An undeniable, vitally important aspect of the Southeastern Conference's culture is the money its schools spend on athletics, specifically football.
As television contracts become more and more valuable and athletic departments around the country rake in eye popping revenue, the SEC continues to outpace everyone else.
According to the Delta Cost Project, a study released through the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics last January, the SEC spent $163,931 per athlete in 2010.
That's $32,645 more than the Big 12 spent per athlete, and nearly twice the amount the average NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision school spends.
The SEC schools are also willing to pay football coaches higher salaries.
According to USA Today's online database of college coaches' salaries, four of the top-ten highest-paid head football coaches last season came from the SEC. Three were Big 12 coaches.
The gap extends to assistant coach salaries. The average SEC assistant football coach earned more than $315,000 last year, about $25,000 more than the average Big 12 assistant.
A recent USA Today study of college athletic department finances showed that in 2011, eight SEC schools spent more than $80 million on sports. Just two Big 12 schools — not surprisingly, Texas and Oklahoma — exceeded that amount.
“The money that's spent is a reflection of the interest at all these places,” said Clay Travis, a Tennessee-based writer and radio host who authored two books about SEC football.
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.”