Why the SEC Dominates Recruiting (Hint: It's Not Just the Championships)

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Why the SEC Dominates Recruiting (Hint: It's Not Just the Championships)
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The SEC is home to seven straight BCS National Championships. During that time, it has also established itself as the top recruiting conference in the country.

Since Florida knocked off Ohio State in the BCS National Championship Game following the 2006 season, 26 SEC teams have finished in the top 10 of the Rivals team rankings. That's 43 percent of the top 10 over a six-year span dominated by one conference.

With five teams in the 2013 Rivals rankings, and Ole Miss and Auburn knocking on the door, that number will likely go up after national signing day.

But it wasn't just the BCS National Championships that led the SEC to success. SEC teams have found their way into the top 10 in Rivals' team rankings 43 times since 2002, with five programs having at least six separate classes in the top 10 over a 12-year period.

That's strong.

So why has the SEC enjoyed so much success on the recruiting trail?

For one, the SEC sits right in the middle of some of the best high school football in the country. Six of the top 10 states in Bleacher Report's countdown of the top 25 recruiting hotbeds are within the SEC footprint. 

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The SEC gets blasted all over the country thanks to its success on the game's biggest stages and an established network television deal that blasts the conference's top game across the country.

College football players want to play in the NFL. While the league will always find capable players, the exposure and the competition level that the SEC provides certainly doesn't hurt matters.

Plus, it's the coaching you receive in the SEC.

And it's not just head coaching, although four of the eight highest-paid head coaches in the country last season were SEC head coaches according to the USA Today salary database. It's the dedication SEC head coaches have for hiring top-tier assistants.

Three of the last four winners of the Broyles Award given to the nation's top assistant coach have been from the SEC-LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis (2011), then-Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn (2010) and Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart (2009).

USA TODAY Sports
Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart

Bleacher Report Big Ten lead writer Adam Jacobi wrote a terrific four-part series on coaching salaries in January, where he noted that the SEC is leading the way in paying assistant coaches. Eight SEC schools found their way into the top 20 last season in the amount of money paid to assistants.

Since assistant coaches are the primary points of contact for high school prospects, hiring a staff that's competent on game days and on the recruiting trail is one of the top job responsibilities for any head coach.

Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

As the old saying goes, "you have to spend money to make money."

In fiscal year 2011, six SEC schools had recruiting budgets of more than $600,000 according to ESPN.com, with Tennessee leading the way with a budget of $1,479,099. Only eight of the 99 Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) schools profiled eclipsed that plateau in 2011.

Travel expenses typically have a major impact on recruiting budgets. But despite being in a football-frenzied region, SEC schools pour resources into scouting—preventing most hidden gems from falling through the cracks.

In other words, recruiting is a contact sport and SEC schools are the hardest hitters.

It isn't just the crystal football that SEC teams have hoisted following each of the past seven seasons that attracts prospects, it's a commitment to play at an elite level from head coaches, assistant coaches and athletics directors that keeps the SEC at the top of the recruiting heap.

With a revised media rights deal and an SEC cable network coming along in the near future, that bar is only going to be raised higher.

 

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