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Since January Of 2007 SEC Football Has Gone Up, SEC Basketball Has Come Down

gfx - by the numbersYou have to wonder if the SEC’s football and basketball fortunes passed one another on some great lucky escalator in the sky.  With the league mired in mediocrity at the moment — two of its three NCAA Tournament teams combined for one win and two exits — it’s interesting to look back and see when/where the SEC started having hoops issues.  Interesting for two reasons.

First, there is a clear dividing line between SEC basketball goodness and SEC basketball blah-ness.

Second, because that line falls at exactly the same point in time when the league’s football success began to soar.

Below is a look at SEC basketball since the turn of the century.  From left to right you’ll see the SEC’s rank among conference RPI (each year on March 25th, today’s date), it’s actual RPI, and the number of NCAA Tournament bids it received:


  Year   Conf. RPI Rank   Conf. RPI   NCAA Bids
  2012-13   8   .540   3
  2011-12   4   .562   4
  2010-11   6   .554   5
  2009-10   4   .560   4
  2008-09   6   .551   3
  2007-08   4   .563   6
  2006-07   1   .584   5
  2005-06   1   .576   6
  2004-05   5   .561   5
  2003-04   2   .576   6
  2002-03   3   .571   6
  2001-02   1   .578   6
  2000-01   2   .577   6


See the split?

In the last six seasons the SEC has had an average conference RPI rank of 5.33.  In the previous seven seasons, the SEC’s average rank among leagues was 2.14.  That’s a drop from second-best to fifth-best, on average.

Over the last six years the SEC’s average league-wide RPI has been .555.  In the seven seasons prior it was .574, never falling below .561.

Since the 2007-08 season, the SEC has not ranked better than fourth in conference RPI.  From 2000-01 thru 2006-07, the league finished worse than fourth only once.  It ranked as the best basketball conference in country three times in that span.  Five times the SEC ranked in the top two.

Naturally, the SEC never received fewer than five NCAA Tournament bids during its seven-year hot streak.  It’s received fewer then five on four different occasions in the six years since.

It’s pretty clear that the SEC’s decline can be traced back to the 2007-2008 basketball season.  Ironically, it was in January of 2007 that Florida won the first of the SEC’s seven-straight BCS championships.  Looking for a turning point in recent SEC athletics history?  Look no further than January ’07.

We’ve written on this site that we believe the SEC’s football programs now trump the SEC’s basketball programs because — with football becoming a much greater cash cow in recent years — the schools in Mike Slive’s league now tend to throw a lot more cash at their football coaches than their basketball coaches.  The names of SEC football coaches would pepper a list of the nation’s top 25 coaches.  In hoops, how many SEC coaches’ names would appear on a top 25 list?

Looking at it another way, 10 of the SEC’s 14 current football coaches came into their current jobs from BCS-level schools or the NFL.  Two of the four who didn’t — Gus Malzahn and Hugh Freeze — already had previous experience as assistants at their current schools.

In basketball, just five of the SEC’s current head coaches came to the league directly from BCS-level programs or the NBA ranks.  SEC schools demand big-time experience on their football coaches’ resumes.  They’re much more willing to take a flier on a mid-major up-and-comer in basketball.

Now, did the SEC’s hiring practices change in January of 2007 with the flip of a magic switch in Slive’s office?  Of course not.  These changes have been brewing over time and there’s something cyclical — and a bit lucky — about the ups and downs of any league’s successes.

But there’s no denying that the current trend of putting more eggs in the football basket has been gaining strength ever since the Big Ten and SEC launched a new era of massive television revenue for conferences everywhere.  For the record, the Big Ten Network launched in the fall of 2007 while the SEC signed its twin pacts with ESPN and CBS in the summer of 2008.

Whatever theory you wish to assign to the change in fortunes, it’s clear that the change can be traced back to January of ’07.  Since then SEC football has gotten better and better.  Its basketball has just gotten more and more mediocre.



