SEC Football’s decline mimics when ACC Basketball declined in the late 2000s.


During the course of the SEC’s 2015 football season something occurred that I had seen before. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but as the year progressed I knew what I was watching. It was the decline of a dominant conference in a particular sport propped up by 1 maybe 2 great teams. It’s happening to the SEC in football right now.

It happened to the ACC in basketball in the last 2000s. Let me explain…

ACC basketball teams won national titles in 2001 (Duke), 2002 (Maryland), 2005 (UNC), and in 2004 (Georgia Tech) was in the national title game, but lost. That was  4 different ACC teams in the nation championship game. In 2004 the ACC had 5 of their 9 teams ranked in the top 20. In 2005 the ACC had 3 top 5 teams. It was historically the best basketball conference, and through 2005 it was still unquestionably the best basketball conference in the land.

The SEC has a great football tradition. There is no doubt about it. When we got to the 2000s, the SEC went on an unprecedented run of 7 straight football national titles from 2005 to 2012, by 4 different teams. In 2011 the SEC had 4 of it’s 12 ranked in the top 10 in the country. In 2012 there were 5 top 10 teams. The SEC ruled college football.

The signs of decline are subtle though. Through 2005-2009, the ACC would still have several ranked teams a year, but only UNC and Duke remained truly elite. North Carolina won a national title in 2009, and Duke won a national title in 2010. 2010 was the year Duke’s title masked the true decline of ACC Basketball. Maryland was the only other ranked team at #20 in the ACC that year. Georgia Tech, NC State, Maryland, Wake Forest, Virginia Tech, Clemson, Boston College, Miami would all go under coaching changes soon after. From 2010-2013 the ACC didn’t have more than 2 teams finish in the top 10.

Usually that team was North Carolina or Duke. Miami did have a top 10 team in 2013, but it was unmistakable the ACC wasn’t the best basketball conference in the country anymore. It had been surpassed by the Big 10, and Big East, but the start of the decline had been propped and masked by the 2009 and 2010 National Titles.

It wasn’t until 2014, when the ACC sent a record 5 teams to the sweet 16, and Duke won the national title that the conference again the joined conversation as best basketball conference.

The similarities with the current state of the SEC are very close. In Big 6 games since 2012 the SEC has went 1-6 with Alabama winning the national title in 2012. That proved that the rest of the country’s best teams could and did often defeat the best the SEC had to offer. 2015 saw an even further decline of the conference, and the one that was the most eye opening. Alabama is the SEC’s only top 10 team, while the ACC and Big 10 have 3 each.

Alabama was the only SEC team to finish last year in the top 10 as well.  Remember the coaching upheaval we talked about in ACC basketball? Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, and Missouri have all gone through coaching changes in the last year. LSU nearly had one of their own.

Ole Miss and Florida the SEC’s next two best teams this year, after Alabama had OOC losses to Memphis and Florida State. The SEC’s ranked teams went 2-4 last season during bowl season. Some bowls losses in blowout  fashion. This season many considered the Big 10 to be the best conference in the land. 

It all sounds really similar – the SEC in football now and the ACC in basketball in the last 2000s.

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