that is the most obvious reason for the short-term success. i believe this is a more recent phenomenon; say in the past decade.
We all know it by now: the notion that football is just better down there. But why? For the most part, those advocating for this point-of-view make one or more of the following arguments:
1. The best team in the country annually comes from the SEC, and not from any of the other power conferences.
2. Other conferences don’t fare well in bowl matchups against SEC teams.
From this commentators conclude that SEC teams are just faster, which means the SEC region (sometimes stretched to include all of Texas) just has better athletes, ergo domination. Drew Sharp (and no, I won’t link out to him) has made a particularly strong variation on this last one, arguing that migration patterns from the Midwest to the Southeast essentially mean that all the good athletes from Ohio or Michigan now reside in Florida or Alabama, which ensures the eternal viability of SEC national championship campaigns, and mostly dooms those from Big 10 country—this despite the fact that migration patterns are long-term processes whose social effects are generally felt across generations, not year-to-year. If this were true, one would assume the effects would be more wide-ranging across time. So let’s look more closely at this issue…
1. Where does the best team in the country come from?
Since 2006, it has been the SEC. No doubt about that. But since 1990, it breaks down as follows (with split championships counted as 2, and with teams assigned to their 2010 conferences):
Big 12: 5/24
Pac 10: 3/24
Big 10: 2/24
Looking at 1990-2005, it breaks down as follows:
Big 12: 5/19
Pac 10: 3/19
Big 10: 2/19
Taking this longer-view shows that SEC dominance is largely in the short-term. Prior to 2006, the SEC was decidedly middle-of-the-pack.
2. How do other conferences fare against the SEC in bowl matchups?
In 2010 the SEC went a dominating…5-5. Middling though this sounds, the other power conferences did even worse:
Phil Steele has some handy figures for the years 2000-9:
Here we see that the SEC has, in fact, been the best conference in the country in terms of bowl record, to the tune of a 48-31 record. The MWC and Pac 10 did next best. The other power conferences were less successful, including our beloved Big 10. From this we can conclude that the SEC has, in fact, generally done better than the other conferences in bowl matchups during the last decade, but that this success isn’t quite sui generis.
While I didn’t find a site listing conference records in bowl games for the 1990s, I did find a site that listed the most successful programs of that decade:
The SEC contributed 2 (Florida and Tenessee, at #s 4 and 5), the Big 10 3 (PSU, Michigan and Ohio at #s 6, 7 and 10), while the top 2 were Florida State and Nebraska. This suggests the SEC was not quite the top conference in the ‘90s that it would become in the ‘00s, which in turn suggests that the rise of the SEC has more to do with specific developments than innate or natural advantages.
So what about that migrations theory?
It’s not completely baseless, if you also count other sites of in-migration like the Southwest and West, but then again…Arizona and ASU aren’t exactly lighting it up, are they. But it’s nota very good explanation either. Here are better ones:
1. Warm weather schools have training advantages that cold weather schools don’t, particularly at the high school level, where kids don’t have access to the multimillion dollar conditioning facilities that colleges have. This is most evident in speed conditioning. Just think about it…what’s a better place to practice your 100-meter dash in January: suburban Miami or the Upper Peninsula? It’s not just the SEC that benefits, though. It’s a general advantage for southern and Western schools over Midwestern and Eastern ones. As the game moved towards a greater emphasis on speed over brawn over the past two decades, this translated into an advantage for schools recruiting primarily within the warmer parts of the country. Given the fast pace of advancements in conditioning, and the increasingly nationalized recruiting process, expect this advantage to soften over time.
2. The rise of the SEC in the ‘00s came at the moment of the ACC’s decline. Remember when Florida State used to annually beat Florida? Me too. From 1990-1999, FSU went 7-4-1 (and 7-3-1 if you discount the rematch in 1996-7). From 2000-2009, FSU went 3-7. So what gives? Bobby Bowden getting old and FSU losing ground in the in-state recruiting battles. Oh, and Miami’s post-Coker hangover didn’t hurt either. Actually, the whole ACC declined in stature during the ‘00s, which opened up recruiting lanes for several SEC schools that were previously more competitive. This suggests less a “natural” advantage than an historical one. Since the ACC doesn’t look to be coming back anytime soon, it may be a long-term development. At the same time, it also suggests that the Big 10 could benefit from similar declines in the Big 12 and Big East—provided the conference and its programs take advantage of that.