I've held season football tickets for almost 40 years.  I am a former season basketball ticket holder, and with the exception of a couple of years have been a long time holder of season baseball tickets for my SEC school.  For about 32 years the football tickets were a joy.  Then the stadium atmosphere changed.  I had a little trouble getting use to corporate signs everywhere, but I understand that you have to pay the bills.  Then came the piped in artificial noise.  After 30 plus years of sitting with friends and enjoying their pregame conversations and being able to comment on plays during the game the shift to the constant blaring of the same few bars of obnoxious music that is replicated in stadium after stadium started.  Monkey see monkey do culture took over.  Quite frankly my wife and I are about to decide to throw in the towel on the games.  It's not the money for the tickets as we can afford them, it's not the flock of tailgaters that arrive early stake out claims to land that is not theirs with crime seen tape and who leave their garbage behind when their sorry butts leave after the game, it is the total lack of social interaction with old friends (which we consider to be extended family after 3 decades) that is driving not only our family, but their families away from the games.  We once liked to hear the band strike up the fight song after a score, now its piped in noise.  We once liked to listen to the announcements that were made which still take place, but are drowned out by the piped in noise.  Like everything else in our society we must have frenetic energy artificially supplied for fat kids pimped out on junk food and mind numbed by constant artificial stimulation.  They don't have the money to afford the donations that are required to purchase season books.  I do, and many in my age demographic are hanging it up because our donations and our loyalty and our faithful attendance through thin and thick is no longer appreciated or pandered to in the least.


Basketball I gave up on when touch fouls were called on the perimeter while gang style muggings took place with no whistle under the basket.  I gave up on it when I watched supposedly stellar ball handlers constantly palm the ball, and outstanding scorers taking 3 and sometimes 4 steps on the way to the hoop with no call for travelling.  There is so little team offense and defense played in the SEC today that is just one among many reasons for the decline of our product.  Many of our teams have 5 high school stars that run wild, ignore open teammates, drive on planted defenders, and take shots before anyone is in place for a rebound.  Both the Kentucky and Missouri losses were rife with this kind of play.  Seemingly so far only Florida is immune to this disease in our conference.  The Big 10 doesn't have the athletes we do, but most of their teams look disciplined.  Even their big guys play their assignments.  There is the difference.  I'll add to my observations that officiating is getting worse even with an extra man on the court.


Baseball, what was one of the last true college sports, is beginning to suffer declines in enjoyment as well.  A few years ago the #$@% piped in music found its way into that venue as well.  Then the wrap around netting went in obscuring the view and enjoyment of the fans all out of fear of a liability that has been openly accepted by ball fans for a century.  Then the grassy areas around the stadium were paved over and turned into commercial ventures.  The unforeseen problem with this move is that it has forced the small children who once chased down foul balls and had a great time at the game into the stands with adults who once watched and talked about the game and had a great time as well.  Now the children are miserable and the adults are as well and attendance is way down.  The tickets are about the same price they have been for a decade.  It's the mindless moves by the Athletic Department that must have a monkey see monkey do copycat of someone else's lousy idea so that it looks like we are keeping up that is ruining what was once one of my most cherished afternoon experiences.


We will probably opt for the HD Television experience by next year.  We are giving football and baseball one more chance this season.  We are in good health and could (if blessed) expect to be season ticket holders for another decade, or maybe two.  We are not alone in our feelings and ticket sales everywhere reflect that.  I would be interested to see the demographics on who is dropping their ticket purchases.  I'd bet the are X'ers, and Boomers.  When they drive us away with everything artificial and obnoxious who are going to buy the tickets?  These poor young kids about to start their adult life won't have the earning potential that we did.  And, many of them would rather play video games than attend, or play in, a real one.  After all they may get hit by a foul ball, or bang their head while playing.


The only valid difference between football and basketball in the SEC right now is that people still care about football.  Basketball as we once enjoyed it is long gone.  Attendance reflects this and therefore investment will.


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