Terms used in the media phrases like 'major' and 'mid-major' were coined to describe the top college football conferences, which are now 'BCS' (Bowl Championship Series) and 'non-BCS' schools - the have's and the have-not's when it comes to revenue and resources.
As a coach at a 'major' college soccer conference, but in a 'mid-major' or 'non-BCS'conference, it's easy to listen to those who play the blame game or be jealous of what SEC schools have available to them in their arsenal.
Ivan Maisel covers college football for ESPN, and rather than listen to the complaints himself, he writes a pretty simple formula of why SEC is at the top of the BCS pyramid.
Hey, you, with the chip on your shoulder about the Southeastern Conference.
Yeah, you, the one who can't wait to see the Allstate BCS National Championship Game because, for the first time in eight appearances, an SEC team will lose. With No. 1 LSU playing No. 2 Alabama in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans on Monday, there may be less relief there than you think.
You're frustrated with the system. You're mad that the power in college football has consolidated in one place and you're looking for someone or something to blame. The answer lies below.
But before you can look at the culprit, you're going to need a mirror.
When you dig through the data, when you see that SEC athletic programs have bigger budgets than their counterparts around the country because the SEC fills its bigger stadiums, when you see that the caliber of play and the spectacle of those filled stadiums create the highest TV ratings, all of that speaks to the passion that college football creates among the league's fans. That passion creates those resources, which attracts the top coaches, who, in turn, sign the top players.
Even with the head start of Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State ranking 1-2-4 in attendance, the SEC led the nation in 2011, as it has every season since 1998. That's because SEC schools take six positions in the top 11. The revenues generated by that attendance put the SEC at the top of athletic spending, according to a survey by the Sports Business Journal. The median budget of SEC athletic departments in fiscal year 2012 is $90.3 million. The Big Ten is second at $78.8 million. No other conference has a median budget above $62 million.
The money, both in the resources it buys and the salaries it pays, lures the top coaches. Four SEC head coaches -- Mark Richt of Georgia, Steve Spurrier of South Carolina and the two who will be in New Orleans, Les Miles of LSU and Nick Saban of Alabama -- are qualified for the College Football Hall of Fame (10 seasons as a head coach with a career winning percentage of .600).
And the coaches attract the top players. The demographic shift in this country toward the Sun Belt can explain in part the rise of the SEC. More people are living within the conference footprint than ever. But the increased population in and of itself doesn't explain the SEC's rise. If big population made a difference, then Fordham would still rule the East.
To the home talent, add the advantage of the home field. The revenues generated by the SEC schools afford them the luxury of tilting their schedules in their favor. In every other BCS conference, programs play nonconference games in their opponents' stadium. In the SEC, programs forego those road trips because, well, they can.
Beginning in 2006, the first year of the BCS championship streak, LSU, Alabama and Auburn each have played a total of two non-neutral, nonconference road games, and that's not the fewest. Arkansas and Ole Miss have played one apiece.
You can make the case that Alabama and LSU have avoided playing on the road without diluting their schedule -- the Tide has played Virginia Tech and Clemson at a neutral site and will open next season against Michigan in Cowboys Stadium, which is where LSU began this season against Oregon.
But the point is, the Tide and the Tigers can play those games on equal terms with their opponents. Alabama and LSU are 3-0 in those games.
Florida plays at Florida State every other year. But the Gators haven't played a nonconference regular-season game outside the state in 20 years. Filling those huge campus stadiums affords SEC schools the luxury of not leaving them. While one well-heeled booster has spent schools such as Oregon (Phil Knight), Stanford (John Arrillaga) and Oklahoma State (T. Boone Pickens) to the top, SEC schools have gotten there by the strength of the masses.
College football is more important to SEC fans. They show it when 90,000-plus arrive at Bryant-Denny Stadium -- for a spring game. They show it in radio talk shows that are filled with college football talk 12 months a year. And judging by the TV ratings, fans outside the SEC recognize the difference, too.
The three top-rated telecasts this season featured No. 1 LSU. The highest-rated game, LSU-Alabama I, drew the biggest rating for a regular-season game in 22 years. When you're through looking yourself in the mirror, take a look at the game.
Rather than piss and moan about what your team or school doesn't have, come to the realization that the more important your program is to your fans, boosters and sponsors, the more your team will have...if you don't believe me, ask a football coach in the SEC...