The Myth Of Conference Allegiance

Michael MatthewsCorrespondent IJanuary 8, 2009

There is no such thing as “conference allegiance”.


There.  I said it.


Hell.  I’ll say it again.




Is my point clear?


Ok, one more time, just for good measure.




Ok.  That should do it.



Why would someone make such a bold and essentially improvable claim such as this, you might ask.




Because “conference allegiance” doesn’t exist.


It doesn’t.


It is an idea manufactured by big media and manifested by the fans.


Listen to ESPN radio.  Watch College Football Final.  Listen to any sports-talk know-it-all with a microphone in front of his buffalo-wing-stuffed face.  You’re bound to hear the words “SEC fan” or “Big Ten fan.”


Excuse me?


Every year during bowl season we witness Oregon fans rooting for USC, Miami fans pulling for Florida St., Oklahoma St. fans cheering for Oklahoma, even (gulp) Bama fans supporting LSU?




Because if those teams perform well it makes the conference look good?


Because if the Pac-10 goes 5-0 in bowl games, it trumps the fact that Washington and Washington St. went a combined 2-475 in 2008?


Because if Oklahoma wins the National Championship, Iowa St. will have a reason to celebrate a stinker of a season?


It’s ridiculous. 


And it’s ridiculous to the power of 37562 in the SEC.  Especially among it’s fans.

I should know.  I am a fan of an SEC school. 


Notice I DID NOT say, “I am an SEC fan.”




Because “SEC fans” are jokes.  They are fickle.  They transparently clutch on to the success of successful schools.  And, for some unknown reason, put “conference allegiance” before school allegiance.


Why on earth should an Auburn fan want to see Alabama win the Sugar Bowl?


Look, I get the idea of wanting to see your conference perform well against other big conferences.  Trust me I do.  Bowl games and regular season out-of-conference games are a good measuring stick to see how well a conference performs against the rest of the nation’s top programs.


But (and this is the key point of this entire rant) there is a fine line between “conference pride” and “conference allegiance.”  And it’s that line that so many “SEC fans” have blindly and naively crossed.


This is what I mean.


This is how Webster’s dictionary defines the two terms:


Pride:  That of which one is proud; that which excites boasting or self-gratulation; the occasion or ground of self-esteem, or of arrogant and presumptuous confidence, as beauty, ornament, noble character, children, etc.”


Allegiance:  The tie or obligation, implied or expressed, which a subject owes to his sovereign or government; the duty of fidelity to one's king, government, or state.”


(For all intents and purposes, replace the words “sovereign”, “government”, “king” and “state” with the word “conference”.)


Notice how the latter uses terms like “obligation,” “owe,” and “fidelity”?  See anything like that in the former?


Didn’t think so.


“Pride” is selfish in nature.  It is attached to the individual.  And to take pride in something is done so at the free will of that individual.


“Allegiance” implies that, beyond my own volition, despite my hatred for School A, and due to geographic location and affiliation, I must/have to/am required to root for School A.  I have no choice in the matter.




You want to have conference “pride”?  Go right ahead. 


If you love the SEC/Big XII/Pac 10 so much you’re willing to throw aside deep-seeded rivalries?  It’s your prerogative, Bobby Brown.


But to tell me, that because I am a fan of an SEC school, I am obliged to root for any other SEC school during any out-of conference game, due to some mythical “conference allegiance”? 


No. Sorry.  Not going to happen.


And that’s why conference allegiance does not exist. 


Because no one is obligated to cheer for any team other than their own.


The SEC/Big XII/Pac 10/Big Ten, etc. is not going to force any fan base to pull for their hated rival in a bowl game due to some fabricated conference allegiance.


It’s not going to happen.


I’m sure Vanderbilt would appreciate any demonstrated conference pride thrown in their direction, but to assume they having the backing of every fan from every school in the SEC is just naïve (and not to mention downright ignorant). 


As a fan of an SEC school, I will be honest and tell you that I hope Florida wins the National Championship. 


My reason?  Because I’d much rather see Florida win the National Championship than Oklahoma.  This (much like pride) is merely out of selfishness.  I’d feel better if Florida won.


That’s it.


It’s that simple.


Not because I am a fan of an SEC school and, therefore, must follow an unwritten rule about “conference allegiance” and, by obligation or fidelity, root for an SEC school in the National Championship.


That’s because there is no unwritten rule regarding “conference allegiance.”


But, because big media throws conference strength down our throats, this fabricated idea of “conference allegiance” has blossomed.  Fans are so worried about how well their conference looks against other conferences, that they drop real allegiance that they should have (to their school), and adopt this mythical allegiance to anything conference.


