Saturday, June 7, 2014

Mike Bianchi makes stupidest sports argument ever in saying the SEC should dump Ole Miss and Miss. St. for UCF and USF.

Mike Bianchi. Photo via Real Clear Sports.

They said it couldn't be done, but  Mike Bianchi did it. The Orlando Sentinel sports media gadfly has said quite possibly the stupidest thing ever said in the history of the sports blogosphere: dump Ole Miss and Mississippi State for Central Florida and South Florida.

Bianchi dropped his million-dollars-down-the-rathole zinger in a column responding to UCF head coach George O'Leary's recent comments comparing the suggestions made by SEC commissioner Mike Slive that the "Power 5" conferences (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, SEC) could decide to form their own NCAA division if not given the autonomy they believe they should have within the current FBS division. O'Leary compared the SEC rather unoriginally to "the South during the Civil War."

Bianchi responded in his column with an equally, if not more radical concept: That the "Power 5" should dump "dead weight" programs in favor or "more deserving schools."

The prime suggestion Bianchi made was for the SEC to dump the two Mississippi schools, Ole Miss and Mississippi State, for the central Florida region schools of UCF and USF.

My thoughts: If the Power 5 leagues truly want to break off into their own division then they first need to jettison the dead weight and add more deserving schools like UCF before setting sail for the brave new world of college football.     

"Example: The SEC should dump Ole Miss and Mississippi State and invite in UCF and USF to take their place. It’s crazy that the Mississippi schools get to be part of the most powerful league in college football in a day and age when the sport is all about cable television subscribers, recruiting base and growth potential.    

Why wouldn’t the SEC or Big12 want to dominate the I-4 corridor that runs through the center of one of the most populated, recruiting-rich states in the country? Combined, the Tampa and Orlando TV markets are the fourth-largest in the country whereas the TV markets of Oxford and Starkville don’t even show up on the list. Mississippi’s largest city — Jackson — is the nation’s 94th-largest market.     
With apologies to Jeff Foxworthy: How can you tell if a Mississippi State fan is on vacation in Orlando? He’s the one trying to take his fishing pole into SeaWorld!"

Before I make more concrete arguments against Bianchi, here was the first thing that came to my mind when I heard his ideas:

™DC Comics.

 First off, the SEC doesn't need to "get in" the Tampa and Orlando markets because its already there. It's a reasonable bet that there are more Florida fans in those two cities than there for either UCF or USF on its own, and quite probably more that both combined. 

Second, if the SEC wanted to strengthen its footprint in Florida, its going to go after Florida State and Miami, not UCF or USF. What can be said about the Gators popularity in Tampa and Orlando can be said about FSU and Miami as well. 

As for revenue, the Ole Miss athletic department took in over $73 million dollars in revenue in 2013. Mississippi State took in over $62 million dollars. The most recent figures I could find on USF are from 2009-2001, showing just over $16.5 million dollars in revenue. Figures for UCF are harder to track down, but the Orlando Sentinel reported on the programs' funding struggles following the collapse of the Big East conference as a football conference. 

In other words, the benefits the SEC would have dumping Ole Miss and Mississippi St. for UCF and USF are zero, in not less. 

(via The Orlando Sentinel. HT: Kevin McGuire (@KevinOnCFB).)


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