3. SEC schools have aggressively pursued excellent coaches and been willing to pay money for them. After a Zook experiment, Florida hired Urban Meyer. LSU hired Nick Saban, and later Les Miles. Alabama hired Nick Saban. South Carolina hired Steve Spurrier. Arkansas hired Bobby Petrino. Auburn hired Gene Chizik. Just as importantly, they all paid big money so these guys could build the staffs they wanted.
Big 10 schools are getting there, but it’s taking longer. Michigan is finally paying top dollar for top coordinators; Ohio will be too. Though their ceilings are lower, Little Brother and Wisconsin have also managed to put together efficient, competitive programs on tighter budgets. (Who knows what will happen to PSU—will they go for someone creative like Dan Mullen, or fall into a series of Notre Dame-like FAILS?) A lot of SEC success can be attributed to expensive coaching hires, which translates into a competitive advantage until the rest catch up. This won’t last forever.
4. Oversigning. Not every successful SEC program does this, but some of the most successful (Alabama and LSU, particularly) do. This ensures that certain programs have, say, 4 good choices for WDE rather than 3. Since not all top recruits pan out, oversigning raises the odds that you have someone who will at every position. It’s also a competitive advantage that won’t last, as virtually everyone in the world realizes practices like forcibly granting medical redshirts to college kids are unethical. Virtually everyone.
The SEC has, at least for the past 5 years, and probably for the past 10, been the best conference in the FBS. But the idea of some endless supremacy peddled by homers and haters (I’m looking at you, Drew) are as silly as Karl Rove’s dream of a “permanent Republican majority” in 2004, or Rahm Emmanuel’s similar dream of a “cascading wave of legislative victories” after 2008. Like politics, college football goes in cycles. At certain times, certain identifiable things provide certain empirically verifiable advantages. After some time, others either catch up or conditions change so that those advantages cease to be the assets they once were. We’re almost certainly going to have an SEC champion in 2011-12, and at least three programs in that conference are built for lasting success. But nothing lasts forever.
that is the most obvious reason for the short-term success. i believe this is a more recent phenomenon; say in the past decade.
I have been trying to have this argument with my buddy but didn't have the time to sit down and put together the data. Thanks for this.
It still doesn't make putting up with these bastards in the meantime any easier, but nice to see a well thought out reason as to why this crap has a good reason to go away.
What about simply that it's easier to prepare for a bowl all of December when you're practicing in the sun rather than the snow? It really is the wrong time to judge parity between the big ten and the sec or Florida/Miami/USC.
They all practice where they can do full practices without any hindrances. We've just now built a full indoor field. But it wasn't that way and isn't at other schools. And thus the warm weather schools are ranked pre-season based on previous bowl succes and the situation perpetuates itself.
The system of comparison is flawed...
Especially considering that the bowl games are played indoors or in warm weather settings. If there was a Snow Bowl in Ann Arbor or at Chicago's Soldier Field, it would be a different story. However, this is how it's always been, and the SEC advantage is fairly recent.
But to test your theory...maybe you could find a statistic that looks at early-season nonconference games pitting power conference schools against one another? Not sure if anyone's collected this or not.
It also doesn't hurt that the bowl games are basically home games for the southern schools. There are very few bowl games in the north.
...factor into the discussion the fact that many of the recent (10-15 yrs) Heisman Trophy winners were from the midwest, including Ingram, who happened to play for a SEC team, but was decidedly NOT a Southern product.
I think that the sec has been so good partly in terms of player development especially because of late because of player development and its because the sec doesnt just pay head coaches the big money but they go out and get great coordinators/assistants and they pay them too. I mean shit GMatt is making $750k a year and thats unheard of in the B1G, even tSIO is getting the picture and is going to pay big money to get the best assistants they can buy.
