Of all the conference realignment possibilities, debates and related goings-on, Missouri’s move to the SEC may have gotten the least attention -- in large part because of the ongoing Penn State scandal.
No doubt that’s fine for Missouri officials now -- and recent SEC addition Texas A&M -- but not being in the national dialogue won’t stand once the teams begin SEC play. Where some fans see both moves as lateral for the teams, university leaders see otherwise: moving to the SEC with play starting in 2012-13 is a chance to grow their brands nationally.
“The top decision factor for A&M going to the SEC was about increasing national visibility and exposure,” said Jason Cook, A&M’s vice president of marketing and communications. It’s no coincidence, he said, that six of the top 10 and nine of the top 25 top-selling brands for IMG College are SEC members.
Cook said looking no further than your TV screen underscores the opportunity: the recent Aggies game against Iowa State was the game selected by Big 12 first-tier rights holder ESPN, which showed the game on ABC regionally. Cook said it wasn’t even shown across the entire Big 12 footprint, much less nationwide. But that week’s game on CBS, the SEC’s first-tier rights holder, appeared in homes from coast to coast.
Referring to the Big 12’s new, second-tier television deal with FOX set to begin next season, Cook said: “While some look at the Big 12’s contract and see it as good from a financial standpoint, from an exposure standpoint, it doesn’t get coast-to-coast coverage.” This would put A&M in the same situation it was in for the Iowa State game, when broadcasts are via regional network and not nationwide.
Increased exposure nationally through athletics can help educate prospective students learn about the university, too, he said. A&M is still thought of by many to be an all-male military institution. One other important advantage: “We can set the marketplace in the state of Texas for the SEC,” Cook said, as the school will be the conference’s lone Texas brand.
From a licensing standpoint, Cook said consultants have projected revenue to increase by up to 60 percent as a result of the move.
Missouri officials have mentioned similar benefits, but Chris Koukola, assistant to the chancellor for university affairs, focused mostly on academic benefits in a recent interview.
Officials from the admissions office will look at extending their out-of-state reach, particularly in Florida, where they have a large number of alumni. Koukola also mentioned the expanded research opportunities available for faculty.
What Koukola said she most looks forward to is the opportunity to participate in a group the SEC has formed of administrators in a similar communications position. She said the Big 8 had such a group, but it was never active once the Big 12 was formed. This cooperative element adds value to their move that often goes without mention, she said.