What Have We Become: SEClassless

Joel BarkerSenior Writer ISeptember 28, 2009

What have we become? Self-indulgent people. What have we become? Tell me where have the righteous gone? What have we become? In a world degenerating. What have we become?
Those lyrics were posed in a 1995 DC Talk song that talked about the moral and social decay facing us as a human race.
Too an incredibly lesser degree, I’m afraid the same question should be asked of football fans and coaches in the SEC.
The SEC has become—a league full of coaches with zero class, mouths bigger than Jaws, and undisciplined teams.
Watching the public verbal sparring match between the pot and the kettle, Lane Kiffin and Urban Meyer, last week was quite humorous at the time.
Vol fans everywhere had a nice chuckle after our fearless leader quipped ”I guess we'll wait and see, and after we're not excited about our performance, we'll tell you everybody was sick," when asked whether he was concerned about the flu after Meyer blamed his team’s lackluster performance on the ailment.
I laughed at the statement—at least until learning that Tim Tebow and three other Gators had to take a quarantined flight to Lexington because they were suffering from a stomach-flu type illness.
All of a sudden those words spoken by the mouth of the south became quite bush league and classless. (Spoken by a true Vols fan and a diehard passenger of the Lane Train)
Those words might not have been uttered if another classless coach hadn’t accused Kiffin of trying not to lose rather than playing to win—a serious accusation in any sport. Still, fighting a lack of class with a lack of class makes both coaches look like three-year-olds fighting over the same piece of candy.
This past Saturday that same Florida coach decided to pound the defenseless Kentucky Wildcats even further into the ground, leading 31-0 after the first quarter.
Meyer left all-world QB, Tim Tebow in the game in the third quarter. As a matter of fact Meyer was still allowing passing plays despite the utter mauling that his Gators had unleashed on the Mildcats.
Tim Tebow, suffering from a stomach flu-type ailment, in the third quarter, against a completely outmanned opponent who was down by 24 points, was still throwing the ball and manhandling the Kentucky defense.
We all know this is just par for the course for Meyer. He believes in utter domination, impressing the pollsters, and getting style points. He believes in being classless to prove a point.
The point was proven for all the wrong reasons when Tebow was shown lying unconscious on the field and later being carted to an ambulance while vomiting every liquid he had consumed over the past 24 hours.
How about Mark Richt, the man who preaches righteousness and faith in the media, yet whose team is one of the most penalized, undisciplined teams in the nation?
Richt is one of my favorite coaches. I have long respected him as a great leader and a classy guy. But apparently what he preaches in the media either doesn’t relate to his players or is completely ignored by them.
Not pounding a quarterback three seconds after the ball is released is a general rule of football from the Pop Warner leagues all the way up. Yet his players do it all the time.
Kiffin’s ultimate purpose behind the madness is recruiting. It’s the same with Meyer and Richt. The latter two showcase their respective team’s talents to land the prized recruit. The former is still trying to get his once proud institution back on the national map.

In the old days, the 60’s through the 90’s, gaining top recruits was accomplished more covertly. It was done by funneling cash or extra benefits under the table.
Bear Bryant, Doug Dickey, John Vought, Vince Dooley, Pat Dye, Gene Stallings, and Johnny Majors just to name a few—all coached during an era of 30-plus years where if you weren’t cheating you weren’t trying.
It wasn’t until Florida, Auburn, and Alabama got into big time trouble in the late 80’s and 90’s that things apparently straightened as far as cheating and under the table dealings were concerned. 
Since the late-90’s the SEC has seen unprecedented success in recruiting, national prominence, and media coverage. Once the cheating problem was dealt with, however, the problem shifted to the current crisis—an utter lack of class.
It began with the original mouth of the south, Steve Spurrier. Spurrier would dig at opponents and drive them crazy with his mouth. He could back it up, but does that make it right?
Jim Donnan was another master of the mouth. Usually his was just whining and jealousy because he was having trouble rebuilding Georgia to its lofty perch of the early 80’s.
Tommy Tuberville unleashed his tongue a few times when he constantly ragged Alabama during the Auburn streak of the 2000’s.
Then Urban Meyer came along. He brought his cocky brand of coaching with him to Florida. He has recruited circles around everyone else in the league because of his success. That doesn’t change the fact that he does it with an air of “I’m going to pound you into the ground because I can.”
Lane Kiffin came in with all the bravado and cockiness of Muhammad Ali in his heyday. Kiffin hasn’t had much of a chance to back up his talk since the quarterback he inherited might just be the worst QB to ever play in the conference, but he has added to the new classless image of the SEC nonetheless.

Fans love it. Florida fans relish the opportunity to bask in Meyer’s glory. Tennessee fans, me included, are absolutely giddy about Kiffin and the brand he’s selling.
Does that make the fans a part of the problem? I don’t know the answer to that question, but I do know that what I have seen and heard over the past week is downright reprehensible.
Do we even realize that the image being portrayed to these student-athletes is potentially detrimental to their personal success?
The win at all costs-run up the score-call out your opponent-show no class-mentality is bound have a domino effect that will eventually reach the players. 
Do we realize these kids are students before they are athletes? Do we care?
Judging by the ever-growing popularity of rivals.com and scout.com, as well as, how many stars are by a kid’s name, we couldn’t care less. Especially in the south where the colors we wear are akin to our identity.
Thank goodness there are exceptions to every rule.
Nick Saban has cleansed Alabama’s program. Once the most deceitful, underhanded sports entity in the SEC, Saban has made every effort to sanitize the program and keep it clean.
He has done so while amassing tremendous talent. He has turned the program around and he has a No. 1-caliber team for the second straight season—all without running his mouth in the press or making a jerk out of himself by running up scores. He has won with dignity and his players are the very picture of discipline.
Les Miles is another who, despite being a tad cocky, has run his program with respect, refusing to allow his words or actions to be used in a negative way. He is another who shows respect to the game and to his opponents.
Bobby Johnson, Houston Nutt, and Rich Brooks have all brought a breath of fresh classy air to the conference as well. The argument against them will be, “but they don’t win.” I understand that, but neither has Kiffin.
Time will tell whether Dan Mullen, Bobby Petrino, and Gene Chizik will bring more much-needed class to the conference.
I’ll say this; I hope they follow the examples of Saban and Miles rather than Kiffin and Meyer.