The article I got this from came out before Greg Mattisons salary was revealed I believe, so Im going to add him in at $750k per year
Gus Malzahn Auburn $1.3 million
Kirby Smart Alabama $850,000
Charlie Weis Florida $765,000
Todd Grantham Georgia $750,000
*Greg Mattison Michigan $750,000
Ellis Johnson South Carolina $700,000
John Chavis Louisiana State $700,000
Steve Kragthorpe Louisiana State $700,000
Kevin Steele Clemson $681,000
Nick Holt Washington $650,000
Manny Diaz Texas $625,000
Bryan Harsin Texas $625,000
and get to the NC game (LSU & Bama). Without the advantage of curtting 20% of your worst players, they would just be average.
That's why the SEC will never ban it, although I don't understand why every other conference lets them get away with it.
Alabama LOIs from with 2004-2011: 29, 31, 23, 25, 32, 28, 26, 23. The lowest four year total is 108 or 23 above the 85 limit.
Michigan LOIs over the same period: 22, 23, 19, 20, 24, 22, 27, 20. 39 fewer over 8 years or almost two fewer recruiting classes.
This is similar to giving Bama 5 recruiting classes to our four over the last two four year periods. Since we are both members of the NCAA and they should be looking out for the interest of ALL NCAA members this is criminal and provides Bama with a build in competitive advantage. Maybe every conference but the SEC should secede from the NCAA unless they address this blatant disadvantage other member institutions face.
Oversigining is the most recent and blatantly obvious factor to the SEC's recent sucess. It takes out some of the risk to recruting a bust. If you have a bust, then just oversign and fill in with the next 5/4 star player.
Add in the fact that the best team in the ACC over the past 10 years has been Va Tech, then you see that it opens up so many more recruiting trails that were not there before. Plus, it lowers the level of competition in the SEC home states.
Not ESS EEE SEE speed.
I really think oversigning is the most significant factor to the SEC West's dominance right now. Getting 120 (or whatever the actual number is) chances to find good players every four years vs 100 is a huge difference. It's also why the SEC East isn't very competitive with the West right now. Georgia, Florida, and Tennessee have come out against the worst oversigning practices.
It's not the only important factor to success, but its a huge advantage. Add great resources and coaching staffs, and the teams will be strong.
#3 is big. When you hire a great coach, you're going to get players, but you're also going to get some good young coaches too. Coaches from around the country are going to want to coach under these guys because doing well will enable them to move up to new opportunities. There's a lot of incentive to do well and they're going to be more energetic on the recruiting trail as a result. It's a trickle down effect.
Good analysis. However, oversigning is still rampant and until there are specific, enforced rules by the NCAA, the oversigning will continue.
Also, the SEC has a greater population close to their schools which is an advantage for recruiting and they have bowl games close to home. The advantages in priority would be:
2. Recruiting/ Decline of the ACC
5. Bowl games at home
6. Warm weather
I’m surprised that USC has not done better over the past decade because they have much of the same advantages.
Your conclusion that Michigan and the BIG10 should be able to make inroads into the decline of the ACC and Big 12 is interesting. If Michigan could recruit in Texas, Florida as well as the California and the Midwest, that could be a significant advantage for us.
Eliminating or at least curtailing the worst aspects of oversigning. Even in the SEC. I think it's only a matter of time before all conferences have more stringent limits on the practice, or the NCAA intervenes and makes a global rule about it.
As for USC, they actually did fantastically well during the Pete Carroll days. Since I'm not a fan of vacating wins (what's done is done), his record was:
98-19 with a 7-2 bowl record and 2 national championships.
That's an incredible record.
Expect USC to ride its rich recruiting grounds, and UCLA's continued incompetence, back to elite status after the bowl ban and reduced scholarships are over.
You are correct about USC. They did really well with Carroll. I was mistaken. I was thinking they only won one NC but they won two and should/could have had three. They have little competition while they recruit nationally. We will see if they maintain success while they stay clean.
I really don't see how the SEC addressed it. Until they address the 85 number and not a yearly cap anything the SEC does is merely window dressing.
