The State of the SEC

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 3: Bennie Logan #93 of the LSU Tigers celebrates after the SEC Championship Game against the Georgia Bulldogs at the Georgia Dome on December 3, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)

The state of the SEC is strong.

The conference just won its sixth consecutive football national championship after becoming the first league to put both teams in the national championship game. It won two of the last six men's basketball championships, put four teams in the past six Final Fours, and put two teams in each of the past two Elite Eights. It has won back-to-back-to-back baseball national championships, including having both teams in the CWS final a year ago.

The conference is seen as the preeminent athletics conference in the country. It brings in more than enough money for its members. It takes a leadership role on the issues of the day. The conference is strong.

It is growing.

The additions of Texas A&M and Missouri expanded the conference's footprint while bringing in two strong programs with devoted fan bases. Their unique cultures will have an impact on that of the conference as a whole while they find themselves moving closer to the league's current norms.

Using the July 2011 estimates, the population within the conference's footprint increased by 53% from 59,618,758 to 91,304,127. That will lead to larger carriage of the SEC Network syndication package and, inevitably, a larger TV contract in the future.

It is fully reliant on ESPN.

The other two most powerful conferences, the Big Ten and Pac-12, are increasingly self-reliant. They have their own TV networks, have agreed to a scheduling agreement to provide inventory for those networks, and have kicked around the idea of starting up their own bowls.

The SEC has no network, with its equivalent programming being shown on ESPN's SEC Network syndication package and other ESPN properties. When the topic of additional bowls came up recently, SEC transition chair Larry Templeton indicated that it would go first to ESPN (who owns and runs some bowls). There hasn't been so much as a whisper out of Birmingham indicating that the league will start its own network like the Big Ten and Pac-12 have, making the conference fully reliant on ESPN for exposure and distribution beyond the CBS game of the week.

Its future is bright.

Expanding the conference has given it a larger platform on which to grow. It already brings in plenty of money for its schools, and that money will only continue to grow. It won't be able to maximize its profits without a middleman-killing private label TV network, but no programs are in danger of falling into fiscal crisis like Rutgers and Maryland have. Everyone will have more than enough.

The conference has the most devoted fans. The conference has the best collection of athletics programs. It has the best collection of coaches in the sport that matters most, football. There is no reason to think the SEC will not continue to experience great success into the future.

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