NEW ORLEANS – If it is true, as Socrates once said, that, “Envy is the ulcer of the soul,” every other college football conference in America has been speed-eating Tums for the past six years.
LSU and Alabama play in the BCS championship game on Monday night in the Superdome. But this is sort of like two gladiators battling for the right to be viewed as the favorite son of the emperor. The emperor already has won.
This will make six consecutive BCS titles won by SEC schools. It will make eight championships in the 13 years the game has been played, far exceeding the closest member of the lower class (the Big 12 with two).
One would have to go back to the early 1900s of Ivy League domination to find a conference with such a run. But to wax on about the greatness of Princeton, Yale and Harvard football is sort of like referencing the Tyrannosaurus rex ruling over the animal kingdom. Ivy League football didn’t have a lot of competition back then, unless you count Ivy League crew.
The SEC is 7-0 in championship games. So the irony is it will take two conference schools playing each other for the first time for it to suffer its first loss. The SEC has redefined the blueprint for world domination.
When asked Sunday if he foresaw anything that could derail this train, LSU coach Les Miles said, “Not at this point.”
Feel free to add the words, “… in this decade” or “… in this century,” depending on your perspective.
SEC commissioner Mike Slive knew the passion and culture of college football that existed in his conference. He recognizes the SEC’s mega-millions television contracts have enabled athletic departments to lure the best coaches and build Taj Majal-like practice facilities. The obvious ripple effects: better recruits and more wins.
But even he admits this streak was unfathomable. It’s stupid-great. It’s Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak, UCLA’s 88 straight wins in men’s basketball and Edwin Moses’ 122 straight hurdles wins great. The six straight titles will have been won by four schools (LSU, Alabama, Florida, Auburn) but that doesn’t diminish the run’s significance.
“It’s one of those records that I think will never be broken,” he said. “I’m an optimist by nature, but I don’t think anybody can have expectations of this. I remember a few years ago thinking, ‘Wow. We won two straight.’”
Slive’s reading list last summer included an appropriate book: “”56: Joe DiMaggio and the Last Magic Number in Sports.”
“That’s when I realized this is a record that in many ways is as phenomenal as DiMaggio’s record, and just hard to imagine in the future,” he said.
Then again: “We could break our own record.”
LSU has a good chance to be a preseason No. 1 next season. Alabama won’t be far behind.
Clearly money is a huge factor, but as Slive points out, “We’re not unique in our ability to develop significant revenue. At least one other conference has been able to do that.”
Slive didn’t come out and reference the Big Ten by name. It’s not polite.
Alabama defensive coordinator and former Georgia safety and Kirby Smart also referenced the conference’s high profile coaches, but said the reason for the conference’s success goes beyond that. “Regionally, high school football, in my opinion, is so great in the SEC states,” he said. “My dad’s a high school coach, and I’ve always believed that. … Everybody talks about the [defensive] line, but there are other skilled players. In the South, if you’re a really good athlete, you may play cornerback. That’s not necessarily true everywhere else — they’re [wide receivers].”
Since the AP poll started in 1936, the previous conference title streak of three was held by the SEC (1978-80) and the Big Ten (1940-42). That has been obliterated. The titles have elevated the conference in the eyes of the nation’s top recruits.
Recalling his days as a high school recruit, Alabama linebacker Courtney Upshaw said his top three signing choices all were recent national champions from the SEC.
“I just felt like my main thing was to get to an SEC school if I wanted to be remembered,” he said. “You know what I’m saying?”
Upshaw is playing in his second BCS title game in three years. Safe to conclude he chose well.
By Jeff Schultz