SEC Marches into College Football Playoff Era as 1st Among Equals

Samuel ChiCollege Football Playoff GuruFebruary 13, 2014

ESPN President John Skipper, left, and Southeastern Conference Commissioner Mike Slive address the media during a news conference announcing the launching of the SEC Network in partnership with ESPN, held Thursday, May 2, 2013, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Amis)
John Amis/Associated Press

Without question, the Southeastern Conference was the greatest beneficiary of the BCS era. During that 16-year run between 1998-2013, the SEC became the most successful and powerful conference, not to mention the richest.

To be sure, the BCS was the brainchild of former SEC Commissioner Roy Kramer. After conceiving the idea to allow college football's top two teams to face off, Kramer and his successor, Mike Slive, then took full advantage of the system.

SEC teams won the first BCS championship and nine overall, including seven in a row, until that streak was snapped when Florida State edged Auburn in the final BCS National Championship Game.

In contrast, in the previous 32 years before the BCS—roughly starting with the time when the SEC began to desegregate—the conference won a total of just six titles, including a split championship in 1973.

SEC in BCS Era (1998-2013)
BCS Championship Game (10)*9-2
BCS Bowl Games (26)*17-10
SEC Teams in BCSCG (5)Tennessee, LSU, Florida, Alabama, Auburn
SEC Teams in BCS Bowl Games (7)Georgia, Arkansas
Top SEC teams in BCSFlorida (5-2), Alabama (3-3), LSU (4-1)
* Both 2011 finalists were SEC teams

Beyond the on-field success, the SEC also became the dominant conference after Kramer and Slive made a series of shrewd business decisions. Once a regional conference in an area with relatively few major metropolises, the SEC is now a high-profile brand with national appeal.

The additions of Texas A&M and Missouri in 2012 helped the SEC to expand its footprint into Texas and the Midwest, giving the conference more leverage in (re-)negotiating its television deals. 

The start of the College Football Playoff era will coincide with the launch of the SEC Network this August. The conference also extended its deal with CBS so that it now runs through the 2023 season.

With all the new TV deals in place, USA Today's Steve Berkowitz reports that the take for each member school is estimated to be close to $34 million annually, easily dwarfing all other conferences, including the Big Ten.

SEC Revenue Stream in CFP Era
SourceAnnual payout per school
ESPN & CBS$21.5 million
SEC Network$1.5 million
CFP Postseason$7 million
SEC Championship Game$1 million
NCAA Tournament$3 million
TOTAL$34 million
* Various media sources

The SEC will also make plenty more from the postseason, since USA Today suggests that the CFP annual payout is expected to be around $500 million, with "the lion's share going to power conferences." With the strength of the SEC, it is expected to land multiple bids each yearperhaps two teams in the four-team playoff in some years.

Since the BCS expanded to five games in the 2006 season, the SEC has sent the maximum two teams to BCS bowl games—including both teams in the 2011 championship game—each year.

Since the CFP will not cap conference participation in its six games, however, it's very likely that the SEC will send three or even four teams to the CFP bowls in some years.

Some critics, and other conferences, have complained that the SEC has gained an unfair advantage and became too powerful during the BCS era. In reality, though, the SEC is just getting started. With the dawn of the CFP, you ain't seen nothin' yet.


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