DESTIN — The Southeastern Conference is about to make one of the biggest decisions in its 75-year history.
Simply put: Has the time come for the conference to create its own television network?
The SEC's football and basketball contacts with its three television partners — CBS, ESPN, and Raycom (formerly Lincoln-Financial) — expire in the spring. Negotiations on new deals are under way and conference officials have told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the SEC hopes to have new contracts in place by late summer or early fall.
Part of those negotiations, however, is the SEC's option to create its own network as two other conferences — the Big Ten and the Mountain West — have done. The 12-team SEC, which includes Florida, has been pondering this idea for several years but now it is time to decide.
"The charge we have received from our institutions is to explore two models when it comes to the future of TV in our conference," commissioner Mike Slive said. "One is the traditional route that we have now. The second is to incorporate an SEC network that gives us a greater opportunity for exposure for all of our sports."
If the SEC creates its own TV network, CBS and ESPN would still get the early picks among SEC football games. An SEC TV network would kick in on the next tier of games to which Raycom now owns the rights.
Clemson contractS: Clemson released details Wednesday of a new agreement signed by football coach Tommy Bowden. Bowden's contract keeps him at the school through 2014 and includes hefty penalties should either side try and end the deal early. Bowden will earn a yearly guaranteed compensation of $1.83-million — a base salary of $295,000, $250,000 to a retirement plan, $30,000 to invest in annuities and $1,255,000 in outside income.
FOOTBALL: A North Carolina A&T player died from complications of heat illness. Senior Chad Wiley, 22, collapsed after a voluntary workout on campus Tuesday. Officials said he was transported to a hospital after being stabilized.
Basketball: Former Purdue forward Scott Martin has decided to transfer to Notre Dame. Martin will be eligible to play in the 2009-10 season. … Western Carolina forward Camden Miller is transferring to Marshall. He will be eligible to play in the 2009-10 season.
SOCCER: Suspended Howard coach Joseph Okoh pleaded not guilty to a charge of using the Internet to solicit sex with a teenage girl.
SOFTBALL: Two Florida players, junior pitcher Stacey Nelson and junior first baseman Ali Gardiner, were named first-team All-Americans by Louisville Slugger and the National Fastpitch Coaches Association.