Tuesday, January 8, 2013

SEC Dominance? Let's Start--And End--With Nick Saban

All through the fall I’ve been hearing this chatter from SEC fans about their SUPER conference, dominance, etc, et al, blah blah blah.  And aside from some of these SEC fans being among the most obnoxious and arrogant I’ve ever known, it seemed they had a good point. 

But something about it just gnawed at me. Something didn’t fit.

An then last night, as I watched Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide dismantle my beloved Fighting Irish in the BCS title game, it hit me: this isn’t about the SEC—it’s about Nick Saban.  He's the one-man wrecking crew that has lifted the SEC into prominence!  Follow me for a minute…

First off, Saban won his first national title at LSU in January of 2004.  That began a ten year stretch in which the SEC won eight BCS Championship games—the only misses being USC and Texas in 2005 and 2006.  Saban stayed at LSU one season after his title, and then left to spend two years in the NFL with the Miami Dolphins, before returning to the SEC as Alabama’s head coach in the 2007 season.
Pause here for a moment to credit Urban Meyer with being the Robin to Saban’s Batman in the rise of the SEC: Urban came to Florida in the fall of 2005, and in only his second season led the Gators to the BCS National Championship in January, 2007.  After skipping a year, he did the same in the fall of 2008/January, 2009. Two titles in three years.

The title between those two by Meyer at Florida?  LSU led by Les Miles--oh yeah, with the juniors and seniors that Nick Saban had recruited.  So, in six years, we have two titles by Meyer, one by Saban, and one by the team Saban put together and left for Miles.
Re-enter Saban in the fall of 2007 to a battered and lost Alabama program.  Not to cut to the chase, but six seasons later, Saban has led the Crimson Tide to three National Championships in his last four seasons.  His four total rank second (tied with several others—Frank Leahy at ND and Robert Neyland at Tennessee among them) only to Bear Bryant in the college game; but all of Saban’s have been won in an era of unprecedented parity in the college game that did not exist 20 or 30 years ago, let alone in the era these other men coached.  

Back to the SEC and their chirpy little fans. (Sorry—but it’s hard not to take that shot.  When the fans taunting you about their “premier college conference” include Tennessee followers…well, let’s just say that both McDonald’s and Morton’s serve beef, but that doesn’t mean they’re in the same league…)  Talk about your “Top Gun” conference all you want, but this behemoth was built by Nick Saban, with a little help from Urban Meyer.  Together, they are six of the eight championships won by the SEC in the last ten seasons, and as noted, Les Miles won his with Saban’s talent and essentially, his system. 

As an aside--the eighth championship not in the lineage above was won by Auburn just two years ago.  Was it a fluke?  Well, that coach has already been fired.  Win a national title, and you can't even make it through two complete seasons after. So I'm just discounting Auburn's run as a brief Cam Newton sighting.

So back to your "dominant" conference?  Well let's see: bowl losses this year to mighty Northwestern; a bowl loss by kingly LSU to Clemson; and two of your top ranked teams, Georgia and South Carolina, were taken to the wire by very average Nebraska and Michigan squads. 

Oh, and I seem to have forgotten my own personal favorite: 3rd ranked Florida, who complained that they were left out of the BCS championship game, getting blown out--and I mean torched--by one of the Big East's FOUR co-champions, 21st ranked Louisville.  You remember the Big East?  That's the conference that was built for basketball and is in the process of going out of existence...?


Apparently, Florida's membership card in the most dominant conference in the history of college football had expired prior to kickoff...

In that vein, I guess you could say that the NFC West was the absolute most dominant conference in the NFL in the 80’s.  Just ask the Rams, Saints, and Falcons—who between them managed just two division championships from 1981-1990, while their divisional brethren the San Francisco 49’ers were winning all the rest, and uh, oh yeah, four Super Bowls.  Yeah, you get my drift…

So, all you (insert your favorite adjective here) SEC fans who want to credit your team with being part of the greatest conference in the history of college football: Cal and Arizona fans didn't do it with USC in the 80's; Northwestern and Minnesota didn't do it with Michigan and Ohio State in the 60's and 70's.  How about you don't do it with arguably the greatest coach in the history of this hallowed game, and his sidekick.  Here's to the great SEC!  The conference of Nick Saban's Alabama, Nick Saban's LSU, Urban Meyer's Florida, and uh, all the other teams we could round up for them to beat.



