State Cashing In On Record $EC Revenue

As if spending a late-May week on the beach wasn’t pleasant enough for Scott Stricklin. The Bulldog athletics boss returns with a very nice addition to Mississippi State’s sports budget. Very, very nice.

With the annual SEC spring meetings concluding, the league confirmed Friday afternoon all conference schools will receive over $31 million. Each. This comes from the conference’s stated total 2014-15 revenues of almost $456 million.

Both figures are records, which is no surprise to anyone familiar with the ever-growing clout of the Southeastern Conference and other ‘power five’ leagues. The impressive fact for ’15 is just how far the fiscal markers have moved. In 2014 the league handed out just under $21 million to the 14 SEC schools.

Put another way, this year’s single check to one school is larger than the SEC’s entire revenues in 1992. SEC revenues come from bowl game payouts, including the new College Football Playoffs; the league's own Championship Game; from broadcast contracts for football and basketball; from the NCAA basketball tournament; and the new SEC Network. These revenues do not include what separate schools earn on their own from tickets, donors, media deals, and so on.

Thirty years ago the entire league’s revenues were $9.3 million divided among ten schools and the SEC Office.

SEC revenue only hit $20 million in 1991. But by 1995 the dollars had doubled to $40.3 million, reflecting not only the 1992 (for 1993 disbursement) additions of South Carolina and Arkansas as well as the growing impact of network contracts for football and basketball. Also, the old Bowl Championship Series—engineered largely by former conference commissioner Roy Kramer—proved a boon to the SEC above any other league with multiple participants most years in the major bowls. By 2003 the conference had surpassed the nine-figure threshold at $101.9 million.

The greatest year-to-year leap though came in 2010. After collecting $132.5 million in 2009, the next year’s collections exploded to $209 million. That of course reflected the huge influx of cash from new SEC deals with CBS and ESPN…deals which at the time startled fans nationally and forced other leagues to look for comparable, if possible, arrangements. It also expedited beginnings of conference-dedicated networks by the Big Ten and others.

Though SEC fans got a little frustrated, the league was deliberate in planning, organizing, and ultimately debuting the SEC Network last summer. Combined with the new College Football Playoff structure, in which three SEC schools participated this year, league revenue now tops $455 million.

Mississippi State did its part contributing to conference coffers this fiscal year. Coach Dan Mullen's Bulldogs won a regular-season record ten games, spent five weeks ranked #1 in the nation, and played in the Orange Bowl as part of the inaugural CFP.

The $19 million difference between revenue and 14-school payouts is the combined cash that stayed with the dozen football teams which played in bowl games. Only Kentucky and Vanderbilt ended with losing records in 2014.

This spring’s meetings in Destin also served as the ‘hand over’ of commissioner duties from retiring Mike Slive (2002-15) to Greg Sankey. The new league head honcho is a popular promotion, not least with the Mississippi State administration. He formally assumes the post June 1 though Slive is not officially retiring until July 31.

Dawgs’ Bite will be trying to arrange a talk with Stricklin next week to review the SEC meetings, discuss MSU subjects such as record-setting season football ticket sales and the planned new baseball stadium, and other items.

The athletic director should certainly still be in a fine fiscal mood, after all.

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