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The University of South Carolina athletics department has made what one its top bureaucrats referred to as a “seven-figure investment” in the new SEC Network – a joint television venture with ESPN which launches one week from today.

In a news release touting the launch of the new network, USC’s senior associate athletics director for external affairs (whew, that’s a mouthful) boasted that the school “has made a seven-figure investment to get the SEC Network production unit off the ground on campus.”

“We’re definitely going to be in the top quarter of the SEC teams in terms of the commitment we make,” the official said.

So … how much money is that?  It’s not immediately clear …

We know Auburn has invested $5 million in a pair of state-of-the-art production studios in anticipation of the network’s launch – dipping into the school’s savings to pay the tab.  On the other end of the spectrum, Ole Miss spent only $750,000 in preparing – largely because it was a “test site” for the launch of ESPN3 and Watch ESPN.

At LSU and Mississippi State – the latter of which already has production studios for its HailState TV network – the cost was $2 million apiece.

“We’re all taking a risk knowing that the gain on the back end is going to be pretty good,” an MSU athleticrat said on his school’s official blog. “We’re all kind of grasping at straws for what we’re going to get, and every time you get another announcement of a distributor, that’s more revenue for the schools.”

How much revenue, though, remains to be seen … and obviously it’s worth asking whether government-run institutions ought to be making speculative investments in ventures like this.