SEC wants to prove that academics, football mix
Mention the Tennessee Volunteers and most people know the university at Knoxville is a member of the Southeastern Conference, a band of 12 powerful institutions that plays sports pretty well.
Individually, each school has the reputation for being an academic leader in some field of study. But the SEC's image is football. It isn't a grouping of schools known for academic excellence the way the Ivy League is.
With improving the SEC's academic image a goal, Commissioner Mike Slive announced this week a consortium among the members to share classroom resources.
To begin, the alliance will focus on four joint goals: Shared libraries and periodicals, study abroad programs, academic leadership and minority recruitment.
How it will work sounds awfully academic and nebulous but the Big Ten and Pacific-10 conferences have similar program grouping.
The consortium, of course, must have a director, who is yet to be hired, and will be overseen by a board made up of provosts from the member schools.
Perhaps the SEC can some day boast of its state-of-the-art science labs the way athletic departments tout their cutting-edge sports training facilities to prospective recruits.
Maybe the SEC can some day even award engineering championships the way it crowns football and basketball teams.
The goal to raise awareness of academic excellence in the SEC is a worthy one, but it will take years to accomplish. That may be why the University of Georgia president was the only one of his peers who showed up for the announcement in Atlanta.
Sports wear a jeweled crown in the Southeastern Conference.