Inspired by the new social game, ESPNU College Town, here’s what I would select from around the SEC to build the best program in the conference:
Academics: Vanderbilt. Consistently ranked by U.S. News & World Report as one of the nation’s top 20 universities, Vanderbilt has perennially been the class of the SEC academically.
Athletic director: Florida’s Jeremy Foley. He hires well and fires well and carries the kind of clout nationally all schools wish their athletic director did.
City: Nashville, Tenn. It’s hard to beat Music City, USA. It’s a bigger city with everything you want, including diversity, a major airport and great entertainment, and also hasn’t lost its Southern charm.
Coach: Alabama’s Nick Saban. He’s the only coach in the modern era to have won two national championships at two different schools. The question now: How many more will he win?
Facilities: Alabama. This is a close one with LSU. But when you combine everything, including the recent stadium renovations, Alabama wins out.
Fans: South Carolina. Undyingly loyal, the South Carolina fans continue turning out in big numbers to see the Gamecocks play no matter how good, bad or mediocre the football team is on a yearly basis.
Game day atmosphere: LSU. Those first few notes blaring across campus from the LSU band are enough to give you chills. In short, there’s nothing quite like a Saturday night in Tiger Stadium. The only thing that's close is the tailgating before the game.
Mascot: Georgia’s Uga. There’s not another mascot in all of college football more revered than Uga or as intertwined with that school’s football team as the pure white English bulldog that roams the sideline on game days.
Stadium: Alabama’s Bryant-Denny Stadium. The seating capacity is now up over 100,000, and the recent renovations have truly made it one of the Taj Mahals when you start talking about on-campus stadiums in this country. And now that it’s completely closed in, the noise is deafening.
Strength program: Florida. There’s a reason the Gators have been so good in the fourth quarter under Urban Meyer. Mickey Marotti and that Florida strength program have few peers, although Scott Cochran has also made Alabama’s strength program a force to reckon with.
So there you have it, the 10 components that would make up the perfect football program in this conference.
And, really, when you start talking about game-day atmospheres, fans, stadiums and facilities in the realm of the SEC, it’s hard to go wrong anywhere you go in this league.
Football is indeed a religion in these parts.