A New Deal

The increased revenue for Southeastern Conference athletics programs, with the announcement of the agreements between the SEC and ESPN and also the SEC and CBS, helps every school in the league.

More than 5,500 SEC events on ESPN entities over the next 15 years will make sure the conference is in the forefront of the nation's TVs and homes, and it will also be a tremendous financial boost to every one of the 12 institutions.

The 2009 season marks the beginning of a new 15-year, $2.25 billion contract with ESPN, which coincides with a 15-year, $825 million deal with CBS. Some predictions have each SEC school earning $17 million per year due to the new deals.

Ole Miss athletics director Pete Boone said there are a number of areas this additional money will help.

"It's going to allow programs to make sure they are doing all they need to do from a facilities standpoint," he said. "Make sure the maintenance on all of the facilities is current every year. Sometimes if it's a tough fiscal year, you tend to put something off that you really ought to do. This will help make sure that gets done. It makes sure your cash flow and all of your debt that many have increased over the years in building these facilities, it will make sure you've got the proper reserves for that. So it goes without saying, this is a very healthy opportunity for us."

It's also coming at a good time economically.

"Costs are going up," Boone said. "Travel is going up. To the same extent that individuals are feeling the pain of the economy, we feel that as an athletics department. Because we spend so much money in travel, so much money in food, so much money in hotels. And coaches' salaries continue to go up. The expenses do not cease. They continue to go up in double-digit percentages. This (TV) money is coming in at a very beneficial time."

Boone said he wants the additional money to help solidify Ole Miss' athletics financial situation and make it stronger.

"This is our opportunity to really put Ole Miss athletics in a sound fiscal position, a stronger fiscal position than we're already in," he said. "However, who knows what the future is with regard to the economy? With regard to salaries? With regard to costs? That being the big unknown, this is coming at a very good time for us."

Boone said the new TV contract will obviously help football but will also be a big lift for basketball.

"Of the six BCS conferences, the SEC was sixth in national coverage," he said of basketball. "We will now be first overnight. We will have the broadest coverage of nationwide broadcast games of any of the six. That's what this has also done for us."

Other sports, like baseball and the spring sports or "Olympic" sports, will also see increased TV coverage as a result of the SEC-ESPN marriage.

One of Boone's challenges? Keeping the fans coming to games and not staying home to watch since so many opportunities are there now to do so.

"Obviously we have to win," he said. "People have to feel like their team is going to win the game, whatever team it is. You will have a base that will come (no matter what). They'll always be there. But generally speaking, fans want to support a team and go to a game they feel they will win.

"Another thing is we always want to find the hot buttons, like the new video board (last year at football) with the gameday experience. So when you come to the game you've got the Grove. You've got the things that Ole Miss folks do throughout the weekend in Oxford. That's all part of the experience. But when they are in the stadium, what kind of experience are they having? So we look at everything and try to find the things that fit. Some may work and some may not work. Sometimes you have to try things to see what's best. It's all about trying to create the best gameday experience."

The new revenue from the TV contract will allow universities of the SEC, of which Ole Miss is a charter member, to be able to create that type situation even more to its liking. And to make sure the fiscal future is solid.

"When this infusion of money from the TV contract became evident (several months ago) that it was going to be significant," Boone said, "that's when I went to the Chancellor (Khayat) and said this is the time now that we need to make sure Ole Miss athletics is prepared for the next decade."

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