Florida.  But, if it is, it's just some more of the same kind of stereotypical regional hate that gets the whole conference mad when someone from the Big 10 (+2) does it.  And, if it's not, putting aside all the talk about traditions, wins and losses, rivalries, culture, etc., Bianchi offers nothing besides preconceived notions to support his belief that the SEC would be better off without the Magnolia State.  Plus, how much good would it do?  Florida's athletic budget in 2009-2010 was $91 million.  If you split Ole Miss and State's combined haul of about $34.6 million between 10 schools, that means the Gators get another three and a half mil, or, in Florida terms, about two bits.

So, if it's a joke, it's a dumb one based on the types of prejudices that SEC fans do and should get pissed about.  And, if it's not a joke, it is based on faulty logic and little real reward.