How are smaller sports in the SEC changing the program?

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By CAROLINE GAZZARA
College Contributor Network

The Southeastern Conference is the crème-de-la-crème of all conferences. It's the conference you want to be in for every athletic event, activity or get-together. The SEC is home to many great, powerful sports and athletic departments that leave all other conferences in awe.

For a long time there was a stigma that the south was only good at football. For a long time that was true. However, in recent years that stigma has been proved wrong. The SEC isn't just about football, or basketball or even gymnastics. It's about all the other smaller sports that don't get the same recognition just because they don't bring in the big bucks. But they actually bring in something more important to the schools: diversity.

Sports like tennis, rowing and soccer are attracting a serious amount of attendance and interest because the teams are starting to compete on a national level. No longer are smaller sports being ignored because they aren't good or aren't going places in the league; instead they are having all-out brawls for the win.

It's the diversity in the SEC that has everyone wondering what will happen next. The SEC has always been a powerhouse for big-name sports, but in recent years it has showed that even the smaller sports are able to compete and win big. There's a growing demand for talent and athletic ability in these competitions.

For soccer, some of the best players have been revered and whispered about before the match has even started. In tennis, there's always that one killer doubles team people gawk at. In rowing, there's the powerhouse boat you can't help but watch as it races down the river. Alabama's volleyball program received votes for the first time in program history last week. Multiple SEC schools are in the Top 25 in women's soccer. These are the sports that are changing the name of the SEC. They may be small, but they have a lot of potential.

The SEC has NCAA titles in gymnastics, golf, cross country, women's soccer, baseball, softball, swimming and diving, tennis and women's basketball. Most of those titles were won in recent years, though the the last women's soccer title was won in 1998. It says a lot that in almost every sport, the SEC has been able to capitalize and win.

Teams in these sports are just as powerful and talented as their more hyped counterparts. They are able to create a winning philosophy and go out and take control of their destiny. Alabama soccer is currently in its best season in recent years, simply because it's finally found its groove. The team hasn't had this much success both at home and on the road since 2011 when it last went to the NCAA's. And before that trip to the national level, Alabama hadn't been back since 1998.

Soccer isn't the only program in the SEC that is changing and improving. Every sport in the SEC has a higher standard this year. Conference golf is only getting stronger and the schools look forward to competing with each other to see where they stand.

Sure, football is the way of the south. Many people are born and raised into the football culture and are proud of it. But it's not the only sport in the SEC anymore. It's the beginning of the SEC evolution. For years, the SEC wasn't a powerhouse in sports outside of football but as the years have gone by it has proved that the smaller sports are improving and making strides to win championships. The dawn of smaller sports in the SEC is here, and it's here to stay.


Caroline Gazzara is a junior at the University of Alabama majoring in Sports Journalism. Her passions are Alabama athletics and soccer. Follow her on Twitter: @CarolineGazzara
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