Select or Award-Winning Individual Scholarship

All Our Teams- The Geography of SEC Fandom and Southern Identity

J. A. Cooper, University of Tennessee, Knoxville


Scholars have argued that the American South is one of the most distinct regions in the United States (Zelinsky 1980). Its inhabitants culturally identify with the geographic area and seek to express and retain that identity in many ways such as naming their businesses using the term “Southern” (Reed 1976), reading Southern Living (Lauder 2011), and eating collards (Davis and Morgan 2015). Geographers can map these cultural expressions and ones like them to better understand the spatial qualities of the South. One identifier of Southern culture is the intense and distinct fandom surrounding college football, specifically the variety played in the Southeastern Conference. Since the rise of Southern football to prominence in the Roaring 20s to the past decade that has seen eight SEC national championships, the South has taken a great interest in college football and has held autumn Saturdays when SEC football is played in high cultural esteem. SEC football can therefore be mapped to show the cores and peripheries of the conference’s geographical footprint in relation to the traditional cultural South. Spatial data from indicators of SEC fandom such as the 14 member institutions’ locations of ticket sales to games, donations made to the athletic departments, affiliate radio stations, internet searches, origin of athletes, and availability of vanity license plates are mapped here to approximate just where “SEC Country” is.