The song was written to introduce the Super Bowl XXI telecast on CBS. It became the theme of college football on CBS in 1987, nine years before CBS started televising SEC games regularly. But thanks to more than two decades of classic matchups at 3:30 p.m. ET on CBS on fall Saturdays, not many people think of composer Lloyd Landesman’s nameless song as a Super Bowl anthem or as the introduction to a Mountain West game on CBS Sports Network. For a generation of college football fans, those raging synths meant one thing: SEC football.
Someone at CBS knew exactly what they were doing Thursday morning when they pressed “Send” on this tweet.
That tweet was part of a multimedia salvo Thursday from the Big Ten, Fox, CBS and NBC celebrating the finalization of a massive package of media rights deals worth a reported $8 billion over seven years that will make the Big Ten — already America’s richest conference — even richer. Even though the song never actually belonged to the SEC, it felt like CBS saying “… and we gave them your theme music, too.”
It also likely is the first of many shots in an off-field conflict that will turn college football’s obsession with conference superiority into strictly a Big Ten versus SEC affair.
Those two were the richest, most successful conferences before, but with Oklahoma and Texas headed to the SEC and UCLA and USC headed to the Big Ten, there is no more Power 5. There is only a Power 2. And they’re going to spend a lot of time trying to convince us that one is superior to the other.
“We’re going to continue our efforts to grow our comprehensive revenue,” SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said this week. “And we’re going to do it in a healthy way.”
The SEC can point to its success on the field. The league has produced 12 of the past 16 national champions — 2014 Ohio State is the Big Ten’s only champion in that period — and twice in the past five seasons SEC teams have met in the national title game. And yet the Big Ten makes more money, and will widen the gap with this new set of deals.
How did the SEC let that happen? It’s a matter of timing.
The people who run the SEC don’t like to be No. 2 at anything, but in this case, there wasn’t much the current administration could have done to stay even with the Big Ten. The Big Ten’s ability to cash in this big dates back to a shrewd decision by former commissioner Jim Delany in 2016 to sign six-year deals with Fox and Disney/ESPN.