In the beginning there was the Southern Conference.  The thirteen schools who would form the Southeastern Conference (SEC) left the Southern Conference in 1932 to make travel easier. All the schools were west and south of the Appalachian Mountains. The Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) schools stayed in the Southern Conference until 1952 when the seven original members left to focus on basketball.

The older brother, SEC,  is drawn to the simpler more direct and regimented sport of football that was making money hand over fist with its huge crowds.  The younger brother ACC without the shackles of expectations is drawn to the freedom and expressive nature of the newer more exciting basketball as it muse.

The SEC is the older more serious brother who had to go out and make money for the family and the ACC is the younger brother who goes off to get an MFA and spends his time staring at a computer screen trying to be a writer before stumbling upon a couple of characters to base a successful series of pulp mystery books that make him a lot of money.

However, money is the reason both exist and have grown.  As football grew, so did the SEC’s excellence and concentration on it.  The ACC’s existence is  almost solely because of basketball. The four (Duke, UNC, NC State, Wake Forest) “Tobacco Road” schools were all beginning to excel in basketball and making lots of money with it and the old Dixie Classic Basketball tournament.

The two conferences have differences in perception academically and socially based on the two sports that they traditionally represent.  The SEC is perceived as a football playing money machine who has no time for intellectualism. The ACC is seen as a basketball playing academic dilettante who is who is too above the fray to truly dirty itself with football.  The ACC while managing to do a lot of the same things that the SEC does (make money hand over fist), only in basketball, has managed to appear more sophisticated and socially progressive then its football dominated brother.

These differences in perception are not only due to the two sports but also to their geography. Both conferences are made up primarily of state-supported institutions, however as the century moved along, the states that make up the ACC became more interconnected with the northeastern parts of the country because of growing interstate road and rail systems. Therefore, they moved into a more modern, less agrarian based economy quicker then did the states in the deeper south. That meant they had more of a need of a populace with a higher education making funding for education important. However, the schools of the SEC were in the poorest states in the country and did not have (with the exception of Georgia) the need (or political will) to put money into higher education because of the continued geographic isolation caused by the Appalachians.

This mountain range has played an important part of the history of the two conferences by shaping their views of potential expansion and television markets.  The SEC towards the south and west and the ACC to the north and east.

Having said all that, there are schools in each conference that are more culturally akin to the majority of schools in the other conference. So, how would I make up the two conferences to place the right schools with the right cultural fit? I’m glad you asked. Here are my revamped ACC and SEC lineups:



UNC Alabama
Duke Auburn
Wake Forest LSU
Vanderbilt Tennessee
Maryland Florida
Virginia Arkansas
Georgia Mississippi
Miami Mississippi State
Boston College Clemson
Pittsburgh Virginia Tech
Syracuse Texas A&M
Georgia Tech South Carolina
Kentucky Florida St.

Georgia Tech and Kentucky could go either way. Georgia Tech is an original member of the SEC but has the academic/social arrogance of the ACC. Kentucky has the lawless disregard for NCAA rules that make the SEC so much fun, but it also is a basketball school first and foremost. Who would not want to see Georgia and Georgia Tech play for more then pride in football every year and who would not like UNC, Duke, and Kentucky playing basketball once a year.

Miami is another interesting case. While a football factory with a lawless disregard for NCAA rules, it is also a small private university with big academic ambitions. UCONN was thrown in solely to balance out the conferences and with the knowledge that either they or Notre Dame ends up in the ACC in the next two years.

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