All That and a Bag of Mail

It’s Friday. Hope you guys all had a great week and hope you also have a fantastic weekend planned.

Go get your bets in this weekend if you live in Tennessee, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, West Virginia, & Colorado. Plus, if you live in Michigan and Virginia you can now go get signed up, and the minute sports gambling goes live in your state — which should be very soon — you’ll be ready to roll. Right now, you can get up to a $1000 free bet. So go get signed up today.

Okay, here we go with your mailbag questions:

Marcus writes:

“With the SEC’s newly announced TV deal with ESPN set to generate around 6x the TV revenue the SEC received from CBS, do you think there’s a chance the league would consider kicking Vandy out of the conference and replacing them with a school in a non-SEC state? I have heard some of the other schools are frustrated that Vandy doesn’t re-invest their SEC check back into their football program to the level needed to be competitive, and with that check now set to become substantially larger, I could see the desire to either re-allocate those dollars to the other programs or replace them with another school who will help grow the pot.

You have talked at length about the TV deals and how adding teams in a new state is important to cable packages. The league already has two teams in Tennessee, so eliminating Vandy would make sense. Additionally, with Notre Dame looking more and more likely to join the ACC in the future and the SEC’s desire to add another state to their footprint, it would make sense if one of the North Carolina schools jumped ship for the SEC. I think it would be hard for UNC or Duke to leave the ACC, but NC State or Wake Forest might entertain the offer and would be a net positive for both the SEC (swapping Vandy for a school with a new TV footprint) and the ACC (swapping a school that doesn’t shrink their footprint and replacing a massive brand in Notre Dame). What do you think, is this a possibility?”

First, for those who don’t know, in a few years the SEC will begin to receive $300 million a year from Disney/ESPN/ABC for the SEC game of the week package that CBS currently airs. Those games will be moving to ABC instead of CBS beginning in 2024 at the latest.

Presently, the SEC makes $55 million a year from CBS, and the refusal of CBS to extend the SEC’s TV deal back when Texas A&M and Missouri were added to the conference will go down in sports TV history as one of the most boneheaded decisions of all time. The SEC wanted CBS to do what ESPN did — increase the rights fee on a per capita basis from 12 to 14 teams, so a $55 million a year deal would have gone to around $65 million a year — and extend the commitment to the conference by increasing rights fees in the years ahead. To ESPN’s credit, they signed a twenty year deal with the SEC when that expansion occurred and announced the SEC Network as well. The SEC’s partnership with ESPN now extends to 2033-34.

But CBS balked at any rights fee increase, which set the table for the SEC to walk away and sign with ESPN.

So, again, this is one of the all time bungles in TV history. CBS, if they’d just been smart, would have the SEC locked up for nearly 14 more years to come. Instead, they just have three years left on their deal, and they’re left with a massive hole in their programming schedule.

Second, the SEC isn’t going to kick anyone out of the conference. It just isn’t going to happen. Leaving aside the incredible legal complexities which render it nearly impossible, it would create a monstrous schism in the conference, which values collegiality and mutual respect. The only way a school would leave the SEC is if a school decided to leave the conference, but the chances of that happening, given the current financial situation, are virtually zero. (To be fair, a school being kicked out of a conference hasn’t happened in any major conference in my lifetime, I don’t think. If a school decides to leave — like Nebraska, Colorado, Missouri, Texas A&M, Syracuse, Maryland, Pittsburgh, Louisville, West Virginia, and Rutgers, among others, have elected to do — that’s one thing, but being kicked out is another entirely. I just don’t see it happening anywhere.)

Third, and this is a business reality I think many have missed, the rationale for conference expansion is no longer new markets in new states. Why has that changed? Because the existing cable industry is collapsing. In 2012, there were 100 million cable and satellite subscribers. By 2025, there may be 50 million cable and satellite subscribers. The only way conference networks can continue to exist as viable business models is by increasing the rights fees the customers pay and making the content they offer even more valuable. (After all, look at the streaming offerings out there. People are signing up for them because they love the content options. If anything, the quality of content offerings matters more now than it ever has before, whether you’re talking about cable or streaming).

