Oxford native ties SEC, new network together
HOOVER, Ala. – The past year has been a very busy one for Oxford native Charlie Hussey.
Last August, just a few weeks after SEC Commissioner Mike Slive announced the decision to create a television network, Hussey was promoted to the position of Associate Commissioner for the SEC Network.
Hussey, who has worked for the SEC since 2000, has been directly involved in marketing and licensing the conference the last few years. He started out dealing with tickets for the various SEC championships and continued on to other projects.
All of that experience led to working with television and some sponsors, and the role of becoming a liaison between ESPN, CBS, the conference office and the 14-member institutions. ESPN owns the SEC Network and Hussey has been heavily involved in the licensing and sponsorship program.
“It’s going great, and we are now just 30 days from launching the network,” Hussey said Tuesday at the Wynfrey Hotel. “That’s a little hard to believe. I’ve kept a sticky note on the side of my door with the countdown to the date, and I keep taking that note down and replacing it. We had triple digits for a long time and then high double digits, and now we’re into the low double digits. It’s reality that it’s coming, but we’re ready and we’re excited.”
“Final touches” is how Hussey described the work he will do the rest of July, and into August. Ole Miss hosts Georgia in women’s soccer on Aug. 22, eight days after the network begins. Hussey said Kentucky will actually play an exhibition game in men’s basketball just before the soccer match, but the matchup between the Rebels and Bulldogs will be the first live conference sporting event ever broadcast on the network.
“Our team worked with the institutions, and it just so happened that Georgia and Ole Miss were able to move a conference match to earlier in the season,” Hussey said. “As such, they will be the first live conference event to originate from a campus in the history of the network. We will launch on August 14th at 6 a.m. (ET) with a show we call SEC Now, which is our version of Sports Center or a nightly news show. Then you will see a heavy dose of classic football games and analysis and whip-arounds and things like that.”
A documentary on Ole Miss’ Chucky Mullins and Vanderbilt’s Brad Gaines will air within the first month of the launch. Last year, The Book of Manning was one of the documentaries completed by ESPN.
“That got great reviews last year, and we have averaged about four documentaries a year,” Hussey said. “We want to continue those as part of the network, and the ones that are producing these are the same individuals that are doing ESPN’s 30 for 30 series. They are done at the highest level.”
Texas A&M will play at South Carolina to open the football slate on the SEC Network, on Thursday, Aug. 28. (The Ole Miss-Boise State contest in Atlanta that same night will air on ESPN.)
A trio of games is scheduled for Saturdays during the football season, and Ole Miss will be a part of the lineup at different times during the season. There will be a two-hour, pre-game show prior to the start of the first game.
Some fans in the South and nation won’t be able to see those games if Comcast and DirecTV don’t pick up the network. Dish Network, AT&T U-Verse and Cox have all decided to carry the network, and Hussey said thereare talks currently going on to add more before the season gets going.
“ESPN is at the table doing the negotiating for us in that regard, and of course they are a great partner and they’ve been in this space for a long time,” Hussey said. “We’re thrilled where we are right now. Cox came on board last week, plus we have Google Fiber and some other smaller cable conglomerates. We are having productive conversations with the major providers. We’re pleased with the progress, and this generally happens with networks. We feel like we have the opportunity to add more folks before the launch.”
The goal of the SEC is to make the conference even more nationally known than it is through the network, and Hussey feels like the content that will be on the network – and the passion of SEC fans – will warrant that.
“The goal is to make sure any SEC fan, anywhere, can get the SEC Network, and we’re not going to stop until we can make that a reality,” said Hussey, who added that his new role doesn’t feel like a job. “I’ve always been a big sports fan and to wake up and have the opportunity to work with 14 great institutions and college athletics in general, it’s a fantastic job. I’ve been fortunate to have the opportunities I’ve had. I pinch myself; it’s a great job.”
Hussey was back in Oxford over the Fourth of July holiday and said he tries to come back and see his parents four or five times a year. He does keep up with how his Oxford Chargers are doing in sports, and he has seen the new high school.
“The new high school is awesome. It looks fantastic, and it’s unbelievable how many schools they have now in Oxford,” said Hussey, who graduated from OHS in 1995 and Ole Miss in 1999. “Oxford is home, and I got to spend some time seeing friends and just relaxing and chilling out. I like to get home as much as I can. This year it’s been few and far between since I’ve spent a lot of my energy getting the SEC Network launched.”