SEC Hoops Would Do Well to Follow Big 12 Roadmap

Posted by Keith Hatfield on November 3rd, 2016

SEC basketball has long suffered from the perception that the league consists of Kentucky and a group of schools waiting for spring football to begin. While the league has begun to attack its image problem, there is still work to be done. If the SEC needs a blueprint for how to flip the script on the current narrative, it can look at the Big 12’s recent resurgence. While Kansas has been the unquestioned lodestar in that conference, the other schools have taken action and helped create a college hoops monster. Since many of the schools in the Big 12 are also football powers, their experiences have particular relevance to the pigskin-mad members of the SEC. Here are four steps the SEC can take to replicate the basketball success of their Big 12 counterparts.


SEC Basketball Should Look to the Big 12 for a Roadmap to Success

  1. Sell the Chase. Too often it seems as if the other 13 SEC schools are resigned to Kentucky’s dominance. That is not the case in the Big 12, a league that has done a great job in capturing fan interest by making sure everyone knows the worthy challengers to the Jayhawks (winners of 12 straight conference titles) each season. Sports fans love to see dynasties pushed to the limit. The SEC has to become more proactive in marketing that possibility to its core audience.
  2. Stay the Course. One of the main reasons the Big 12 has been able to improve its basketball brand is with its aggressive hiring of quality coaches. When half or more of your league coaches have been to a Final Four, you are on to something. The SEC has followed suit in the past couple of hiring cycles. Names like Ben Howland, Bruce Pearl, Rick Barnes, and Avery Johnson resonate with fans. The conference will benefit if every school with an opening makes a similar commitment to hiring a coach with some professional cachet. Doing that allows for the type of top-to-bottom strength that has served the Big 12 so well.
  3. Embrace the Challenge. Revenue realities and history ensure that football is always going to be the driving athletic force at almost every SEC school. That, however, doesn’t mean basketball should be forced into second-class status. The hoops programs in the conference need to embrace the excellence of the league’s football and treat it as both a challenge and a benchmark. Use football dominance as a motivator instead of a perceived impediment and you will have gone a long way towards setting the standards needed to improve the quality of the on-floor product.
  4. Sell Nashville as Must-See TV. The Big 12, along with the Big East and ACC, have done a magnificent job over the years of selling the spectacle of their conference tournaments. Part of the lure has been the accumulated history in the small number of venues that host those events. With Nashville becoming the near-permanent SEC Tournament host city for the foreseeable future, the league has a chance to build a bank of marketable memories. Showcasing the league’s hoops in one of the country’s premier entertainment cities creates an opportunity to capture a broader audience than the SEC normally captures. Any opportunity to put more eyeballs on the product needs to be exploited and this one is made to order for television.

These four steps won’t cure all that ails SEC basketball. Scheduling and NCAA Tournament performance, to name two other issues, must be improved. I do, however, believe they represent what should be the league’s priorities. That formula has certainly worked for the Big 12.

Keith Hatfield (2 Posts)

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