By 2034, when the SEC’s deal with ESPN is set to expire, it’s unlikely that a conference network would still be a cable property exclusively at all. It’s likely that everything would be digital. (This is why the SEC is dipping their toe in the ESPN+ game programming option. I’ll write on this at some point in the future, but my prediction is SEC fans are going to lose their minds when they realize their favorite team is on a streaming service. Many of the SEC fans, let’s be honest, aren’t that sophisticated technologically. For instance, I have no idea how my dad would ever figure out how to stream a Tennessee football game on ESPN+. He just wants to be able to sit down and turn on his TV and find every game that way.)

But what I think has already happened is the Big Ten’s decision to add, for instance, Rutgers, has been blown up in a big way by the collapse of the cable and satellite bundle. Instead what will matter for conferences going forward isn’t new markets, it’s quality of brand. So, for instance, if the SEC were going to expand, it would make the most sense to add schools like Texas or Oklahoma, I think, over schools like N.C. State and Virginia Tech. That’s not to cast aspersions on those schools, just that the argument to add new states to add revenue is dying as a viable business model, and I think what will be left behind is the teams with the largest and most valuable brands are the ones that will retain the most value.

The value of existing brands will matter more than the value of new markets.

(To be fair to the Big Ten, this was their expansion play with Nebraska. The Cornhusker TV market never justified their inclusion, it was always the brand of Nebraska football that made sense for the Big Ten.)

So how does that play out as the Big 12 deal, for instance, comes up for renegotiation in the next couple of years? I think schools like Texas and Oklahoma would have options to go elsewhere, but I’m not sure any other Big 12 school would have those same options.

And I have no idea what Texas and Oklahoma will want to do.

But those are the schools to pay attention to.

Matt writes:

“Could 2021 be a more frustrating year than 2020, in terms of extended school closures, crowd restrictions, and just all around idiocy?”

I think by June, the pandemic issues will be over, so I don’t think 2021 will be more frustrating than 2020.

By that, I mean pretty much anyone at real risk of dying with COVID — not of, with, remember that most people are dying with COVID and several other comorbidities not entirely of the virus alone — will be vaccinated, and we’ll have moved on to the latest fear porn the media can concoct.

That’s when Joe Biden’s pledge to restore normalcy will really be put to the test.

Is that really true, or is he going to be talking about packing the Supreme Court, which I believe would be one of the most contentious battles of our lives?

The other thing that’s a significant issue going forward is how much COVID has accelerated a geographic re-sorting of people based on their politics. What I think that may lead to is red states becoming redder and blue states becoming bluer. That is, people who have conservative or libertarian tendencies are fed up with New York and California and are relocating elsewhere in the country, frequently to states with more conservative, pro-business climates.

One of the really interesting things to follow going forward is how that creates a federalism dynamic at play. States may become more different in their policies than they are similar. And what impact does that create on our national unity? Could we see a reversion to people being more loyal to their states than they are to the country as a whole?

But, on the sports front, by next football season, let’s say, I think we’ll be back to full stadiums and some degree of normalcy there.

If things aren’t normal in the country in the second half of 2021, it won’t be because of COVID.

JWhittle writes:

“What would you do if you were the AD at the University of Tennessee based on our current football situation and the state of the program?”

I’d probably move on from Jeremy Pruitt, assuming Tennessee finishes 3-7 this season.

Why would I make that decision?

I just don’t see the third year trajectory I need to see to believe that Tennessee is poised to be back in the top half of SEC programs for the next several years. Maybe that will change based on what I see against Vanderbilt or Texas A&M — certainly beating the Aggies would be a monumental win for Jeremy Pruitt — but presuming the most likely outcome happens, Tennessee beats Vandy and loses to A&M, then I’m not sure how sitting at 3-7 with a bowl game on the horizon convinces me that things are going to be a ton better in 2021 than they were in 2020.

