As a graduate of the U of Michigan, I can only try to forget what an awful football season we have just endured. However, a recent WSJ article reminded me that the Big 10 football conference and all major conferences are being outperformed by the teams of the Southeastern Conference (SEC).
The WSJ asks “What the rise of Southern Football Says About America,” in an interesting piece by Darren Everson. And while there is no overt mention of Detroit’s Auto Industry and the South’s Auto Industry in the article, the ongoing bailout saga kept popping into my head as I read the article. A snippet:
In recent years, the South has undergone rapid growth. Twenty-seven of the 50 fastest-growing metropolitan regions in the country in 2007 were in the South, while personal-income growth in the region outpaced the national average over the past decade. These changes have added muscle to the South’s historic passion for college football. While they rank low in many measures like per-capita income and educational achievement, states like Alabama and Mississippi rank close to the top in the percentage of high-school students who play football. And among states that have more than 10 native sons playing in the National Football League, the top six producers by percentage of population are Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Alabama, Florida and Georgia.
I began to wonder, is there some connection between the success of SEC football teams and the rise of the Southern Auto Industry?
Are Big 10 teams stuck with ‘Fordist’ football models while SEC coaches and administrators make use of ‘continuous improvement’ and other concepts in order to strengthen their programs? Are SEC leaders better at innovating with recruiting, play calling, and conditioning? (Remember, Gatorade was created at the U of Florida.)
The article points out a few potential theories for why the SEC has grown into such a football powerhouse, including pride of place that Southerners exhibit in their states, tight relations between SEC schools and Southern politicians, and academic standards in the SEC that differ from other conferences such as the Big 10 and PAC 10.
While there is likely no connection between successful SEC football and the successful Southern auto industry, it highlights the spiky nature of the creative economy – from auto production and college football administration to content creation and biotech. I believe that is what the rise of Southern football tells us about America.
BTW, I will remind all SEC fans that Michigan (and its old school coach Lloyd Carr) did beat Florida (and new school coach Urban Meyers) handily during last January’s Capital One Bowl Game.