By Dr. Ken 


The HELMET HUT December 2014 Helmet News/Reflections column

[see] made comment on the first College Football Playoff Championship. Although it appeared to some that as many as three Southeastern Conference teams could comprise the top four teams to square off in the inaugural tournament for college football’s grand prize, there were reasons that would not allow for this. Financial reward of course was near the top of the list but much of the doubt came from numerous sportswriters, as well as this author, citing the overrating of the SEC. Over valuing different conferences has been a thorn in the side of college football since its inception. Certainly the Ivy League was dominant in the early part of the 1900’s, but as collegiate football became a truly nationally played activity, this changed. Since then, each decade seems to have a conference or two that is depicted as “the best” while others are given short shrift by the media and subsequently, the sporting public.

The Ohio State vs Michigan rivalry of the 1968 – 1978 period elevated the perception of Big Ten excellence just as the late 1950’s to early ‘60’s LSU vs Ole Miss contests did for the SEC

The fact is that there is a quality team in every conference and in some seasons, more than one. In the past decade or so, the SEC is the fair-haired group of programs that has captured the public and media fancy. We have heard the reasons, explanations, and rationalizations. We have been told about “SEC speed,” quality athletes, “fertile recruiting grounds,” and the numerous pros that have been churned out by the conference. It’s true that the SEC currently has more players in the National Football League than other conferences, with 2012 statistics indicating that 329 on NFL rosters attended schools in the conference. The Atlantic Coast Conference followed with 256 and the PAC 12 was third with 248. There should be little surprise that these rankings follow the high school statistics that demonstrate an over-representation of players from southern states playing big time collegiate football. The warm weather and cultural emphasis allows for spring football practice which is banned in most northern states, numerous off-season and summer Seven-On-Seven tournaments that only in recent years has attracted the participation of northern high schools, and a more rural population base with fewer, “non-football” distractions. Southern Cal is still the individual school leader in supplying pros to the NFL and again, this reflects the size of the population sample and the fact that California, since the 1960’s, has ranked in the top two or three in high school football recruiting. With only LSU of the SEC schools having more NFL players than Ohio State, one again can relate this figure to high school recruiting and development protocols.

The realignment of the conferences in the past fifteen years has made for changes in recruiting and the development of players for the NFL. The vacuum created by the dissolution of the Southwestern Conference has yet to be filled, with the Big 12 now lagging behind the other Power Five conferences. However, the so-called dominance of the SEC for example, is usually overstated by the media. While the SEC went 7-5 in the bowl games that followed the 2014 football season, they took a beating in the major and more important bowl games played by their premiere teams, with some of the “lesser” conference members  like Tennessee victorious in the “lesser” bowl games. While the 2014 season weekly results placed multiple SEC teams in the top five weekly, and there was speculation that as many as three could participate in the four-team end of season championship tournament, it was not to be with only Alabama holding its position to the end of the regular season and of course, ascending to the title game against Ohio State.

Despite finishing fourth in the Big Eight in 1971, most believed that the best player in the conference was George Amundson of Iowa State who was a first round selection of the Houston Oilers.


There no doubt will be few seasons like 1971, where the major polls placed three teams from the Big Eight, as numbers one, two, and three [see Helmet News/Reflections of May 2010, The Unappreciated Big Eight] . Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Colorado all dominated both their conference and everyone else they played with the respective finishes at 13-0, 11-1 (with Oklahoma’s sole loss to Nebraska), and 10-2 with CU losing to its two major foes of the conference. All won their bowl games with number one Nebraska beating up on number two Alabama 38-6 in the Orange Bowl. Ironically, Oklahoma’s Sugar Bowl victory came against another SEC team as they defeated Auburn 40-22. It was a season when one of the more maligned conferences, one which for approximately a decade was referred to as “Oklahoma and The Seven Dwarfs,” rose to dominance yet never became the media darlings that the Big Ten was through the 1950’s and ‘60’s, or the SEC has been since the early 1990’s. With nation-wide parity, and the inclusion of a championship tournament that is designed to elevate revenues as well as reveal a true national champion, it is doubtful that we will again have a top three alignment representing a single conference.