  1. Yes, over the past eight years Saban is responsible for a huge amount of the SEC's dominance. But as far as the past two national championships, I think you are placing too little emphasis on the fact that A.J. McCarron is Episcopalian.

  2. Hoov,
    Though most of us Bama fans consider Saban a saint, I tend to believe that there is no way ND would have ever been undefeated if they were in the SEC. As you know, ND was nearly beaten by Purdue & Pitt (who's coaches blew those games!) and Stanford (questionable call sent the game into OT). SOme people questioned if Bama should have even been in the National Champ game since Ohio State was also undefeated. Come on, what about strength of schedule? Last nights game left ND looking like they had no idea what hit them. We SEC fans knew that the REAL National Champ game was the SEC Champ game...now that was a battle down to the wire! But then again, most SEC fans would have ranked Georgia and Texas A&M above Florida. Florida looked poopy most of the year...like ND, they were luckier than good with similar outcome in the bowl game. You can say that Georgia and Texas A&M squeezed by in the bowl game, but they both won big in Q4. LSU got beat on the last play of the game by Clemson (very respectful team) due to another stupid Les Miles coaching decision to throw the ball verses burn clock on his last possession. DOn't get me wrong, the SEC has weak teams just like every other conference. As a side note, I am glad that Urban Meyer is now in the BIG TEN. My guess is that Ohio State will dominate that conference and as you have pointed out...he too is a very good coach! Too bad he didn't go to the Boilers! :-)

  3. It's interesting that you take my column as an ND defense--it's not. Would they have been undefeated in the SEC, doubtful...no one was. But they'd have fared much better than you give them credit. They proved they can't be Bama--although I do think there were at least two and maybe three significantly bad calls early that hurt them. But they had a freshmen QB and were playing against one the best coached and best seasoned team in the country. The only other team in the SEC that I question the outcome against ND is A&M. The others would have been close and good games, but they found a way to beat very good teams all year long.

    And I am also not saying there aren't good teams in the SEC; clearly there are. But it's not the be all end all, and rather than a Tennessee or Kentucky fan yapping at me about how great their conference is, my point is that one guy pretty much started and has carried that trend--and when he's gone, it will go back to being a mega conference with a good team or two every year. I also don't want to hear the 6-3 in bowl games argument...just because anybody who's 6-6 gets to fill one of the myriad slots doesn't mean your conference is awesome. Miss State beating Pitt is a record stacker, I don't care what anyone says.

    Conferences come and go and have periods in all sports; and the SEC's current streak in football is unprecedented and amazing. As I've said numerous times I was actually enjoying it until fans started talking like they should just make a seperate division for everyone else. My point is very simple: the credit for the rise of the SEC is due to Nick Saban; and in this case, a rising (rolling?) Tide raises all boats.

  4. Hoov,
    Agree that conferences and teams in all sports come and go, that is life. When I moved to TN almost 25 years ago, I went to work with a Hog fan and several UT Orange fans. Back then, all I knew was the Big Ten. I think we both agree that coaching definitely makes the difference. Look what happened to the Hogs this year. They were on the vurge of being a highly competitive team and one motor cycle wreck finished that one! I understanding the frustration of rude fans...I used to feel the same way about IU. :-) At this point in time, the SEC is very dominate in the football arena. I hate to see SEC teams penalized for being in a strong conference, but it happens because someone has to lose the game and ratings are driven mostly by record with limited consideration of strength of schedule. Georgia was HOT at the end of the year and honestly, if Georgia had another minute on the clock, I think they would have been playing ND instead of Bama. I am proud that ND did so well this year. Hopefully they are on their way back to being a powerhouse. I think we can both agree that Alabama could use some good competition...preferrably from OUTSIDE of the SEC! Saban obviously knows how to recruit and motivate. That I hope we can agree on! Happy New Year! And Roll Tide!

  5. Personally, I'd like to see him in Kansas City... ;-)