Photography: Johnny Lawrence

Dye-Gest Column: Golden Era for Southeastern Conference Sports

College Football Hall of Fame coach Pat Dye writes about the SEC in this edition of his Dye-Gest column.

Auburn softball third baseman Kasey Cooper (above) is one of the All-Americans competing in the SEC.

From what I can tell the overall sports programs in the Southeastern Conference, from top to bottom, are better overall than they have ever been and I think a big reason for that is the colleges across the league have tried to invest in hiring the best coaches they can find to keep up with the competition they face on a weekly basis.

Perhaps at one time athletic departments were mainly concerned about having top coaches in the major revenue sports, football and basketball, but now you see many outstanding coaches in baseball, softball, tennis, golf and the other sports. I think there are strong coaching staffs everywhere around the SEC.

I also believe when coaches build strong programs and are competing at the highest levels it attracts the best athletes because those are the type of programs they are looking to join to reach their full potential.

In Auburn's case I think athletic programs get a major boost because the university is a great academic institution that is very attractive to prospective students. Combine that with the quality of life on the Auburn campus that is second to none and that is another big plus for AU, which is not alone because a lot of other SEC campuses are attractive to future student-athletes, too. It provides for a really competitive situation.

I have mentioned in the past that the lucrative television deals have given athletic departments the means to upgrade programs they manage. I also have seen them become much better at fund-raising as they convince alumni and others inclined to support programs to reach into their pockets and make financial commitments to help teams reach their potential.

With the money available to all SEC schools there is no reason for any team in the league to not have good or even great facilities, and that is pretty much the way it is across the board in every sport.

This past weekend, for example, Auburn reached the semi-finals of the equestrian national championship meet and was narrowly defeated by SEC rival Georgia, which lost in the finals to another SEC team, Texas A&M, an opponent Auburn had defeated in the regular season. Also this past weekend, at the gymnastics national meet LSU finished second and Florida was third.

This time of year SEC baseball and softball get a lot of attention and in both sports the league is loaded with potential postseason teams. Although there is still plenty of regular season to go, most of the baseball teams and all 13 of the softball teams have legitimate chances of qualifying for the NCAA Tournament.

We are living in a golden age of the Southeastern Conference. I know I have tunnel vision when it comes to the league, but I am very impressed with how much success is taking place in sports around the conference.  I think we need to embrace it and enjoy it. I certainly am.

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