Put simply, there’s no way Tennessee should have lost to Kentucky or Arkansas, much less lost to both teams by double digits. Beat those two teams and Tennessee goes 5-5 on the year. Still not a good season by any means, but the definition of average. Five wins should have been, in my opinion, the floor for Tennessee this season.

The one bit of good news for next season is that their three out of conference games announced so far are Bowling Green, Pittsburgh and South Alabama. (I’d guess the Vols will probably add another not-that-great team to try to lock in a decent shot at four out of conference wins.) It seems like a total collapse would be hard to manage when things go back to an eight game SEC season, and you’ve got those four teams on the schedule plus Vanderbilt, Kentucky, Missouri, and South Carolina, all of whom shouldn’t be very good in 2021. Even with your usual trio of losses to Alabama, Florida and Georgia, 8-4 looks doable.

The larger issue here, however, is: when in recent history can you point me to a coach who didn’t have a good third season, and he then came back and had a great fourth, fifth and sixth season and everyone ends up rejoicing that they didn’t fire a coach after that third season? I really can’t think of any example of this happening. That doesn’t mean it can’t happen. It just means there’s no evidence out there for it right now.

I mean, Pruitt hasn’t been a disaster. He’s just been mediocre.

By year three, you know whether you’ve got the right guy in charge.

And it seems to me there is ample evidence now that Pruitt isn’t the right guy.

Cole writes:

“Will the Cyclones win a conference title for the first time in 108 years?”

I really hope so, it would be a fabulous story to see that happen.

I love to see long suffering fan bases rewarded with new heights of accomplishment. In fact, I like seeing that far more than I like seeing the same teams that have been winning for decades continue to win.

Having said that, I’d bet on Oklahoma if I had to pick a winner in the Big 12 title game.

Steve writes:

“Do Ohio State or USC really deserve consideration for the playoff when they’ve played 3-4 less games than everyone else? I think UF, Clemson, the Big 12 champ, or A&M would all be more deserving. Whatever happened to ‘additional data points?'”

It is funny that, for several years, Notre Dame has been criticized for playing 12 instead of 13 games. And now Ohio State is going to play six games instead of Notre Dame’s 11, and no one is losing their minds over this.

I’d certainly take note of this and put it in my back pocket if I were Notre Dame.

I agree with you in general here — the more games you play, the better a read you have on any team. Alabama, if the Tide finishes 11-0, will be, in my mind, the most deserving college football conference champion ever. Because Alabama will have played 11 games in the SEC, something that has never happened before in the history of the conference.

The same thing will be true of Clemson or Notre Dame.

It is fascinating, honestly, how no one is talking about USC, who if they beat UCLA, will finish 5-0 and advance to the Pac-12 Championship Game just like Ohio State will be 5-0 and advance to the Big Ten title game. They will have the exact same records and achievement on the season, yet Ohio State is in the playoff mix and no one is even discussing USC.

I’ll write about this on Sunday morning in the Starting 11, but there are, in my mind, six teams that will take four playoff spots.

Alabama, Florida, Texas A&M, Clemson, Notre Dame, and Ohio State are those six teams.

And if I were betting on what the final playoff teams and seeding will look like, I’d go with: 1. Alabama 2. Clemson 3. Ohio State 4. Notre Dame

I think the committee will avoid a third game between Notre Dame and Clemson and will instead give us a rematch of last year’s Ohio State-Clemson game. Then you know Alabama-Notre Dame would rate exceptionally well, so that’s what I’d bet on things looking like.

Howie writes:

“Why can hundreds of people gather inside Walmarts and Targets across our land but CAN’T to go to high school gyms to watch their sons/daughters play?”

Because everyone knows no one gets COVID in Walmart and Target, silly!

The reality is, of course, because of the absurd “essential and nonessential” business metric that has been created by our government. The result is we’ve actually created a situation where we encourage every single household to go to the EXACT SAME INDOOR RETAILER.

I mean, think about this for a minute. Is there any better way to spread a virus than to require every household in a community to go to the exact same place?

It’s madness, pure and unadulterated madness.

I feel bad for anyone living in the most draconian shutdown states. I’d be losing my mind.

