Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Southern Comfort? Not from the Sec

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Southern Comfort? Not from the Sec

Article excerpt

George O'Leary is starting to wonder if the Southeastern Conference is being governed by league commissioner Mike Slive or Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

O'Leary, the blunt, straightforward coach of the UCF Knights, compares the SEC's recent threat to break away from the rest of major college football and start its own division to the Confederacy's decision to break away from the United States and risk the sovereign unity of college football.

"They sound like the South during the Civil War," O'Leary said of the SEC and the other saber-rattlers in the so-called Power 5 conferences. "If they don't get their way, they're going to secede and start their own country. ... I think college football is in real trouble."

Perhaps it's not just coincidence that the first three letters of "secede" are S-E-C. When it comes to college football, it seems, the South truly has risen again.

O'Leary is certainly not the first to compare the SEC to the Confederacy of the Civil War. There are some historians who truly believe SEC football dominance emanates from the South's loss to the North in the Civil War. They claim this provincial angst is why SEC schools so adamantly pursued excellence in college football; because it gave them a chance at a symbolic rematch with those "damn Yankees." In 1935, the SEC became the first conference to offer athletic scholarships, which outraged Harvard, Yale and the other hoity-toity institutions of higher learning in the Northeast.

"The Civil War had crushed the ego of the South," writes author Ray Glier in his recent book "How the SEC Became Goliath." "The North was more urbanized and industrialized. It's why the North won the war and the South wanted to raise the level of its game. …

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