Twitter can be a maddening tool, On one hand, some great tips on developing stories can be found. On the other hand, the 140 character limitation becomes a tease, especially if crafted well. That is why this tweet from the Southeastern Conference caught my eye:
Just finished meeting with the SEC institutional PR directors in Nashville. Be on the lookout for big things to come later this year!
Of course this should raise the curiosity of anyone who follows sports and sports media, especially since the tweet was made by Charles Bloom, Southeastern Conference Associate Commissioner (Media Relations).
I emailed Mr. Bloom to see if he could give any hints beyond this tease. He could not, but he did say:
No hints but Academics and athletics coming together.
Now this can mean many things of course. Keep in mind that this is all speculation. Some possibilities might include:
The Vanderbilt Model
Are all of the SEC schools going to go the way of the Vanderbilt model, eliminating the separate Athletic department? This would give the Institution presidents more direct control of the programs, AND potentially easier access to the money flowing in from the latest SEC Television contracts.
The interesting thing about this model is that it has worked. Since the change, Vanderbilt has actually become more competitive in the Southeastern Conference.
The big question is how will the alumni of the traditional football factories respond?
Elimination of Separate Legal Entities that Manage Athletics
Almost all of the major universities athletic programs are run under a separate, not-for-profit entity. This, to me, has always been strange because the NCAA often times slaps programs for "lack of institutional control." Well it is harder to have institutional control if athletics are a separate legal and financial entity.
An interesting example of how this clouds business operations is the United States service acadamies (Army, Navy, and Air Force). Last year, Navy entered into a contract with CBS Sports/CBS College Sports for exclusive coverage of the school's athletic events. As a former contracting officer in the federal government, I was curious how this could happen without any competition.
The answer is simple. Because Navy athletics is run under a non-profit or not-for-profit arm, they federal contracting rules which must be followed by the rest of the Naval Academy do not apply to athletics.
Elimination of Separate Sports Information Departments
This possibility came to mind as yesterday's meetings were with institutional PR directors. Unless the sports information staff were retained, this could be a disaster. Why? Because sports media management and institutional media management are two totally different beasts.
A perfect example of this is the recent announcement that the Nationwide Tour is moving their Athens, GA event to the University of Georgia (UGA) Golf Course, and will be run by UGA. It is not being run by the athletic department, but by the auxiliary services arm of the university.
The press conference was packed and UGA Sports Communications Director Claude Felton was there. But his staff is not running the media operations. The university PR machine has this responsibility. When the university made the recording of the press conference available online, they posted it as an uncompressed HD video that is 6.5 GB in size. I am still trying to download an uncorrupted copy. A knowledgeable sports information staff would not have made this mistake. The university PR department did.
Remember, these scenarios are all speculation. What the big news is yet to be seen. Time will tell.
Update (11:03 AM, June 9, 2009)
While the above speculation would be great water cooler fodder, nothing along these lines is on the drawing board. Per a follow up with Mr. Bloom, the big thing will be something involved better coordinated public relations and messaging systems.