Because my life hasn’t really changed that much, to be honest.

Last night, I went out to dinner with my wife at an indoor restaurant. This morning, all three of our kids went to school in person, as they have for the entire semester. As soon as I finish this mailbag, I will head to my gym for a workout. And then after that, I’ll head out to dinner again, probably. Then tomorrow morning, I’ll take my middle son to his basketball game and watch it in person in an indoor arena, which has been a rough approximation of my schedule for months now.

And I’ll be fine doing all of this.

But many of you reading this right now can’t do any of this in your cities and states.

Which is absolute insanity to me.

I’ve never been more glad to live in Franklin, Tennessee than I am right now. So much so, honestly, that I’m not sure I’ll ever move out of this county for the rest of my life.

Muppet writes:

“In light of the obvious Hunter Biden coverup, which is one of many this year, can the media be considered anything other than propaganda now?”

It’s absolutely shameful that the “mainstream” media covered up the Hunter Biden story before the election.

I mean, there’s no defending it at all.

I put the word “mainstream” in quotation marks because it wasn’t all the media that ignored it. It was all the left-leaning media.

After four years of accusing Donald Trump and his family of colluding with Russia, despite minimal evidence of wrongdoing, the same media refused to cover Joe Biden’s family’s potential criminal behavior with China and Ukraine. Think about it for a moment: the Biden family is accused of doing with China and Ukraine, with credible evidence, what the media spent four years accusing Trump and his family of with Russia, with virtually no evidence.

It’s hypocrisy on a monumental level.

But the larger issue here is that the media refused to cover the Hunter Biden story because they didn’t want to harm Joe Biden’s presidential campaign. If they had done their job and covered Biden’s allegations as aggressively as they covered Trump’s allegations, then it’s highly likely Trump would have won the election.

Why do I believe that?

Because Trump lost in 2020, based on current vote tallies, by around 40,000 votes out of over 150 million votes cast. That’s it. Flip roughly 20,000 votes, and he’s re-elected.

Do you think if the media had covered the Hunter Biden story — and Joe Biden’s alleged involvement in that story as well — as aggressively as they covered the Russia allegations against Trump, do you think 20,000 people in Georgia, Wisconsin, and Arizona, might have changed their votes?

I do.

Worse than that, they didn’t just refuse to cover this story. Twitter and Facebook actively censored reporting from the New York Post about Hunter Biden that now appears to be 100% accurate. Even worse than that, they called the story Russian disinformation.

So major tech companies in this country, in collusion with major media companies, actively worked to suppress the distribution of news that was harmful to their preferred presidential candidate. This means the media, which spent four years accusing Trump of Russian collusion, actually colluded with big tech companies to legitimately rig the election in favor of their preferred candidate.

I mean, this is terrifying behavior. The media, the people who consider themselves to be the watchdogs of the powerful in this country, actively engaged in a disinformation and propaganda campaign for Joe Biden. That’s a complete repudiation of what the media’s role should be in this country. The media and big tech companies censored the American public from being exposed to the truth. It’s shameful.

I think there should be investigations opened into this collusion so the American public can see what the media did with this story and how much coordination there was between big tech companies and the media to ensure this censorship existed.

It’s imperative that this collusion be exposed for all to see.

Wingsew:

“Why do you continue to ignore Trump and other Republicans’ ridiculous, anti-democracy attempts to overturn the election?”

First, I haven’t ignored it, I’ve written about the election lawsuits for weeks on OutKick. I said over a month ago, on November 6th, that I didn’t believe the Supreme Court would get involved in the election and that I expected Joe Biden to be sworn in as our next president. I still believe that.

Second, it’s not anti-democracy to file lawsuits if you believe there is evidence of improprieties in our election. That’s what candidates who believe there were illegalities in elections should do. It’s what Al Gore did in 2000, and it’s what countless politicians have done since, including many Democrats this year in close congressional elections.

Heck, it’s what Democrats spent the past four years doing to Trump.

