LITTLE ROCK — The day the Aug. 30 football lineup for the SEC Network is announced, the number of network subscribers to the network will spike in Arkansas and Alabama.
A network shill for a day, Arkansas-Auburn is the logical choice to be the nightcap of an SEC tripleheader on the first Saturday of the 2014 season.
There are other options, including Clemson-Georgia, West Virginia-Alabama and Wisconsin-LSU, but Arkansas-Auburn is the only conference game and there’s plenty of window dressing to go along:
• Thirteen seconds from the BCS title in January, Auburn will be one of the favorites to participate in the new, four-team College Football Playoff after the 2014 season.
• One reason Auburn will be among the favorites is that Nick Marshall, the quarterback who made the Auburn offense so diverse, is back for his senior year.
• Counter to Auburn’s status as a national contender is that Heisman Trophy finalist Tre Mason will be in the NFL draft instead of the Auburn backfield and his replacement will be closely monitored.
• Coaches Bret Bielema and Gus Malzahn, who are poles apart on a proposal designed to slow offenses. The NCAA Football Rules Committee tabled the proposal this week.
Unaware of what coaches outside Arkansas are doing, I have seen a couple of pieces of correspondence from Bielema promoting the SEC Network.
In both, he reminds the recipients that their TV provider may not carry the SEC Network and that they should call, email and tweet the provider in support of the network.
“So tell your friends tell your bus driver, tell your grandma, tell your grandma’s bridge partner,” he said in one note. “Tell everyone you have ever encountered in your entire life to follow your lead and commit to the SEC Network.”
In both cases, he cites the network’s 1,000 exclusive live events, 45 football games, 160 basketball games, 75 baseball games and 50 softball games plus 24/7 coverage of the SEC.
In his second note dated this week, the last paragraph says: “Make me the happiest coach around and visit GetSECNetwork.com to sign your letter of intent today. We can’t wait to get that remote in your hand.”
Getting the SEC Network comes with a gotcha — the network will be part of a sports package.
In late January, the SEC released 44 questions and answers about the network and No. 37 was, “How will this impact my cable bill?”
Answer: “ESPN negotiates for license fee payments from its distributors and has no control over retail pricing. Retail prices are determined by each distributor.”
In other words, if it matters, call and ask.
Scrolling through the menu on the TV at home, there are several channels in the 1600s that are unavailable with my plan. Hit OK on the remote and there is a blue exclamation mark against a white background with a reminder that I am not a subscriber.
Six months deep in a two-year promotion with U-Verse, I was told that I was eligible to add the expanded sports package, which will include the SEC Network — for $10 per month. Hopefully, that offer is still available in August. I suspect those who already subscribe to such a package will pay another couple of dollars per month when the SEC Network goes on line in August.
DISH said this week that the network will be available to subscribers to “America’s Top 120+” and higher packages.
Checking out Arkansas’ two open dates, there is a good chance the SEC Network will have games of interest on Oct. 4 and Nov. 8.
Once CBS winds up its coverage of the U.S. Open tennis tournament in mid-September, the “eye” will be first to choose football games. But don’t expect the SEC Network to get the leftovers from other ESPN networks.
The SEC Network will have a tripleheader every Saturday and is certain to incorporate some prominent games into its programming, particularly in the first year of the network’s existence.
Harry King is a sports columnist. His email is HLeonK42@gmail.com.