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It's an SEC world

Conference has dominated college football with five BCS titles in a row. There has been plenty of controversy, but no one has had to give back any hardware.

July 21, 2011|Chris Dufresne

Imagine Athens (Greece, not Georgia) at the dawn of democracy or Florence on the cusp of the Renaissance.

Throw in humidity, sweet tea and a five-alarm fire and you might begin to understand that, in college football, the strut starts here.

Wednesday, the first of three Southeastern Conference media days, marked the season's unofficial roll-tide rollout.

They are so itching to kick something off down here that they hold the event weeks before schools are even allowed to practice. The SEC simply can't stand the down time between its two favorite sports: spring football and fall football.

The SEC is an epicenter that includes guards, tackles, quarterbacks and coaches.

Copernicus had the gall once to suggest that the Earth revolves around the sun. Likewise, you wouldn't walk in here and start talking about the Sun Belt.

Two years ago, SEC Commissioner Mike Slive opened festivities by proclaiming his conference was living through "a period that may someday be called the SEC's Golden Age."

You envisioned the silver-haired Slive in a toga, being hand-fed grapes.

That was after the conference won its third consecutive Bowl Championship Series title. The SEC has now won five in a row and seven of 13.

And that's not counting Auburn -- undefeated but left out of the 2004 title game -- which has tried to annex the crown USC won but eventually abdicated.

There's no use arguing it. The SEC is the biggest and best. Five of its teams have won BCS titles: Tennessee, Florida, Louisiana State, Auburn and Alabama.

"You can't roll out the ball and say we're just going to get by this week," Mississippi State Coach Dan Mullen proudly puffed Wednesday. "That doesn't work in the SEC."

Will Muschamp was coach-in-waiting at Texas, not exactly a developmental squad, but jumped at the chance to coach Florida after Urban Meyer resigned.

In the SEC, they win more, care more, hit harder and compete like junkyard dogs.

The SEC is, literally, thicker than everyone else.

"We're a line of scrimmage league," Muschamp said.

Sometimes, as they say, it's best to render unto Caesar.

The rationalist admires the SEC's pride, passion and the work-ethic willingness to "want it more."

The cynic says: "Congratulations ... and how are you getting away with this?"

The SEC isn't just good, it's Teflon. How can you walk through a storm, with your head held high, and never get soaked?

The conference wins titles with one hand and, with the other, fends off enforcement marauders. The NCAA enforcement office must have P.O. boxes on several SEC campuses.

SEC schools have incurred the NCAA's wrath, for sure, but not to the extent an actual national title has been put in jeopardy.

The SEC has tiptoed through more tulips than Tiny Tim.

Year 1: Allegations swirled around Tennessee quarterback Tee Martin after the Volunteers won the BCS title of 1998.

Nothing stuck except the banner they glued to the stadium.

Alabama got USC-like hammered by the NCAA a decade ago, but that didn't slow the BCS title run of 2009.

Louisiana State, only this week, was hit with a major violation but won't have to hand back hardware hard won in 2003 and


The LSU penalty left Vanderbilt as the only SEC school since 1987 that has avoided a major infraction. Vanderbilt finished 2-10 last year.

Meyer's reign at Florida included numerous player arrests, but they don't strip titles for that.

Elsewhere, an off-campus scandal in San Diego involving Reggie Bush forced USC to vacate the only precious BCS title the Pacific 12 Conference has won.

Oregon reached the title game last season and immediately found itself embroiled in an NCAA inquiry.

Auburn, which bested Oregon to win the title, played the season in a maelstrom that involved allegations that quarterback Cam Newton's father demanded thousands for his son's services.

The NCAA took it seriously. Auburn suspended Newton on a Monday and the NCAA reinstated him Tuesday.

It's important to note that wrongdoing involving Auburn has not been

established, although the NCAA's investigation is ongoing.

Some would argue that the SEC cheats but is simply better at it. It does not leave the kind of paper trail that cost Jim Tressel his job at Ohio State.

The safest way to stay stealthy, of course, is to pay cash.

Any sour grapes out there?

Oh yeah, there's that.

At least the SEC isn't rubbing it in this year.

Slive didn't break out his "brag bag" speech to open media days, which basically run nonstop through Friday. Wisely, he took a temperate tone.

There was no "Golden Age" talk. Slive understands too well the integrity crisis his sport faces.

"We don't have the luxury of acting as if it's business as usual," he said.

Rather than gloat, Slive proposed recruiting reforms that may or may not take root.

He reiterated words of NCAA President Mark Emmert when he stated, "Intercollegiate athletics has lost the benefit of the doubt."

But until real reform is enacted there's nothing to do but prepare for another exciting season.

Let there be no doubt which conference will be leading the charge.

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