The goal in sports is to win championships. When that’s not possible, the goal in sports is to provide hope to your fan base.
By looking at these two criteria, SEC fan interest is likely to be at an all-time high entering the 2013 season.
If you ask around, the general consensus is that there are six contenders in the SEC for the upcoming season. In the west, it’s Alabama, LSU and Texas A&M; in the east, it is Georgia, South Carolina and Florida. All six teams are expecting a high number of wins and a successful season. If the ball bounces right in a few key spots, each team can be right there in the race for the SEC Championship.
Furthermore, four other SEC teams have new head coaches for 2013. A new head coach is the method in which programs offer their fans hope. Coaches are fired partly for performance, but are fired more so for when fan interest is in decline. You bring your fans back into the fold by starting over. Tennessee, Auburn, Arkansas and Kentucky are in this situation. Want actual evidence? Look at Kentucky’s Spring Game attendance a few months ago.
Two other programs find themselves not with first year coaches, but on the rise. Ole Miss and Vanderbilt are looking to build on their recent success. Their fans are fully engaged even if few believe they can contend for an SEC crown.
That leaves out Mississippi State and Missouri. Both programs seem to be either stagnant or reversing success of recent years. If you had to guess which programs in the SEC will have turnover at the head coach position, these two programs would likely be at the top of your list.
Twelve out of 14 teams will have fully engaged fan bases entering the SEC season. Throw in the record high conference pride off the heels of seven straight BCS Championships and you can expect a frenzy in 2013.
Early in the 2011 season, we quickly moved into a situation where fan interest for most fan bases in the conference became muted as a result of the LSU and Alabama taking the distant lead from the rest of the conference for contending for a championship. This led to that “Game of the Century” (and ultimately a BCS rematch), and while this was all good and exciting, the vast majority of fan bases were muted for much of the season.
2012 saw quite the opposite. We had incredible drama and uncertainty throughout the year with surprise contenders in Florida, Texas A&M and a bit of “parity” amongst the top teams in the SEC. While the parity might not be present in 2013, the fan energy will be there regardless.
Get ready for the SEC to close out the BCS era with an eighth straight title, and look for the fans to enjoy every bit of the ride along the way.