The Southeastern Conference rules the college football landscape. That’s not just a boast from a site called MrSEC.com. That’s a fact that even Big Ten commissioner Jim Delaney admits.
“The SEC, based on what they’ve accomplished in the last four years, has clearly separated themselves from the rest. We’ve got a pretty good head-to-head with them going over 15 years, 10 years and five years, but that’s not at the championship level.” — Delaney, August 2010
“The SEC has demonstrated over a period of time that they’re the strongest conference. The rest of us are looking to close the gap, but we’ve still got a little ways to go.” — Delaney, January 2011
Five BCS championships in a row… won by four different schools.
Seven BCS championships in the 13-year BCS era… won by five different schools.
The SEC has now defeated the ACC (once), Pac-10 (once), Big Ten (twice), and Big 12 (thrice) to capture those BCS crowns.
The league boasts unrivaled parity as well. Six different schools have won the SEC since 1998. In that span no SEC school has repeated as league champions. Not one. Winning the SEC is akin to winning the Super Bowl in the NFL — everyone is gunning for you the next year.
* Ohio State has won a piece of seven of the last nine Big Ten titles
* Either Oregon or Southern Cal has won a piece of the Pac-10 title for 11 years running
* Either Texas or Oklahoma has won the Big 12 title in nine of the past 11 seasons
* The ACC champion has been either Florida State or Virginia Tech in 16 of the past 19 years
So what makes the SEC different? Why is there more parity? Why is there such dominance at each season’s end?
We’ll give you three quick, rather obvious reasons:
The Coaching Advantage
Would it surprised you to learn that five of the nations’ 10 highest-paid coaches last year worked in the SEC? Or that eight of the league’s 12 coaches were ranked in the top 20 nationally in terms of salary?
Here’s another: Of the 24 coaches who made $2 million in salary last season, nine call the SEC home.
A football-mad populace drives SEC presidents and ADs to chase the best coaches in the land. Massive television contracts with CBS and ESPN allow league schools to land those big-name coaches… and pay them top dollar.
In the past two months, Arkansas has boosted Bobby Petrino’s average salary to more than $3.5 million. Mississippi State has increased Dan Mullen’s pay to an average of $2.65 million per year. Florida hired highly-coveted first-time coach Will Muschamp for $2.7 million per season. Vanderbilt was rumored to have offered several million to Gus Malzahn before settling on James Franklin.
And what type of salary jump will Gene Chizik receive at Auburn?
The nation’s top coaches toil in the Southeastern Conference. That’s Reason One for the league’s success.
The Money Advantage
The SEC’s cash reserves are not only used to pay coaches their enormous salaries. All those television dollars and bowl bonanza bucks also fuel the league’s facilities race.
Arkansas and Tennessee are preparing new and improved football complexes. Alabama just added 10,000 seats to Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mississippi State is thinking about stadium expansion, too.
Currently, eight of the SEC’s 12 football stadiums hold 75,000 fans or more. The bigger the stadium, the more money comes in. The more money comes in, the bigger and snazzier stadiums and football complexes become.
Forbes magazine posted this week the 2009-2010 financial figures provided by the SEC’s schools to the US Department of Education. Numbers can be fudged, of course, and no two schools break down their expenses and income exactly the same way, but these numbers are still as close as we come to learning the real profit margins for SEC programs.
Looking only at football budgets, here’s what Forbes found for the 2009 football season:
|School||Football Revenue||Football Expenses||Football Profit|
The schools of the SEC spent a combined $239,448,630 on football during the 2009-2010 fiscal year. Their total athletic spending equaled $908,910,514. So more than a quarter of every sports dollar spent in the SEC went toward football. And the SEC spends more on athletics — period — than any other conference in the nation.
Last year, nine of the 21 biggest athletic budgets in the country belonged to SEC programs (Florida, LSU, Tennessee, Auburn, Alabama, South Carolina, Georgia, Kentucky, and Arkansas in that order).
The Big Ten had six school ranked in the top 21. The Pac-10 and Big 12 each had two schools make that list. The ACC had one. The Big East none. Notre Dame made the list as an independent/Big East hybrid.
As long as the money is rolling into the SEC via television contracts and the league’s football championship game, the money will continue to roll back out by way of facility upgrades, recruiting budgets and coaches’ salaries.
Cash (and a willingness to spend it) is Reason Two behind the SEC’s success.
The Talent Advantage
Spending the most money and hiring the best coaches are signs of commitment from the SEC’s schools toward football excellence. But Reason Three for SEC superiority is all about luck.
No region of the United States produces more NFL draft picks than the nine states encompassed by the Southeastern Conference. Oh sure, there’s great recruiting in California and Texas and Ohio and Pennsylvania, but no region can match the Deep South.
Let’s look at the total number of eventual NFL draft picks produced by each SEC state’s high school system over the past 23 years:
|State||1988-2010 Draft Picks|
In case you’re wondering, those 1,818 drafted players from SEC states account for 29.5% of the 6,160 players drafted into the NFL since 1988. Nearly one-third of the NFL’s talent comes from the nine-state SEC region.
|Conference||States Included||1988-2010 Draft Picks|
|SEC||AL, AR, FL, GA, KY, LA, MS, SC, TN||1,818|
|Pac-12||AZ, CA, CO, OR, WA, UT||1,077|
|Big Ten||IL, IN, IA, MI, MN, NE, OH, PA, WI||1,028|
|Big 12||IA, KS, MO, OK, TX||859|
On average, SEC states produce 79 NFL draft picks per year. The Pac-12 states produce about 47. The Big Ten states about 45.
With the population of the country shifting further toward the Sun Belt every year, there’s no reason to think that the SEC states won’t continue to produce more NFL talent than other regions of the nation. If SEC schools can keep that pro talent home, they will continue to rule in college football.
In the end, the SEC’s dominance is as easy to explain as 1-2-3:
The Coaching Advantage
The Money Advantage
The Talent Advantage