In noting the decline of the SEC over the past few seasons, Bill Connelly wonders if that can be attributed to a run of boring coach hires. With all due respect to Brother Bill, I’d like to suggest another culprit: the conference is more mediocre lately because it has more mediocre teams than before.
If you stayed up last night, you learned that in losing to Kansas State, Texas A&M managed to finish 8-5 for the third straight season. The Aggies’ cumulative conference record over that period is 11-13. Subtract Johnny Manziel from the equation and this program has been the poster child for mediocrity during its time in its new home. Kevin Sumlin, by the way, makes a cool $5 million a year for that kind of production.
Then there’s the SEC East’s contribution, Missouri. To their credit, the Tigers have a pair of division titles to their name, thanks to Georgia imploding due to injuries in 2013 and just imploding generally on the field in Jacksonville the next year. (The luster of those finishes was substantially dimmed by consecutive blow outs in the conference championship games.) Hard times have followed in the two seasons since then, as Mizzou has failed to reach bowl eligibility in either and has a whopping total of two conference wins to its name over that time.
To put it mildly, neither has brought much in the way of prowess to the table of late. (Don’t waste your time pointing to other sports besides football, because it was football alone that was the reason for their invitations to join the conference’s party.) Add to that a disregard for geography, tradition and conference scheduling — remember, Dawg fans, we’ve got two more Presidential election cycles to go through before setting foot in College Station, Texas — and it’s not much of a leap to conclude that conference expansion has been largely unsuccessful, at least by the metric of maintaining what’s been special about the SEC.
Largely ain’t the same thing as totally, though. And in one spectacular way, conference expansion has been everything Mike Slive and the people who hired him thought it would be. It gave Slive the lever to overturn the conference’s existing broadcast contracts, which had fallen behind the times and were eclipsed by bigger deals like the Big Ten Network, and allow for the creation of the cash cow that is the SEC Network. For them, that’s what’s special about the conference.
In the end, it’s what’s in the eyes of the university presidents that matters. So when it comes time to write Slive’s epitaph, it’ll be a simple one. Mike Slive always made money for his partners.