Democrats spent four years arguing that Trump had colluded with Russia to rig the election and that was why he was president. That’s the very essence of anti-democracy behavior. Democrats have even lionized former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, who refused to ever concede the Georgia governor’s election in 2018 despite the fact that she lost by 50,000 votes, more than Trump lost the entire presidential election by. (A change of 40,000 votes would flip Wisconsin, Arizona and Georgia and give us a 269-269 electoral college tie, which would have led to the House of Representatives picking Trump as president.)

So I don’t understand how Democrats can call Stacey Abrams a hero for arguing that her gubernatorial election, which wasn’t that close in the grand scheme of things, was stolen and call Trump anti-democracy for challenging his own closer loss in the courts.

I expect Joe Biden to be inaugurated on January 20th, but if Trump believes there’s a reason he shouldn’t be based on alleged election illegalities, why shouldn’t he file those lawsuits arguing otherwise?

That’s not anti-democratic at all.

Asking the courts to ensure that our elections are fair is, arguably, the most important thing that can occur in a democracy.

Because without free and fair elections a democracy can’t function.

Thanks for reading OutKick, and I hope all of you have fantastic weekends.

Go get your weekend bets in now for college football and the NFL!

Written by Clay Travis

OutKick founder, host and author. He's presently banned from appearing on both CNN and ESPN because he’s too honest for both.

20 Comments

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    • CLAY:

      PLEASE help us!!

      There are now officially TENS of MILLIONS of SEC fans who completely despise espn and everything they stand for. (and espn obviously despises us back, so WTF? Why do they want our football? So they can demand more women football coaches? Require affirmative action touchdowns? Place lesbian play-by-play announcers on the SEC game of the Week?)

      HOW DO WE WATCH SEC FOOTBALL now that espn has the monopoly? I would gladly pay $ to a real “SEC Network” but this is owned by espn anyway, and cannot be purchased “a la carte” in a cable, satellite, or similar media outlet.

      I pay a huge fee every month to subsidize channels and people that literally hate my guts. ALL just to watch SEC football in the fall. I don’t give a damn about the Chinese Basketball Assn, or the national felons league, or even the pansy holdout MLB wusses. And because I live the south, I don’t really care about hockey, and could care less about NASCAR.

      To say that this causes me dissonance is a massive exercise in understatement. I would ‘cord cut” in a second if I knew I could still get the SEC games.

      Thanks Clay – give us some advice!!

  1. Better option if Joe Biden is proven to be involved in illegal activity with the Chinese and or Ukraine?
    Assuming that illegal activity would help Republicans take back the House.
    – Move to impeach/replaced and have Kamala Harris as our President.
    – Impeach but have him remain in office as a (likely) lame duck president.

  2. Living in the same county as you do it’s crazy to think there are people in this country that are actually barred from eating in a restaurant. Although last weekend going out to dinner for my 10th anniversary of marriage I did have to attest to not having diarrhea for the prior 48 hours. I took mercy on the two younger female hostesses by not asking how loose does it have to be to constitute “diarrhea”.

  3. “I think there should be investigations opened into this collusion so the American public can see what the media did with this story and how much coordination there was between big tech companies and the media to ensure this censorship existed.”

    Disagree. It won’t change much. Some people will be able to take the wool off their eyes but most will continue to believe whatever that want to believe or make justifications, so long as it supports their worldview. Cognitive dissonance. It’s so damn obvious that if you can’t already see it you probably won’t, no matter how strong the evidence is. We live in the matrix haha.

  4. Hey Clay, here’s a question for next week’s mailbag. A lot of people are saying that they’re not going to take the vaccine. I hate wearing the mask (but begrudgingly do so when required). When the vaccine is in mass distribution where pretty much anyone can get it, can/should I stop wearing the mask even if it’s still required? My perspective is that the onus for one’s health should be on those refusing to take the vaccine, so why should I continue doing something that I don’t want to do.

  5. Cable tv is dying. Bad investment. Not everyone likes the only credible team in the SEC. Kentucky in basketball. Thats it. If you want to kick Kentucky out. The big ten will give you penn state. Basketball would be a monster

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