As for USC, by the NCAA allowing them to sign 31 last year they will only be down 9 scholarships at the end of their 3 year 10 scholarships/year reduction pending players leaving early for the NFL. The penalty basically came down to a two year bowl ban of which one was circumvented by allowing them to play a 13 game schedule with one of them being in Hawaii.
so what exactly didn't USC accomplish that you expected them to?
the SEC has seen in the last decade all came from the midwest and Big Ten programs at some point.
Nick Saban, Les Miles and Urban Meyer all spent time in the Big Ten or a midwest program. This is not a coincidence.
Good job with your outline of topics.
One item that was not discussed, and I question its relevance based upon the lack of hard data, is admission standards. I remember a few years ago when someone published SAT data and, you guessed it, several of the schools at the bottom of the list were SEC schools, (and little brothe)r.
Oversigning has to make a difference. Imagine being able to filter out four or five kids from every class and still have 85 scholarships players on your program.
One point not discussed is the depth of very good teams in the SEC and the lack thereof in the B1G. It seems that often there are at least five or six very good teams in the SEC, compared to two or three in the B1G. The addition of Nebraska should help somewhat as will the resurgence of Michigan. Whether Wiscy's last few years of being solid is a long term trend and where PSU will be with their little shop of horrors is still to be decided.
Though we'd need some statistics to back that up. Are Midwestern schools generally stricter in admissions, or just Michigan?
I will make an educational guess that the school system (k-12) across the board is not that important in the south. there is a reason why the southeast ranks near the bottom in standardised testing, and since most schools are populated with instate students, the bar is not set that high for the rest of the students in college.
Here's a WSJ article that compares the academic rankings of the various conferences.
The Big 12 has the lowest rankings followed by the SEC.
Here is an article that is from 2008.
Little Brother didn't do so well. Why am i not surprised.
THE TOP 10
THE BOTTOM 10
and another little factoid:
The Atlanta Journal Constitution published a list of SAT score gaps between athletes and the student body at large. The data only exists for public schools, but is fascinating nonetheless. Fun facts, plus the schools mentioned in the question:
Average SAT of student body - 1264
Average SAT of football players - 997
Gap - 267
Average SAT of student body - 1275
Average SAT of football players - 930
Gap - 345
Average SAT of student body - 1298
Average SAT of football players - 967
Gap - 330
Average SAT of student body - 1230
Average SAT of football players - 948
Gap - 281
Nationwide, football players average 220 points lower on the SAT than their classmates
Georgia Tech’s football players had the nation’s best average SATscore, 1028 of a possible 1600
The biggest gap between football players and students as a whole occurred at the University of Florida, where players scored 346 points lower than the school’s overall student body. That’s larger than the difference in scores between typical students at the University of Georgia and Harvard University.
UCLA, which has won more NCAA championships in all sports than any other school, had the biggest gap between the average SAT scores of athletes in all sports and its overall student body, at 247 points.
don't follow your conclusion. How are conditions going to change? The south will always have warmer weather and, therefore, better conditioned atheletes. SEC schools will always pay for top coaches because most of those schools have rabid fanbases and bring in a ton of revenue. College football is the ONLY sport in many of these states.
I suppose the SEC, or even NCAA, might crack down on oversigning one day, but the effect of having 4-5 extra recruits a year is minimal, IMO. Oversiging sucks, but I believe it is used as a crutch by haters. The top SEC schools gets 4- and 5-star athletes by the boatload - if oversigning stops, they'll just be more selective about who they offer.
You could make a strong case that the only thing that ever held the SEC back was institutional racism that existed into the 60s & 70s. Once recruiting opened up, it was only a matter of time before they started to dominate. I think the only way other conferences can compete on a regular basis is to outscheme them. Teams like Iowa and Minnesota can never expect to bring in the talent that Bama, Florida, Arkansas, Mississippi et al get on a regular basis.
All IMO, of course.
But indoor conditioning will. So will recruiting. You're going to see more competition over the speedy warm weather guys at the skill positions, while you'll see more speed-oriented conditioning at the rest.
As for revenue...as you can see here, the Big 10 actually makes more in TV revenue than the SEC does:
how about a BCS bowl game in the North. I would love to see an SEC team play in the snow... I doubt their speed and spread offenses will translate as well in adverse conditions.
