from the SEC??? Let's take a long hard look at what we have become and where it goes from here.
Some critics (myself included) feel like this whole situation has become unmanageable for College Sports, and may be at the center of the problem as far as the NCAA is concerned. We have created these "Super Conferences" and they are literally taking over College Athletics. Has self-preservation opened the door to disaster? Have the big conferences made life untenable for the rest of collegiate athletics? Some opinions, answers, and more questions after the jump.
The SEC has been around for somewhere in the range of 75-80 years in collegiate athletics. At the time of it's founding the SEC had 13 members, ten of which still remain today, along with Sewanee, Georgia Tech, and Tulane. Sewanee left in the 40's while Georgia Tech and Tulane hung around until the mid 60's. The conference went along with no major changes until 1991. At that time the conference was again expanded to bring in Arkansas and South Carolina. The expansion in the 90's was a part of the huge "recruiting spree" that almost every major conference in the country went on in those days to protect their interests as a "player" in collegiate sports. And it is that expansion and the results of it that bring us to this point. Now understand something, the SEC is only one part of this whole situation. By the way, thanks to ESPN, they are now the richest player at the table. The ESPN deal is the richest in the history of collegiate sports broadcasting. What the SEC hopes to gain by this is increasing it's marketability in other areas outside the Southeast where it reigns supreme in recruiting and fans. The money doesn't hurt either.
Where the conferences and their expansions really show is in the BCS and the NCAA tournament. The conferences control virtually every bowl game now ( all 34 I believe) and who is going where. If I want to start a bowl game in my hometown, I would have to align myself with 2 of the power conferences just to get it off the ground. This is what has brought us to where we are in how teams, and coaches, look at their season. 6 wins now "qualifies" you for participation in the BCS. 6 wins, that's a .500 record . Coaches now look first at their schedule to see what will qualify them for a bowl, then at what they need to do to complete their season. Schools from these power conferences are in effect "buying" their bowl games.This year, it appears that the SEC will get as many as 10 teams into bowl games. 10 out of 12, mind blowing when it comes to showing just how "watered down" bowl appearances have become.
The NCAA tournament in basketball has not quite gotten to that point. The tournament still has their selection committee, and they control basically 1/2 of the teams that get in, but that number continues to dwindle in certain circumstances. For example, if an SEC team wins the regular season title, they have in effect made the tournament. However, the SEC Tournament Champion gets the automatic bid. So that would give the SEC 2 teams in the tournament with one of those spots guaranteed. The tournament committee has formulas that they use each year for selections, and those have always been clouded in a bit of mystery, and that is what has lead in past years to a lot of speculation about who earned their way in and who didn't.
Collegiate athletics has created these problems for themselves. The conferences want to guarantee as much exposure for their schools as possible to "spread the wealth". They have, by doing this, corrupted the system that was supposed to prevent one school, or one group from controlling the post-season, or manipulating it to their benefit.
Where does the SEC fit into all of this you ask? Well, quite honestly it's simple. With a win this week against Vandy, the University of Kentucky guarantees itself participation in one of the bowl games I spoke of above. a win this week, means that we are one of the top 68 teams in all of college football, or are we??
The AD at Boise State University put out a challenge last week to any and all schools to play them at their school in 2011, with no guarantee of a return game necessary. they will play any football BCS division opponent that will accept the game. September 4, I believe is the open date. As of yet the AD had received no calls back or inquiries from any of the BCS schools about playing them on that date. And you know what, I don't believe they will get one either. No one wants to take a chance and go out on a limb when their bowl chances might hang in the balance. I applaud the AD at Boise for doing what most people out there are scared to do. John Calipari says the Cats will do the same thing in basketball. They will not be afraid to play anyone anywhere. He happens to like neutral sites, and I believe that is an excellent approach.
Has the system become so tenuous that schools are afraid to play an opponent from the little ol' Mountain West conference that is so bad they cant go undefeated and get into a championship bowl game? If it has, then the SEC just might need to step in and save itself, from itself.