College Football: The SEC Effect

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Jan 04, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas A

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I confess: This time last year, I thought that Texas A&M’s obsession with the SEC was, for lack of a better term, Aggy-ish. I’ve never celebrated my teams’ league or division, I’ve never understood those who do, and it made no sense how anyone could take more pride in their conference than their own school. It all had the vibe of Ronald Miller trying to buy his way into the popular crowd, as if you can become cool by simple association. Had the A&M Board of Regents never seen Can’t Buy Me Love? It’s unsustainable. And given their recent underperforming, 27-25 history, it appeared all the Aggies could hope for would be to fill the Brick Tamland role of the SEC’s highly acclaimed Channel 4 News Team (yeah…two movie references in the same paragraph–don’t act like you’re not impressed. Make it three!). And that would be the best case scenario. That they produced this video–and then posted it on the internet on purpose–only confirmed this line of thinking.

Fast forward to present day, though, and A&M’s strategy of getting out of the Longhorns’ big-brotherly shadow and into their own spotlight seems to have worked to perfection–while exceeding everyone’s expectations. To their credit, the excitement surrounding College Station these days is rooted mostly in on-the-field results–an 11-2 season, a win in Tuscaloosa, a Cotton Bowl blowout, and of course, a Heisman Trophy that (allegedly) possesses a healthy appreciation for the term “4-20.” It was a perfect storm of sorts, and the Aggies took full advantage. Had the they flopped like many predicted, there’d no doubt be a different conversation going on right now, one that would be full of “I-told-you-so’s.”

Still, this rise to prominence for A&M hasn’t come entirely on the right arm of “Johnny Football” (and while we’re here…Manziel had a great season, but Heisman-worthy? I’m still convinced that he only won it because of a weak field, a win over almighty Alabama, and a “catchy” nickname. Check out this Heisman tracker from October 21st of last year. Seven gamesinto the season–SEVEN!–and Manziel isn’t even mentioned). The fact that the Aggies could end the year ranked fifth in the nation after finishing fifth in their conference speaks to a much larger point:

The country’s ever-growing fixation with the SEC–which has become as blatant and over-the-top as the video linked above.

Everywhere you look, there’s somebody else caught up and frolicking in the SEC Sensation. The national media hasn’t yet found an SEC headline it couldn’t lead with, recruits (and message board posters) speak of the league in deferential tones, and one of its own teams’ coaches thinks the Jacksonville Jaguars wouldn’t necessarily be a shoe-in for the conference title game.

And he’s apparently not alone, because “Could Alabama beat an NFL team” is a suggested Google search.

It’s always been accepted that folks in the Deep South take their football a little more seriously than the rest of us, but not since the houndstooth days of Bear Bryant has the seat of power of the college football world so squarely been situated in the southeastern region of the country. Winning seven consecutive national championships has laid that foundation, while the conference’s recent dominance in the NFL draft–as good a measurement as any of the talent on each campus–has cemented it. As if having nearly a quarter of the players selected wasn’t impressive enough (63 total; the ACC–the AC-freakin-C!–was second with 30), check out these numbers: five out of the first 11 picks, eight of the first 20, and 33 of the top 99 came from SEC schools.

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