One of the Great Concerns of the local talk radio crowd is why the SEC is just so darn much better than everyone else at college football. Cynics point to the old mantra of "if you ain't cheating, you ain't trying." Big 10 apologists, when not trying to reconcile their conference name with the fact that they haven't had ten teams since people knew who Blind Melon was, suggest that it's the fact that SEC teams have a distinct home-field advantage in the post-season since all the games that matter are played in the balmy south, and not in blizzard conditions in remote Midwestern towns. And then there are those of us who can do math, and this study. The one that says that the SEC spends an average - an average, mind you - of early $164K a year per athlete. The ACC, on the other hand, spends a paltry $103K per year per athlete. Now, assuming generously that football players get the average spent on them, and that we're only counting the scholarship kids, that's a difference of close to $5.2M per year. (Assume football players get above the average, and the numbers get even worse.) That's 5 million extra to spend on coaches, on facilities, on accommodations and perks and God knows what else, per team, per year. Five million a year, every year, eventually turns into a lot of money, and that's above and beyond the nearly $9M per year ACC schools are spending on their teams. The lesson is clear.
It's the money. It's the money poured into athletic programs that ensures the SEC - $30K/student more than their nearest competitors, the Big 12 - will continue to beat the rest of college football like a set of Rock Band drums during a freestyle section. It's the money that tilts what the merchants of college sports like to pretend is a level playing field. And it's the money that buys resources, the resources that attract players, the players that make wins, the wins that bring the cameras sniffing around, and the cameras that get all of us so involved in these 20 year old kids' lives to the point where we, as a country, spend a week wrapped up in an Important National Debate over a college student's imaginary girlfriend. There's roughly a zillion of those happening at any given moment, of course - the "imaginary girlfriend in Canada/Cherry Hill, New Jersey" was common parlance among the dating-impaired. But hey, there's all that money going into Manti Te'o, or around him, and so suddenly it's worthy of mention and obsession.
And in the meantime, pity poor Manti Te'o, who - regardless of whether he helped engineer this mischegas or not, surely had no idea of the clown show that was about to be unleashed on him. Because once you invest $100K a year into someone, they stop being a person, and they become a commodity, and the imaginary girlfriend becomes just another value-add.