Post by Dennis Washington from Alabama NewsCenter.
As college football prepares to celebrate its 150th birthday, answer this question: Why is this sport more popular in the southern United States than anywhere else in the country?
Three Southeastern Conference football legends offered their opinions Tuesday during the conference’s annual SEC Football Media Days in Hoover. Archie Manning says the answer to that question begins in high school.
“High school football is fantastic in the South,” Manning said. “We also have high school coaches that stay with it for their career. I admire that fraternity. Those men don’t coach high school football for the money. They do it because they love what they do.”
Manning also credits warmer weather, a fact Steve Spurrier says encouraged him to play and coach at Florida.
“I visited in late March when it was 72 in Gainesville and 32 in Johnson City, Tennessee,” Spurrier said. “All I know is I was blessed to go there.”
Herschel Walker says the SEC’s strong football programs help draw fans and players.
“The SEC stands with a lot of power,” Walker said. “People know when you’re going to play a team from the SEC — I don’t care who it is, you better bring more than your lunch because it’s going to be a tough game. Guys are going to play extremely hard.”
A number of events celebrating 150 years of college football are scheduled this fall at schools throughout the conference and around the country. In addition, ESPN will be airing “Saturdays in the South,” an eight-part documentary series chronicling the birth and growth of college football in the South.
“You will hear stories of greased railroad tracks, an era before the SEC chant was ever heard, and weave tales through the decades of the modern area of success experienced now by the Southeastern Conference,” SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said.
Walker shared his own story of how he used a coin flip to choose between a career in the military or college.
“One Sunday in April, my mom asked me, ‘Don’t you think it’s time for you decide what you’re going to do?’ and before she could say anything, she said, ‘If your mind and your heart is pure of the Lord Jesus, it doesn’t really matter of your decision.’ So I decided to flip a coin. It landed on college. I then flipped a coin between Clemson and Georgia, and it landed on Georgia. I wanted to go to USC out in California, so I flipped a coin between those two schools, and it landed on Georgia again. I then pulled the names out of a bag, and I pulled Georgia, and that’s how I ended up at Georgia.”
“Sometimes when you’re naive and stupid, God will take care of you, because that was the right decision,” Walker added.
He also praised a decision by Georgia to name its football field after Vince Dooley.
“He deserves it because he built men,” Walker said. “To name the field after him, I’m happy to be a part of it.”
All three men say they are honored to remain active in college football activities and discussions about the sport.
“I love the college game,” said Manning, who played quarterback at Ole Miss. “I’ve been involved in the National Football Foundation. I love that involvement. We stay close to the game and try to develop leaders through the game. I’ve certainly enjoyed that.”
“There’s something about football,” Spurrier added. “When you only have one game a year, you have bragging rights for the whole year if you win. There’s always a lot riding on the outcome, and it’s benefited all of us up here.”
“To be a part of anything that’s been around 150 years, you’ve got to be honored,” Walker said. “In today’s world, everyone wants to erase history, (which) I think is a shame. For me to be a part of something that’s 150 years old is incredible.”
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