Until 1966, the Southeastern Conference ruled the football scene in the region.
Then the professional game invaded the South.
The Atlanta Falcons and Miami Dolphins began play in 1966 as the first two major professional football squads in the then-SEC states (the Dallas Cowboys and Dallas Texans launched teams earlier than that, but years before Texas A&M joined the SEC).
The New Orleans Saints began play in 1967, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1976, the Jacksonville Jaguars in 1995 and the Houston Oilers relocated to become the Tennessee Titans in the late '90s.
And while the Southern NFL teams have enjoyed success and have plenty of fans, the passion for college game remains at the forefront of the region's football culture.
In his book “How the SEC Became Goliath,” Ray Glier writes that the passion for the local college teams was built through the years without professional football, then passed down from generation to generation.
“The roots were deep, planted by the legendary coaches, Tennessee's General Neyland and Alabama's Bear Bryant and the Ole Miss coach John Vaught, among others, but also by many other proud men and women of the South,” Glier writes. “There was no NFL south of Washington, DC, to interfere with the planting of those roots in the twenties, thirties, forties and fifties.”