DESTIN, Fla. - At this time last year, the SEC was pondering whether to start its own TV network.
Television again will be the primary topic as the league opens a four-day run of its annual spring business meetings here today at the Sandestin Beach Hilton. But this time, the talk will be how the conference will implement the extensive and lucrative new TV contracts it has signed with CBS and ESPN that take effect starting in the upcoming football season.
While those 15-year contracts were signed last August - CBS for $800 million and ESPN for a mind-blowing $2.25 billion - the best news came late last week when it was announced Comcast and DirectTV were picking up ESPNU and ESPN360.
That was huge for SEC viewers. ESPN wants to use every one of its outlets, even ESPN Mobile TV (live games shown on mobile phones), to telecast conference football, men's basketball and women's basketball, as well as increased exposure for Olympic sports.
SEC commissioner Mike Slive has said every football game involving an SEC team, whether it's league play or non-conference, will be televised, starting with the 12:30 p.m. ET game previously telecast to nine states by Raycom. Now, the 12:30 game will be done by ESPN Regional and will have the capability to be shown nationwide.
Also, each SEC school can reserve one game a year for a pay-per-view showing.
"We are about to become the most widely distributed conference in the country," Slive said.
Not to mention the richest. It is expected this year, the SEC will distribute a record $130 million or more in revenue to its members. Next year at this time, with the new TV contracts starting in the fall, that total should increase by $100 million.
Because of TV and the SEC's reputation as the nation's most powerful athletic conference, Slive reportedly will have pointed discussions with the league football and basketball coaches during these meetings.
Though he realizes the SEC is extremely competitive, he hasn't been fond of coaches trash-talking at booster clubs and in the media. He reprimanded new Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin almost immediately on national signing day in February after Kiffin said at a booster club signing-day rally in Knoxville that Florida coach Urban Meyer tried to cheat in attempting to sign recruit Nu'Keese Richardson.
Slive will remind the football coaches if they have a problem with each other, they should resolve it out of the watchful eye of the media or through the conference office.
This will be Kiffin's first SEC business meeting, his initial face-to-face with Meyer and several other coaches he has jabbed publicly.
Besides Kiffin, this is the first league meeting for new football coaches Dan Mullen of Mississippi State and Gene Chizik of Auburn, and new men's basketball coaches John Calipari of Kentucky, Anthony Grant of Alabama and Mark Fox of Georgia.
With the SEC getting just three men's basketball teams in the NCAA tournament - and the league would have had just two if Mississippi State hadn't been the surprise winner of the SEC tournament to get the automatic NCAA bid - Slive will advise men's basketball coaches to upgrade non-conference schedules.
This past season, Slive finished his term as chairman of the NCAA men's basketball tournament selection committee. It didn't help the SEC that the majority of league teams didn't have high RPIs that would have boosted their chances for at-large bids.