Let’s just state the obvious - schools in the Southeast Conference (SEC) - not the securities and exchange commission which we love to hate - it shows the rest of the country what big time college football is all about. And I don’t mind admitting that I am envious as hell! Last night I watched the 10th ranked Auburn Tigers take on the 6th ranked LSU Tigers and the atmosphere in Jordan-Hare Stadium was nothing short of electric. The new rankings that come out today will probably change this a little bit, but as of last night, the SEC had 5 teams in the Top 10. That’s just unheard of.
As proud as I am of the Wolfpack legacy that I am steeped in, I must admit that in hindsight, I sometimes wish I had attended one of these football factories in the SEC. I know, I know - choosing a school based on a football team is shallow and stupid. BUT - let’s be honest too - unless you have the grades to go Ivy, or your specific career path is chosen at age 18 - there’s not a great deal of difference in the quality of education provided by most major universities. As much as I love NC State, there’s nothing I learned there that I would not have learned at LSU, Auburn or Tennessee.
(My very uneducated guess of where I might fit in the best always focuses on those three schools. ‘Bama and Georgia have a serious “Chapel Hell-our shit doesn’t stink” complex, Vandy and UK and both Mississippi schools are always left behind, Florida is a bunch of jerks, Arkansas is too far from home and USC is, well..USC, no thanks.)
It would have been fun to go to school in a region where college football truly matters and the devotion borders on religious fanaticism. The further South you go, the more the football matters. Yesterday’s NC State-East Carolina match up was fun and boisterous - but cramming just under 60,000 people into a stadium for a noon kickoff, with a tailgating limit of five hours before kickoff isn’t the same as cramming nearly 90,000 into a stadium with tailgating that started last Thursday.
It doesn’t take a neurosurgeon to figure out that the culture of college football has its roots in the agrarian-South. For years, the various SEC teams have literally been the only game in town in a region that had no professional franchises. The town of Auburn, Alabama can put 87,000 people in a stadium because they started doing it years ago - there was nothing else for the people around there to do!
I have made the point for many years that even if NC State were to somehow win back-to-back national chamionships in football, we’re still not going to put many more than 70,000 in a stadium. The pie in North Carolina is divided into too many pieces with UNC-CH, Duke, Wake Forest and ECU. (And now UNC-Charlotte is thinking about adding football….) Granted, those championships would be fun to see and be a part of, but the juicy couture tracksuit culture is never going to change to the point that we place the same signifigance on football that the SEC schools do investment policy statement.
The obvious flip-side of this argument is that our culture here in North Carolina is all about basketball. NC State coach Everett Case gave birth to big-time college in the South and we’ve been nuts about it ever since. (Note to any Tarholes thinking of challenging that assertion - do some research and tell us why UNC-CH hired Frank McGuire in the early 1950’s, then we’ll talk…) That’s not a bad counter-point. The ACC is all about hoops and the SEC is all about football, so the argument is sorta like apples and oranges.
Perhaps my beloved Wolfpack has been down for so long in basketball I am just starting to forget what the passion is like - but as I age, I really think I am starting to like football more than basketball. No, my boys don’t exactly burn up the gridiron either, but in a larger sense, college football is much more of an event. Roughly three times more people can attend a football game than a basketball game, traveling from all over to make a whole day out of one game. Basketball is fun for those two hours - but then you’re done smokingthe best electronic cigarette.
The good people of the SEC schools show us all how college football ought to be done. One of these days I am going to take a Saturday off from Carter-Finley and go spend a weekend hanging with the pros down South!