Right now I am watching the BCS Championship game and hoping that Auburn continues to win. Why?? Well becuse I am loyal to the S.E.C. Yes, Auburn is Bama’s biggest rival and losing to them screwed up Bama’s chance for a third consecutive nationl championship, but I want us to smash Auburn in the face, not some school from an inept conference. Yes as an Alabama fan I despise Auburn but I don’t even consider teams from other conferences, or even worse, teams who claim independence even though they are now scheduling 4-5 games a year with the ACC, as even worthy of being despised. They’re not good enough to hate. 🙂 Here’s an example of the SEC chant from Alabama stomping on Notre Dame at the 2013 BCS Championship game.
You can find some good articles that speculate on why the chant happens. Here are a few that I have enjoyed.
Good articles with interesting points that range from keeping it in the family to Southern exceptionalism. I think the answer centers around something you learn in one’s first economics class. People usually do things because there are incentives for them to do those things. SEC fans understand that the way college football is presently set up there is an incentive for us to want to other SEC teams to win and so we pull for other SEC teams when they play against other conferences. What is the incentive? Perceived strength of schedule.
If the SEC dominates NCAA football it lifts up the perceived strength of all the teams in th SEC and perceived strength is important in the way the BCS era has been run. It will continue to be important during the new system. SEC fans realize that they gain when their rival beats a team from another conference and thus we cheer for our in conferenc rivals. The incentive produces the conference pride that leads to the chant.
The incentive and perceived strength of schedule is also why teams from other conferences get excited when they beat a team from the SEC. The other conferences may not admit it but their excitement proves it. Getting excited about beating a weak SEC team just points out that they perceive the SEC as strong too. I mean really, people from other conferences get excited about beating Kentucky in football. The only explanation for that is the perceived strength of SEC teams. So when you mock our SEC chant we realize that it just means you wish you were us. That jealousy helps us in the standings, so I am just fine with it.
I’ve heard people compare who don’t understand this compare the situation to the NFL. I am a Packers fan and have been since the 8th grade. I would never root for the Bears to win just because they are in the NFC North. Why? Incentives again are the reason. The things that matters in the NFL is the number of wins you have overall and the number of wins you have as compared to the rest of the teams in your division. The incentive here is actually for the other teams in your division to be weak. You can still make it to the playoffs if you are the best team in a weak division. Therefore, NFL fans want the other teams in their division to lose all the time. For an example of this consider the 2010 Seattle Seahawks who made the playoffs despite having a losing record. Their division-mates losing was almost as valuable as their own wins.
This just doesn’t work in NCAA football. If you are the best team in a weak division it works against you because the perceived strength of the majority of the teams you play is weak and therefore you are perceived as not as strong. In college football you need your conference to be strong. That’s why in college I cheer for my team’s bitterest rival … because we win something if they win.
I’m not sure that fans from other conferences understand this incentive. Otherwise they would pull and chant for their own conference against other conferences. Or maybe it is just that other conferences don’t have as easy of a name to chant.
SIDE NOTE – Well crud. I guess the silver lining is that Auburn lost. I just wish it had been to Bama instead of FSU.