Wednesday, January 9, 2013

TMA: The SEC: Financial and Football Dominance

Monday night, Notre Dame and Alabama faced off for the 2012 BCS National Championship. While the game was a clear rout from the start between the #1 and #2 ranked teams in the nation, it was also a matchup between the top two programs in terms of merchandise sales this season.

How did an athletic conference, whose undefeated champion in 2004 was overlooked for a national championship, go from a largely regional sports property to the kings of NCAA football, winning seven straight BCS National Championships? That’s exactly what the Southeastern Conference has done.

TIME’s Victor Luckerson took an in-depth look at the SEC’s growth into the clear gold standard in college football. The key to the league’s growth starts as a cultural thing: as Rick Bragg discusses in one of my favorite articles of all time, football is king in the South. The elite high school athletes all come from these southern states, so the SEC has a competitive advantage with local prospects. Furthermore, there is a clear, almost religious support of schools conference-wide. Chants of “S-E-C!” are not irregular from Lexington to Jacksonville. SEC teams support each other outside of conference play (a large departure from other leagues).

The SEC’s growth also, and probably more importantly, is about the money. These schools don’t have to compete with NFL/pro teams for media attention and fan support. SEC schools are among the nation’s leaders in annual ticket sales. The league also has HUGE TV ratings, drawing millions of fans to watch each game (the Alabama-LSU regular season game in 2011 was reported to have 20 million viewers). SEC schools are also dominant among the top earners for merchandising and licensing revenues. Finally, major athletic boosters are more prominent at these schools than can be seen in other conferences. Six SEC schools received over $25 million from donors in 2011. All this makes it crystal clear why the SEC has dominated college football for much of the last decade.

Will another conference be able to topple the SEC in 2013 and prevent a 9th straight SEC National Champion? We’ll see.


  1. Well done, Ryan. Great research!


    Just posted on ESPN--good read.