Monday, October 15, 2012
Review: How the SEC Became Goliath (2012)
The most impressive part of "How the SEC Became Goliath" might be revealed in the acknowledgements.
Author Ray Glier mentions in passing three that he wrote this entire book in two months. Wow. There's no doubt about the validity of his claim that he was up until 2:30 a.m. a lot in order to get it done.
Glier probably was driven by the nightmare that the Southeastern Conference might fall on hard times once the actual season began, leaving his book as something of an anachronism. He had nothing to worry about there, as it turned out. The first BCS standings came out in mid-October, and the SEC had seven of the top 25 teams in the country including the top two.
The SEC has become a great success story, having won the last six national championships. It's a good idea to take a look at what's gone right for a conference that seems like it is the NFL's top minor league - along the lines of Triple-A baseball.
Glier makes a couple of great points early in the book, pointing out that Southern schools have always taken a outsized share of interest in their football teams. The South had a bit of an inferiority complex, probably dating back to the Civil War. Professional teams didn't really arrive in the Deep South until the 1960's, when expansion teams finally landed in such places as Atlanta, Miami and New Orleans. Before that, schools such as Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia were fans' representatives in the bid for national sports exposure.
But that doesn't fully explain the recent dominance. Glier goes through a list of reasons for the SEC's good teams. Top coaching certainly has been high on the list, especially lately. Nick Saban, Les Miles and Steve Spurrier are clearly around the top of any list of the best in the sport. Then there's a general philosophy that football games are won from the inside out -- in other words, on the offensive and defensive line -- rather than the outside in. It's caught on throughout the conference.
Then there's a commitment to strength and conditioning on a huge scale. Anyone with a degree in that field apparently won't be unemployed for long, based on the number of people working at SEC schools in that department. And the conference's members have tried to stay on top when it comes to recruiting -- good players always help -- and facilities, which help impress the best recruits.
It's all done on a professional basis, and Glier does talk to some people who know plenty about football, SEC style. Still, there are some signs of the compressed time schedule.
Portions of the book feel a little disorganized and padded in spots. There aren't a great many sources of information here, understandable under the circumstances. You also could argue that it's a good subject for a long magazine article, but perhaps not quite interesting enough to many for a full-fledged book.
Those in SEC Country, though, might disagree. They'll certainly enjoy this quick look at the subject, and probably learn a few things along the way.
Learn more about this book.
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