Monday, December 8, 2008

Lower Standards, Regional Pride = Better Football

"Half the people in that stadium can't spell LSU," says political consultant James Carville, an LSU alumnus. "It doesn't matter. They identify with it. It's culturally such a big deal."

It almost comes off like a stereotypical, general categorization of the Southeast United States. Yet, in reading the WSJ's most recent Weekend Journal lead story, one would be hardpressed to argue that the recipe for gridiron success can be inversely related with: 1. the lack of standards by which universities conduct their recruiting; 2. the blind geographical loyalty of masses void of seemingly anything substantial on which to pride themselves; and 3. the powerful and possibly currupt politicians and donors throughout the region.

The story is a fascinating case study in both sports and culture, and well worth a look.

What the Rise of Southern Football Says About America

The South is dominating college football like never before, but its ascent isn't just a matter of good coaching. How a population boom and a growing economy have helped turn a regional obsession into a national juggernaut.

Among the facts highlighted:
  • "Meanwhile, traditional Northern football states like Pennsylvania, which has long sent young men to heralded northern programs like Penn State, Notre Dame and Ohio State and has stocked the NFL for decades, are falling behind. Today there are 45% more native Louisianans (64) than Pennsylvanians (44) in the NFL, even though Louisiana has only one-third of Pennsylvania's population."
  • "The breadth of the South's football culture creates a fanaticism that crosses all lines. People who didn't attend the schools, or go to college at all, still support them, and will even make donations. It's a group that insiders call 'dirt-road alumni.'"
  • "The historical knock on SEC schools among rivals is that their success is predicated on a willingness to stockpile great players by violating NCAA rules on recruiting and athlete benefits. While some of the sanctions have been minor, every SEC school but Vanderbilt has been on probation in the last 25 years."
  • "Another charge is that lower academic standards give SEC teams an advantage in recruiting. Just three SEC schools -- Vanderbilt, Florida and Georgia -- were cited among the top 80 universities in U.S. News & World Report's 2009 college rankings, while all 11 members of the Big Ten were in the top 80."

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