In Year 1, SEC Network already printing money for league schools

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The SEC may have had a rough go of it with the high-profile games in the 2014 postseason, but fiscally the conference is still rolling in it.

The “it,” of course, is money, something that the league has essentially been printing over the last several years on the football side. An additional printing press was added last year with the launch of the SEC Network.

That endeavor, though, wasn’t expected to realize a profit until at least Year 3 after the launch. A funny thing happens with projections sometimes: they’re off. Way off in this instance.

During a meeting with both the media and the Intercollegiate Athletics Committee Friday, South Carolina athletic director Ray Tanner revealed that the SEC Network is expected to pull in a profit of $5 million its first year — per school. And even more to the point seven months after the network’s debut, Tanner called that $5 million per school figure as “conservative.”

In other words, it completely blew the pre-launch projections completely out of the financial stratosphere.

“This is my third academic year, so I was on the ground floor when (the idea of) the SEC Network was launched,” Tanner said according to Rivals.com. “Right after I became AD this was formulated in our meetings that we were going to do this SEC Network. So, I was there from the beginning.

“You sit there and listen to the proposals and programming going forward and the dollars involved, but as they said, it could be Year 3 before we realized any financial gain. But when we launched and distributors started getting on board, we said maybe two years. Before you knew it, we had enough to realize a profit in Year 1.”

The recruiting website writes that, “[i]f the $5 million figure holds, each SEC school should expect a payout of approximately $26 million when the league conducts its annual spring meetings in Destin, Fla., in late May.”

In 2014, the total revenue distributed by the SEC to its members schools was $309.6 million. That broke down to an average of $22.1 million per school, over $8 million more than was distributed per school five years earlier ($13.8 million in 2009).  Thus, in a span of just six years, the SEC will have nearly doubled the annual payout to its membership — a payout that will do nothing but grow moving forward.

It was expected that, within a handful of years, the SEC Network would add low eight-figure sums into each member’s coffers. Based on the roaring success the network has been thus far, it might be time to speed up that projection as well.

Minnesota gives Fleck 1-year extension, plus raise

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Matt Krohn/USA TODAY Sports
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MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota football coach P.J. Fleck had his contract extended Wednesday by an additional year with a $1 million raise in annual salary, after the latest round of big spending by Big Ten rivals.

The new seven-year deal will run through the 2029 season, the university announced without releasing terms. Fleck will now make $6 million per year, a person with knowledge of the contract confirmed. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the deal had not yet been finalized.

Last week, Nebraska hired Matt Rhule and Wisconsin hired Luke Fickell to put them in the top tier of head coach compensation in the conference. In terms of average annual value, the 42-year-old Fleck is eighth in the Big Ten behind Michigan State’s Mel Tucker, Ohio State’s Ryan Day, Rhule, Fickell, Penn State’s James Franklin, Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh and Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz. All seven of those coaches make $7 million or more per season.

The Gophers (8-4) play Syracuse in the Pinstripe Bowl on Dec. 29. They’re 3-0 in bowl games under Fleck, who was hired away from Western Michigan in 2017.

Minnesota tied for second place in the Big Ten West Division this year, behind Purdue. Fleck is 43-27 overall with the Gophers, including 26-26 in conference play. They’re 0-6 against Iowa and 3-3 against Wisconsin, their primary rivals.

Fleck’s winning percentage is third-best in program history among coaches with 45 games or more, behind Henry Williams (1900-21) and Bernie Bierman (1932-41).

“What P.J. and his staff have done in a short amount of time is remarkable,” athletic director Mark Coyle said in a statement distributed by the university. “He has recruited and developed some of the best student-athletes to ever play at Minnesota and his team continues to excel academically, athletically and socially.”

This is the fifth time in six years on the job that Fleck’s deal has been adjusted to keep up with the competition, as power conference coach contracts these days rarely have less than five years on them at any time. Minnesota extended his deal a year ago, too.

In that iteration of his contract, the termination fees Fleck would owe Minnesota if he were to hop to another program were bumped way up. Those numbers landed at $7 million in 2023, $5 million in 2024, $4 million in 2025 and $3 million in 2026. Details about those figures in the new deal were not immediately available.

Virginia players granted extra year of eligibility

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — The NCAA has granted an extra year of eligibility to Virginia players whose eligibility has expired in the aftermath of the slaying of three members of the team, the school confirmed.

Lavel Davis Jr., D’Sean Perry and Devin Chandler were killed last month as they returned to campus from a field trip to see a play in Washington, D.C. A former player at the school, Christopher Darnell Jones Jr., is facing three counts of second-degree murder and other charges in the shooting. A fourth player, Mike Hollins, and student Marlee Morgan were injured in the shooting.

Virginia canceled its final two games of the season after the shooting, and the team and university community memorialized the victims in a nearly two-hour service on campus. Team members also traveled to each of the three funerals held for their teammates.