Membership certainly does have its advantages.
Especially in the Southeastern Conference.
And not just because we can now see the light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel.
That might foretell brighter, more lucrative days, but it doesn’t change the financial shortfall of the last year.
Apparently ticket sales do matter — and lack thereof, with which college athletics became startlingly familiar, can be a drain on the wallet.
SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said his conference’s schools averaged $45 million per athletic department in cash shortfalls.
Times are tough.
SEC schools were looking at — and you know they had to swallow hard to admit this — but they were at least toying with the notion of cutting corners during COVID’s New Normal financial realities.
And, oh, the horrors.
For a while there it was even looking like Alabama might have to resort to reducing flow on the Crimson Tide’s locker room waterfall.
LSU might have to cut the music selection on its dressing room’s famous individual sleeping pods.
South Carolina could have been considering temporarily closing its personal football barber shop — Spur-cuts, they call it.
Texas A&M was wondering how it’d maintain the recessed TVs in all the mirrors above the locker room sinks.
And Auburn might have to just turn out the lights — specifically, the chandelier lighting coming out of the dressing room designed the emulate the rolling of Toomer’s Corner.
Hey, when the belt needs tightening, nothing is sacred.
For that matter, where in the budget would Mississippi State find coinage in the reduced budget to clean the spittoons?
Perish the thought.
But thank goodness the SEC’s main office has their back.
So consider it a crisis avoided.
Everybody go back to drunken-sailor, free-spending Old Normal.
And who knew it could be so simple?
The SEC can still money-whip anybody.
The conference office recently wrote every school a “supplemental” check for $23 million each. Supplemental means that it is in addition to the usual annual cut of the pie each school receives.
All, apparently, have decided to accept it.
“This immediate financial support will help our athletics programs address some of the current challenges they are facing while also ensuring each program remains well-positioned for future success,” Sankey said. “Thanks to years of responsible decision-making and unity, combined with unparalleled success, the SEC and its 14 member universities are uniquely prepared to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic and continue building on a remarkable legacy of achievement.”
Translation: There is no terror in the penthouse suite.
OK, it wasn’t quite that simple.
The conference didn’t just happen to rustle up $322 million between the couch cushions in the headquarters’ lobby.
Big banks were involved. Some high-dollar negotiations, too. Smart people with a head for figures.
You could call it, in layman’s terms, a loan.
But its future mega-million TV deal with ESPN, which kicks in beginning in 2024, made the SEC a good risk to pay it all back.
And here’s the kicker: the league says it figures the individual schools won’t feel a thing once the bill comes due.
Yes, it will have to be paid off, beginning in 2025.
But with the value of the future TV deal, the cash distributed to each school — even taking a little off the top to pay off the loan — will still continue to increase every year.
Somehow, this doesn’t surprise anyone.
Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at email@example.com