If there’s one thing that history has taught us, it’s that every empire reaches its demise.
The mighty Romans saw there stranglehold on the Western world crumble in the mid-fifth century. When the American colonies challenged England’s authority – and won — the powerful British rule began to decline.
Now, after a near-decade of dominance, it appears that a similar downfall is in process for college football’s most tyrannical conference.
After seven consecutive national championships from 2006 until 2012, the SEC was portrayed in a different light than the rest of college football. It was a conference far superior to any other league in the sport.
It was the crown jewel of the gridiron in a gravel-filled pit.
Prominent figures like Urban Meyer, Nick Saban, Les Miles and Steve Spurrier catapulted SEC football into a new branch of southern religion. Four schools combined to win seven championships, prompting crowds to resort to the most sacred “S-E-C! S-E-C!” chants.
Alabama emerged as the face of the conference. A team that was expected to dominate on a yearly basis. In its absence from the national spotlight, Florida, LSU and Auburn pitched in to keep the image spotless.
The SEC was untouchable, and it proved so.
But the past two seasons haven’t been as glamorous for college football’s empire. With Florida State and Ohio State taking home national hardware and dethroning the royalty of Auburn and Alabama to do so, it appears the SEC is beginning to tremble.
That’s not to suggest it is going to become completely irrelevant in the near future, but the perceived notion that the SEC is an unstoppable force on the football field has been challenged. Conferences like the Big Ten, Pac 12 and ACC are beginning to threaten for national prominence.
From top to bottom, it’s arguable that the SEC is still the most complete conference in the country. The amount of talent, speed, coaching experience and depth make it a difficult conference to win. Every team’s schedule appears as a gauntlet of tough opposition.
Now, however, on the national platform, teams from other conferences are standing side-by-side with the best teams from the best conference. And, for the moment at least, it’s put a halt on those “S-E-C! S-E-C,” hymns.
Even Meyer left the conference to rekindle his relationship in Big Ten country.
The rise of teams like Ohio State, Florida State, Oregon and TCU, to name a few, begin to paint a new picture in college football. One that excludes the SEC from multiple championship runs in consecutive seasons.
Again, that doesn’t imply the SEC will be burnt to ashes, never to compete on the national stage again. Rather, it means that what we’ve witnessed over the past decade was perhaps the most impressive occurrence we’ve seen in sports since John Wooden’s UCLA teams won 10 championships in 12 seasons on the hardwood.
It appears that an accomplishment like we saw from 2006-2012 is highly unlikely for the foreseeable future.
Too much talent is sprinkled throughout the country. Excellent coaches reside in different areas of the country and have developed their teams into prominent figures in the sport.
The SEC still may be the most holy conference in college football, but other sanctuaries are beginning to emerge, making it more difficult for a single league to govern the entire country.
Perhaps a team will rise to the top and emerge as the new dynasty for SEC backers to support on a yearly basis. Maybe a variety of teams will begin to battle on a yearly basis for national recognition. The thought of the conference repeating what it did in that seven-year period is unlikely, though.
Collectively, the SEC may have the largest collection of quality teams in a single conference. There’s no argument against that point. But no longer is the conference the feared dictator and everyone else the humbled peasants.
An authoritative hold over the college football landscape has been lifted and the accomplishments will go unmatched for a number of years.