John Adams: 2010-11 season sums up the SEC

John Adams

The SEC might as well load up the time capsule right now. If it wants to educate a future generation on what the conference is about, there's no better school year than this one.

The league can reflect on its 2010-11 successes this week at its annual spring meetings, which will begin Tuesday in Destin, Fla. School administrators and coaches are apt to engage in problem solving as well.

Most of the elements - good, bad and fanatical - that have made this such a prominent conference were magnified in 2010-11. The conference had another national champion in football, Kentucky returned to the Final Four in basketball, and two-thirds of its baseball teams likely will qualify for the NCAA postseason tournament.

NCAA investigators, who have a longstanding familiarity with the conference, also have had a presence. Tennessee is still awaiting the outcome of investigations into its football and basketball programs; Auburn fended off accusations of NCAA rules violations from October through an unbeaten season that ended with a victory over Oregon in the BCS national championship game.

Add it all up and you couldn't ask for a more representative year.

- Football domination: Auburn didn't go wire-to-wire in winning the national championship in football. But the SEC did.

Defending national champion Alabama was the preseason No. 1. Auburn was the postseason No. 1. And a month after Auburn won the national title, Alabama's recruiting class was ranked No. 1.

That's just another reminder that the SEC owns college football. How else can you put it after Auburn's triumph gave the league five consecutive national titles?

It's almost as impressive that those championships have been won by four different schools - Auburn, Alabama, LSU and Florida (two).

- Basketball domination: This school year marked a return to normalcy in SEC basketball.

Kentucky won the SEC tournament, advanced to the Final Four and bid adieu to three players who found the NBA draft more appealing than continued education.

The attrition hardly will be noticed when the Wildcats' No. 1-ranked recruiting class arrives this fall.

- All-sports domination: You expect Florida to win the conference's all-sports trophy. You don't expect it to win eight conference titles, as it has in 2010-11.

That success is a tribute to the Gators' considerable resources. But it's also a reason why Jeremy Foley's name always comes up in a discussion of best athletic directors.

He expects his teams to compete for championships - in everything. And his personnel decisions reflect that.

- Agent domination: University of Tennessee alum Jimmy Sexton has become almost as much of a household name in the SEC as conference commissioner Mike Slive. In any given year, he represents at least a third of the SEC football coaches, none of whom have trouble paying their bills.

Sexton expanded his SEC power base in football this school year when Urban Meyer resigned and Florida hired Will Muschamp. So the super agent's client base now includes the conference's latest national championship coach (Auburn's Gene Chizik), its highest-paid coach (Alabama's Nick Saban), and one of its rookie coaches (Muschamp).

He also added a rookie quarterback and SEC legend, Tim Tebow.

- The player: A year after Tebow was being hailed as the conference's greatest player of all time, Auburn quarterback Cam Newton spent the season playing one-upmanship.

He won a national championship and a Heisman Trophy, then completed the trifecta by being the first player taken in the NFL draft. Not even a Manning or Herschel Walker pulled that off.

Newton accomplished that amidst continuous speculation about his eligibility, related to allegations that his father had shopped him to the highest bidder when Newton was recruited from junior college.

- The game: The Alabama-Auburn regular-season finale might have been as dramatic as any game in SEC history.

College football's most intense rivalry matched unbeaten Auburn against defending national champion and consensus preseason No. 1 pick Alabama, which spent the first half demonstrating that it was the most talented team in the country. Auburn then proved why it was a worthy national championship successor, rallying from a 24-0 deficit to beat Alabama on its home field.

Losses like that drive fans crazy.

- The fan: You already knew SEC fans occasionally pushed sanity's envelope. But no one has pushed harder than Harvey Updyke, the Alabama fan who poisoned the oak trees at storied Toomer's Corner in Auburn and boasted about it on national radio.

He has pleaded not guilty for reasons of mental disease or defect. You have to like his chances.

John Adams is a senior columnist. He may be reached at 865-342-6284 or adamsj@knoxnews.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/johnadamskns

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Comments » 6

coymoore#531076 writes:

in response to slaw_way:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Great article! Adams is coming on strong lately!

johnlg00 writes:

in response to slaw_way:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Makes sense to me. The column was about 2010-11 examples of SEC sports dominance and uniqueness. SEC fans are often thought of as the most fanatical in the country, and it is hard to imagine a more striking example of that fanaticism than Updyke and the Toomer trees. Fanaticism is a form of mental illness, so Updyke pleading insanity seems quite reasonable.

Pompey writes:

....sadly it looks as though UT can no londer compete with the top of the conference much less powerhouse Florida.....never thought I would live to see this.....but I have.

OrangePride writes:

in response to Pompey:

....sadly it looks as though UT can no londer compete with the top of the conference much less powerhouse Florida.....never thought I would live to see this.....but I have.

Yep, Florida has a program and situation that is remarkable....and Tennessee has sunk below the horizon in this area. BUT, we can all remember the days when Florida was not especially good in anything and Tennessee was riding high. Then there was the Alabama domination. My point being that these things eventually change and Tennessee, with its outstanding university and facilities, has as good an opportunity as any SEC team to reassume its place at the top. The march to that goal starts now. GO VOLS!

CCLC writes:

A lot of Jeremy Foleys success at Florida is now the AD at UGA.
just sayin'

volboy81 writes:

in response to Pompey:

....sadly it looks as though UT can no londer compete with the top of the conference much less powerhouse Florida.....never thought I would live to see this.....but I have.

have patience. everything is cyclical.

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