CBS analyst Tim Brando, who grew up in Louisiana and has covered the SEC for decades, said the league's financial advantage stems largely from a “visionary” decision made years ago to equally distribute TV revenue.
“Because the SEC's always spread its wealth equally, you'll never see one school have that much separation over the others like you have in the Big 12 with Texas and Oklahoma versus the others,” Brando said.
That the SEC would be ahead of the curve when it comes to finances shouldn't be a surprise, as its pretty much always been that way.
According to Ray Glier's book, “How the SEC Became Goliath,” the SEC became the first conference to award athletic scholarships in 1935.
“A national uproar occurred, particularly from the schools of the Big 10 and in the West,” Glier wrote. “Today the SEC is seen as too aggressive in college athletics, but in 1935, the SEC was regarded as pure evil for pushing forward the idea of paying players.”