Regarding the "migrations" stuff, I think you're kind of on the right track but missing the elephant in the room: the South has the largest African-American population in the country, and most elite football recruits are black. It really shouldn't be a surprise that, given a deeper recruiting talent pool to draw from, the SEC schools have more talented rosters. But this is of course a relatively recent phenomenon, because the league was all-white until the 1970s, and it probably took some time even after that for the schools to overcome their racist reputation in the minds of recruits. At this point, though, that's out the window, and most kids in the South (regardless of race) now want to play for SEC schools.
It's worth mention that there's no way Boise State would be ranked right now if TCU and Georgia weren't ranked in the preseason. I think the preseason ranking carryover bias has helped the SEC image a good deal. You can't look at the top-to-bottom resume this year and tell me that they are a deep football conference.
Until the SEC stops winning the BCS Championship almost every year, the use of the word "myth" just sounds like RCMB-style sour grapes.
Not only that, but teams need to stop beating themselves in the MNC game, such as OSU showing up unprepared and losing Ted Ginn in the opening minutes, Texas running an option play with Colt McCoy and losing him for the game, or Oregon's play calling.
Zone Left mentioned this in regards to oversigning, but over the last five years, the SEC has certainly dominated - and itself been dominated by the SEC West schools (not from Mississippi). Auburn, Bama and LSU have all won a title, and Florida won two. Florida's in one of the most populous states in the country, and has seen its two biggest in-state rivals fall asleep for the last decade - and it STILL has hit a rut over the last two years. Georgia hasn't been good since, what, 2007? Tennessee just celebrated a win over Vanderbilt like we did ours over Ohio. The three blue-blooded programs of the SEC East have hit hard times - and so the West hasn't just gotten the good fortune of seeing the ACC fall, they've also seen the SEC East fall too. That, I believe, is a short term thing.
One other thing regarding recruiting - I firmly believe that one reason Michigan dishes out less football recruits than Ohio and Pennsylvania is because of hockey. It's such a part of Michigan's culture, so a lot of the best athletes play it. And at a high level playing hockey means you're not playing anything else. The sport isn't as popular in similarly populated states of the Midwest (Illinois, Ohio, PA) and so those states have more football recruits. While I don't think that winter sports account for as much disparity between the North and South in general, I certainly think hockey hurts Michigan in football recruits.
But obviously not enough. we BEAT OHIO!
The influence of the 'Canes I guess (laugh if you will), but youth hockey has become really popular down here, and the best kids play year round (much like soccer or swimming). I know several who used to, but no longer play football because of it.
Contrast that within Florida or year round football based your outreach programs here in Durham or Raleigh where youth football is a year round sport (I can't comment on Ohio), and you can see where middle school and high school coaches get a bigger base of football skills to start with.
You could also throw wrestling into that equation w/hockey as well. BIG10 is a hockey / wrestling conference as well as football.
I know alot of wrestlers are 2 sport athletes in combinaiton w/football, but I would say some of them go on a wrestling scholarship & become 1 sport athletes in college. Training is probably way more intense doing those 2 than playing basketball / football.
I agree with this sentiment - I knew really good athletes in HS who just focused on hockey even though they would have been solid football players if they had focused on it instead. And it does help to explain how a state with similar demographics to PA and OH produce significantly less top-notch talent on a consistent basis.
I think it's funny to say down here in Florida where I live that the ENTIRE state of Florida is IRRELEVENT in the landscape of college football this year, with the exception of FSU barely cracking the top 25 in the AP poll as of last week. It burns them to hear that. NO Florida team shows up in the BCS Standings. SEC has 2 DOMINANT teams & one or 2 good teams (UGA & ARK). Really, the rest is garbage.
You can say this almost every year too. Sure, the SEC has produced the National Champion every year the past 5-6 yrs, but they are top heavy. You CANNOT tell me that teams like Vandy or Tenn or even Florida this year are bad because of the "RIGORS OF THE SEC" as they so often throw that phrase out. Fact is those teams just SUCK & they would suck in ANY conference you put them in.
