There's Just No Contest in the Pac-10 vs. SEC Debate

Gerald BallCorrespondent IJanuary 14, 2009

Why is there even a debate between the Pac-10 and the SEC as to which conference is better?

Seriously, there really shouldn't be any.


Because the two conferences aren't competing against each other. They don't regularly play each other in the regular season.

They don't have bowl tie-ins with each other.

They don't recruit the same athletes, or even the same type and profile of athletes.

They don't have the same style of play.

They also have different emphases of where college (and high school) football fit into their educational framework and overall culture.

These things—and many others—are the results of athletic conferences comprising universities that are 3,000 MILES APART.

So, this talk about how the conferences should schedule more non-conference games with each other and seek more bowl tie-ins: pardon me, but why? What would it gain either conference?


The SEC doesn't need or want respect from anybody.

Instead, it invites anyone and everyone to hate the SEC as much as they choose to do so long as such people take notice of the national titles, bowl wins, draft picks, and recruiting classes that the SEC racks up, even during its "down years."

Hate but don't denigrate because, quite frankly, you can't while remaining intellectually honest. (Yes, the same applies to SEC fans who claim that USC is anything other than an outstanding programs that produces great teams year after year.)

As for the Pac-10, it has an 11-7 record against the SEC in recent years already, and what has it gotten them? Cal beat Tennessee in 2007 and finished 7-6. UCLA beat Tennessee in 2008 and finished 4-8. USC beat Auburn in 2002, Arkansas in 2006, and finished with two losses both years.

So, beating SEC teams will not help the Pac-10 do what it really needs, which is to win enough regular season games to get national title shots and major bowl bids under the current system.

As for money and exposure, the SEC doesn't need it. They are already No. 1 in both. Playing and even beating the SEC is not going to get the Pac-10 exposure and money. That will only come from (and I repeat) winning as often as the SEC teams do.

In order to do that, the Pac-10 will have to recruit as well as the SEC does. That means changing the philosophy and approach that Pac-10 schools have towards college football.

But why would they do such a thing?

College football is nowhere as meaningful on the west coast as it is in the southeast.

Why haven't the Pac-10 lured in Mack Brown, Bob Stoops, Nick Saban, Jim Tressel, Rich Rodriguez, Les Miles, or Urban Meyer with these $4 million a year salaries?

The Pac-10 wouldn't accomplish anything even if they were to win BCS bowls right and left as these coaches have done prior.

Most people out west still wouldn't care because the university culture out there is not college football driven, it is image driven.

Sending the image that you care more about BCS at-large bids than Nobel laureates is part of the reason why Silicon Valley is in California and not Mississippi or Alabama.

This is not to say that the Pac-10 should not do their best to find the next batch of great college coaches. It is just that when UCLA, Arizona State, Arizona, and Washington give guys like Rick Neuheisel, Dennis Erickson, Tyrone Willingham, and John Mackovic THEIR THIRD SHOTS.

The Pac-10 hire guys like Karl Dorrell and give them FOREVER to inevitably fail, it really is hard to claim that Pac-10 programs are really trying. (It is equally hard when the top assistants at Pac-10 schools other than USC are not known for producing very strong recruiting classes OR defenses.)

So the answer for the Pac-10 is not to try as hard at being good at college football as the SEC, because that is not consistent with the types of institutions that are in the Pac-10 (Stanford, Cal, UCLA ... get the picture?) or western culture.

Instead, the Pac-10 needs to find a way to build programs that win 10-12 games a year without emulating the southern university culture that has little else to offer, but its football. 

If USC did it during the McKay, Robinson, and now Carroll tenures and especially Washington did it under Don James, it can be done consistently.

All it takes is hiring good head coaches with great staffs.

USC has that.

Oregon as well though to a lesser degree, I am willing to say the same about Cal and Oregon State for now.

The successful Pac-10 teams need to get from the top 25 and into the top 10.

As for the rest, well they didn't get into bowl games did they?

As great as the SEC has been in football, it can get better too.

Simply put: has anyone noticed SEC graduation rates lately?

Or off the field problems at many SEC schools?

That has to change and SEC fans should demand it, instead of using them as an excuse to chase off coaches that you don't like.

The SEC needs coaches that can win, while recruiting players that actually care about being productive college students. 

Athletic-scholars need to be willing and able to make the good decisions and sacrifices that come with receiving a free education at a major university.

Before you say that such an endeavor is impossible, well you are not facing up to the biggest issue in SEC country. An alarming percentage of our top athletes don't academically qualify, and a high percentage of the rest flunk out in two years or less.

From 10 percent to almost 40 percent of every SEC recruiting class consists of guys that the coaching staff recruiting them knows will have at least a 50/50 chance of flunking out.

SEC fans need to put their voice and organizing muscle behind school reforms to keep so many guys that could help the SEC win even more titles (or failing that have a winning record against the Pac-10 and ACC) from becoming academic casualties.

There needs to be a massive charter school push in SEC country.

There also needs to be "Tim Tebow laws" that would allow charter, private school, and home-schooled  students to play high school sports at public schools (oh yes, and you know, use their libraries and computer labs and other boring stuff like that).

More dual enrollments and advanced courses for the stronger students, more vocational—oriented programs for everyone else.

And the urban and rural high schools that are often the worst achievers—which means have the highest proportion of people who have the ability to be SEC athletes but not the grades—need magnet and IB (international baccalaureate) programs.

Of course, these measures will not address the root cause of the problems, which liberals will say is poverty, conservatives will say is disintegrating families, and those without a dog in the ideological hunt will blame on a variety of other factors.

But the result will still be more eligible athletes for SEC football and other sports (which means needing to rely on recruiting those with poor grades and criminal tendencies even less) and projecting the image that SEC fans care more about things than football.

What is the downside?

So SEC fan, the next time some national or west coast media knucklehead gleefully proclaims the SEC to be having "a down year" or rips SEC's non-conference scheduling, instead of flooding his email inbox with a rant that will accomplish very little, send a letter demanding more charter schools.

Religion based organizations should raise the money to support their own schools with tithes and offerings so that the government will not be able to use the strings that comes with the tax money to regulate churches and schools.

Now, if we would raise scholarship money ourselves to get some of our better athletes away from these failing schools and into these private school football factories like Evangel Prep, then THAT is a good idea!

So Pac-10 and SEC fans, it is time to bury the hatchet (and not in each other's backs!).

Pac-10 fans need to put pressure on their university presidents and ADs to hire better head coaches and better assistants.

SEC fans need to put pressure on their state and local governments to do something about these worst in the nation dropout rates and SAT/ACT scores that deprive us of so many great SEC athletes (plus not a few doctors, engineers, scientists, entrepreneurs, you know boring stuff like that).

So how about it, SEC and Pac-10 fans? Let's stop fighting each other and start fighting our own battles.

And another thing Pac-10 fans, you might want to do something to stop those west coast, anti-football liberals from dropping football at all these programs.

You all know that it is going on out there, and I read that San Jose State and San Diego State are their next targets.


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