COLUMBIA – When Missouri athletic director Mike Alden walked through the door of the Hyatt on Thursday in Altanta, Ga. for the announcement of the new SEC Network, he was blown away.
Surrounded by 32 coaches and 13 other athletic directors representing each school in the Southeastern Conference, Alden noticed the league’s organization, presentation and leadership.
“The leadership in the SEC continues to be impressive,” Alden said on Friday, when he met with media at the Clinton Club inside Mizzou Arena. “That isn’t the level of leadership we have experienced in the past.”
Aside from the leadership, Missouri is also enjoying revenue that it hadn’t experienced in the past as a member of the Big 12 conference. Alden estimated the school received an additional $2 million in total revenue this fiscal year as a result of the move to the SEC.
On Thursday, the league revealed details about its partnership with ESPN to create a network devoted to SEC coverage 24 hours a day. While the network is expected to provide the university with additional financial benefits, Missouri’s presence in the conference also helped expedite the process.
By adding Missouri and Texas A&M on July 1, 2012, the SEC expanded its total population by more than 50 percent. Missouri alone has a population of slightly more than six million people, making it the fifth most populated state in the SEC’s 11-state footprint.
The network is expected to have strong carriage in each of the conference’s 11 states, but the conference is making an effort to make the new network available nationwide.
"We believe this conference has national appeal," ESPN President John Skipper told the Associated Press on Thursday. "This is a national network. This is not a regional network. We understand that in the 11-state footprint is where the most passionate fans are, but there are a lot of SEC fans in California and Texas and New York and Connecticut and Virginia and Nebraska."
While Alden expects the deal to have a positive impact the school’s revenue and exposure, he still thinks Missouri has work to do in order to keep pace with the rest of the conference.
“It’s an uphill battle,” Alden said.
After Missouri’s football team went 5-7 in its first year in the SEC, Alden realized that fans are anxious to see results. Missouri had similar struggles when transitioning to the Big 12 back in 1995 prior to Alden’s arrival, but he insisted the university is better prepared this time around.
“This is a long-term play,” Alden said. “There’s not an action and reaction. It has been an educational process.”