LSU & ALA are WAY beyond anything any other conference could throw out there, but aside from that, the rest of that conference would NOT finish above UM, OSU, Wisky or MSU in the Big10 & probably fair the same if not worse in the Pac12.
SOOOO Sick of hearing how EVERY team down there would win in any conference & the reason a team goes 3-9 is because the "COMPETITION IS SO FIERCE IN THE SOUTH"
That, my friend, is BS.
Another conclusion I drew from this was that the Big Ten has sucked in the national picture for about 21 years.
There was an SI or ESPN article on this not long ago...
The proposition is, a team dominates in football when its defensive line dominates -- if a team can get superior pass rushing with just 4 down guys, the defense will be exceptionally hard to defeat.
Looking at the NFL, the southern states have a disproportionate share of DE's and DT's in the NFL, compared to population. Lots of DE/DT from FL and GA (and NJ and PA actually); not so much Vermont etc.
Now, oddly... the states with the disproportionate share of DT/DE in the NFL just about matches each state's percentage of overweight population compared to average.
Yes, it's remarkable but: Southern states (and NJ, and PA) have too many fat people; so kids who are athletic and can handle the extra weight are more likely to end up as killer DE's and DT's.
Hence, SEC rules.
Wild theory. Statistics can prove anything?
Stats prove everything ask the freakanomic dude
What you fail to realize, is that not all 4 or 5 star recruits pan out. If BWC had gone to Alabama that dude would have been med. redshirted by now and replaced with another high-rated prospect that actually DID play up to his recruiting ranking. It's recruiting without any risk, with all the reward.
If you were the boss of your own company and you had 4 open positions, you're telling me that there would not be a HUGE advantage to hire 5 people then kickout the one that did the worst? You could easily go out and get the 4 best prospects(4 and 5* recruits) and then take a chance on someone with a lot of talent but doesn't have the grades (i.e. 3* with 4.3 speed but only played high school ball for a year). One of the "best" applicants is now pregant and doesn't want to work as hard (lazy, out of shape 5* du jour) and the borderline applicant outperformed everyone and you keep him and axe the preggers. You now have 4 extremely well qualified employees. Had you only hired the "top" 4, You would now have 3 qualified employees and you had to settle for a college intern that while works hard isn't necessarily the same quality of the others (Walk-ons and freshmen starters at any position).
You compound oversigning with almost no academic standards to speak of, you have almost no risk recruiting players who will get "incompletes" in a semester (guess who?). So you're almost guarateeing you won't have any attrition due to grades. An you'll always have 85 players capable of making plays for you, at all times. Which is a HUGE advantage when you consider our own depth issues which could have derailed our season had any number of linemen on both sides of the ball missed any stretches of time.
This isn't clear. I did actually say that oversigning raises the possibility of getting recruits that pan out at a given position.
people get offended because players don't get paid sometimes, well nick saban, les miles, and other SEC coaches just use those players and ditch them when they aren't productive enough for strictly their own gain. It's pretty disgusting actually and the fact that Saban gets so offended whenever anyone brings it up to him makes me just want to hit him
I meant to read this earlier and just missed it, but good job. I really like hte breakdown.
With respect to the bowl wins, my argument has always been that teams in the South and West play bowl games right in their backyard (or at least close enough), meaning they have less travel, are less displaced, more acclimated to the conditions, etc. These might all be minor advantages, but when you consider most football games between equal-talent tend to be decided by close margins, these are undoubtedly factors in that winning percentage. I mean, LSU was able to play Ohio in New Orleans, which is a heck of a lot closer to Baton Rouge than Columbus. That stadium was far more pro-Tigers than pro-Buckeyes, and I'm sure it was difficult for Ohio to get the plays off, adjust, etc. with a defeaning crowd behind them in a dome in the south. Same with those USC teams in the mid-00's - they never traveled farther east than Arizona (I believe), and yet teams like UM had to travel cross-country to play them in their home stadium.
I do think oversigning is a major short-term reason, but I also don't see that changing any time soon - the schools will talk about changing the practice, but the NCAA is the only organization with the power to make the playing field level, and when was the last time they did anything constructive and controversial like that?