Benefits hot topic at SEC meetings



By Parrish Alford

Daily Journal

DESTIN, Fla. – Though the biggest names among cable television providers have not embraced the coming of the SEC Network, conference commissioner Mike Slive has proclaimed the network available to everyone.

All you have to do is switch to Dish. Or to ATT U-verse.

The SEC Network isn’t the biggest agenda item at the annual business meetings of the Southeastern Conference.

That goes to the restructuring discussion of the NCAA, which would allow greater freedom for the five power conferences – the SEC, ACC, Big 12, Big 10 and Pac-12.

When that picture clears up – perhaps late this summer – change will occur swiftly and expanding the benefits of a student-athlete’s scholarship will be the first dominos to fall.

What is commonly referred to as “full cost of attendance” was the biggest item Slive addressed with football and basketball coaches on Tuesday.

The meetings will continue through the week and will conclude with votes by the presidents on Friday.

SEC football coaches have pursued the benefits question before.

“Think back to other Destins, and how the coaches have come out with proposals to increase the benefits for student athletes. They have a great deal of satisfaction in that we’ve caught up with them. That’s one way of thinking about it,” Slive said.

The NCAA has presented a model of what autonomy for the larger leagues might look like.

Conference in officials in the SEC and elsewhere are preparing their responses. The NCAA board of governors will vote in August.

“We talk like we’re near the end, but it’s not over. We’re all optimistic and positive about the direction this is headed,” Mississippi State athletics director Scott Stricklin said.

It’s possible that sweeping change could be announced in January.

World’s watching?

There’s no guarantee that all cable providers will have the SEC Network by then.

Talks are ongoing with the biggest names in the business, such as Comcast, Slive said, but fans across the conference should not be surprised if August rolls around, and they can’t see their favorite team when it’s assigned to the fledgling network.

“We remain optimistic that at some point in time we’ll have full distribution. It’s unrealistic to think we’ll have full distribution at the time that we launch on Aug. 14,” Slive said.

Conference officials have expressed optimism for the number of households who will be able to view the SEC Network on Aug. 14.

Even without full distribution, Slive says the SEC Network is “available to everyone.”

That’s true, as long as many consumers are willing to make a change.

“With ATT U-verse and Dish, we can say that the network is available to everybody. If your provider does not provide the network, if you switch to Dish you’ve got the network. That’s the message to fans and consumers,” Slive said.

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