TSK opened up the topic of the top (5, 10, 31) stories of 2011 across the SEC. Here’s my stab:
1) Supremacy. Within the pages of the 2011 calendar, Auburn won a national title while Alabama and LSU set themselves up to play for the next one. The case for the Tide and Bayou Bengals as the nation’s two best teams was so compelling that it was enough to overcome distaste for a rematch and a serious case of SEC fatigue from the rest of the nation. It wasn’t just supremacy in football – South Carolina notched back-to-back College World Series titles for the conference.
2) Comings and goings. At the macro level, the conference welcomed two new member schools during 2011. The real impact of expansion won’t be felt until the coming years, but the move could eventually have an impact on everything from recruiting to the location of the SEC’s marquee events. (As the Georgia Dome clock kept malfunctioning at the SECCG, I couldn’t help but wonder how long it was until Jerry Jones made a bid to move the game to one of the SEC’s newest states.)
The SEC also said farewell to a number of individuals whose personalities made following the conference more interesting. Bruce Pearl, Houston Nutt, Stephen Garcia, Charlie Weis…it won’t be the same without you. We’re glad that Mark Richt wasn’t among them.
3) Pat Summitt. Summitt’s diagnosis of early-onset dementia reached beyond the world of women’s college basketball. In vowing to coach on, Summitt brings this little-understood condition into the public eye and will doubtlessly do much for awareness and fundraising in the campaign for research, knowledge, and ultimately a cure.
4) Oversigning. The action of the season has pushed this story to the back burner, but you couldn’t avoid it for the first half of the year. The league’s decision to limit football class sizes to 25 probably won’t do much to change many of the deeper issues related to the oversigning problem, but it did at least force a conference-wide conversation about the practice.
5) The Tuscaloosa tornado. Much of the SEC landscape – from Mississippi to Georgia to our newest territory in Missouri – was scarred by a series of spring tornado outbreaks. The tornado that devastated Tuscaloosa and just missed Bryant-Denny Stadium pushed the story on to the sports pages and, if temporarily, refocused the passions of SEC fans. When even Auburn fans, players, and coaches become a positive part of a tragedy involving Alabama, you know you have an exceptional story.
What are your top 5?