And while we’re discussing the intricacies of the word “allegiance,” let’s examine the difference between allegiance to school, and allegiance to conference.


Now, you would think that school allegiance would be the most important, right?  That if any obligation existed, it would between a fan and his or her SCHOOL.


Well, not in the hearts of those SEC fans who follow the unwritten (mythical) rule of “conference allegiance.”


Auburn and Bama share a mutual in-state hatred for each other (or at least I thought), yet, come bowl season, I notice that many an Auburn fan (not all, mind you) voicing their support for Bama.




I thought you guys “hated” each other.  Why would you want your in-state rival to win such a prestigious game?  Because a win for Bama is a win for the SEC, and then, in turn is a win for Auburn?


Man, my head hurts.


Apparently, in the SEC, conference allegiance trumps school allegiance.


I have been accused of not being a “real fan’ because I wanted to see Bama lose the Sugar Bowl more than anything.  I wanted it more than Bret Michaels wants the next big-breasted former stripper/adult film star with a bad dye-job and a propensity for vomiting. 


I wanted them to look like chumps on a national stage. 


And they did.  And I was happy.


And why wouldn’t I want this to happen?


If my school convincingly wins its bowl game, and Bama gets run over in theirs, my school looks better – doesn’t it?  Wouldn’t something like that sway a top recruit over to my school if he was on the fence?


And while we’re at it, let’s stop pretending as if coaches care about their conference outside of they way they use it to politic for a spot in the big game.


I don’t care if Urban Meyer wants to drop a few tips to his buddy and former defensive coordinator.  He has no allegiance to the SEC.  His obligations are to Florida, the players that play for Florida, and the coaches that coach for him at Florida, that, as soon as the season ends, will go out trying to recruit players that are also considering other SEC schools.


I don’t care is the staff at Alabama talk to coaches at Oklahoma.  Just like I’m sure Urban Meyer doesn’t care


In fact, if I was a Bama fan, I’d be rooting for Oklahoma on Thursday night.




Think about it.  Florida and Bama both recruit heavily in the state of Florida.  Take Tim Tebow for instance.  What two schools was he considering his senior year of high school?


You guessed it – Florida and Alabama.


Now, lets assume Florida does win the National Championship (like many Bama fans want them to do), and evaluate the following hypothetical example:


A Five-Star recruit is on the fence between Florida and Alabama (sound familiar?).


He goes to visit Florida.  He walks into The Swamp and sees Championship banners for 2007 and 2009 (not to mention 1996).  He peers through a trophy case at two gorgeous crystal footballs.  He’s told he can come to a school and be a part of a team that has won championships – both the SEC and National variety.


Then he goes to visit Bama.  He walks into Bryant-Denney Stadium and sees the 1992 National Championship Banner.  Maybe he thinks, “Has it really been that long”?  He peers through a trophy case at the “Insert Third-rate Media Organization” National Championship Trophy from 19……(you get the idea?).


National signing day draws near.  He’s on the fence.  Now, what school sounds more appealing?


One where they have won championships in the last five years.




One where they talk about winning championships, but haven’t actually done it in over a decade.


So, I ask again; Why on earth would a Bama fan root for Florida?


Isn’t that directly against what is best for your school?  Isn’t there a major conflict on interest between school allegiance and the mythical conference allegiance?


Maybe I’m just crazy.


If Florida does win the National Championship, the TEAM (not the conference) will be given a big, sparkling trophy.  That trophy is going in a trophy case in Gainesville, FL. 


Nowhere else.


It will not make a regional tour a la the 2004 Boston Red Sox World Series Trophy.


It will not be cut up in to twelve pieces and sent to the four corners of the southeast like the Brits did William Wallace.


You won’t be able to take a vacation to Nashville, Fayetteville, Auburn, Starkville, Oxford, Athens, Tuscaloosa, Columbia, or Lexington and see the 2009 National Championship Crystal Ball.


If you go to Knoxville you’ll get to see one.  If you go to Baton Rouge, you’ll get to see two.  But those were rewarded to those schools, NOT the SEC.


And you can take the passage above and insert the towns/cities of Lawrence, Stillwater, Waco, Lubbock, Manhattan, Ames, Boulder, Lincoln, College Station, and Columbia (MO this time) and apply it to “Big XII” fans if Oklahoma happens to win.


Now, don’t get me wrong.  I’m not trying to tell anyone who to root for.  But whoever you do pull for in whatever football game you are watching, both tonight, tomorrow, or 26 years from now, do it for selfish reasons. 


Do it because you hate Team A, or like Player X.  Do it because your sister’s boyfriend’s cousin’s aunt’s second husband went to that particular school.


But don’t do it out of any “conference allegiance.”


Because in the real world of college football, it doesn’t exist.


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