— Coaching. The best are drawn to the SEC like moths to light, spurred by the chance to win championships and the willingness of schools to dole out big money in hopes of keeping up with their neighbors. Nick Saban left the NFL for a $4 million-a-year job at Alabama and needed all of three seasons to lead the Crimson Tide back to the top. Urban Meyer is an offensive mastermind who restored the tradition established at Florida by Steve Spurrier. Les Miles picked up where Saban left off at LSU, Richt has guided Georgia to a pair of SEC titles, and Bobby Petrino appears on the verge of taking Arkansas to national prominence.
— Big money. The SEC is rolling in dough, thanks to huge television packages (a $2.25 billion contract with ESPN, a $55 million-a-year deal with CBS) and some of the largest stadiums in the country, which are generally filled to capacity. Tennessee’s Neyland Stadium and Alabama’s Bryant-Denny hold more than 100,000, Georgia’s Sanford Stadium and LSU’s Tiger Stadium seat more than 92,000, while Florida, Auburn and South Carolina all have facilities that can accommodate at least 80,000. Only two stadiums in the conference seat fewer than 60,000.