Once a week, SEC Digital Media Director Eric SanInocencio will share insights on the inner-workings of the conference office.
Birmingham, Ala. -- This is without a doubt the busiest two weeks of the SEC calendar year. No way around it. For these two weeks you will live out of your suitcase, not be at home much and spend more time court side than in the office. That is just the way it is.
These two weeks of course are the SEC's version of "March Madness", where every men's and women's squad in the conference gets that final shot to compete for league glory .Two different tournaments, two different cities, back-to-back weeks is on the agenda, and I'm glad to say I'm halfway done.
Last week all eyes were on Nashville
, with the conference's ladies taking the stage at Bridgestone Arena, fighting for the right to hoist championship hardware and solidify their places in the NCAA field. What on paper looks like a four-day tournament is really a week long affair, and the insanity begins almost 96 hours before the first tip off going in the air.
Any person in sports information or championships planning will tell you, once the games actually START, it is all downhill from there. Teams have played upwards of 30 contests during the year, so the ins and outs of the daily routine have become second nature at this point. How you get to the opening buzzer is what may kill you, and can put energy levels lagging behind before anyone scores an official basket.
What is all this work I'm talking about? Well, luckily for me now, I just commentate on it, and don't actually have to do it. The fine people on the SEC's staff share in the grunt work, and in the end the final product shows in front of you. That's just the way they like it. If you don't notice anything during your SEC Tournament experience, that means they have done their job. Kind of thankless for them, seeing as how one can only achieve recognition if something goes horribly wrong. But, that's the life of the traveling circus of SEC events. When your wear the official "SEC" badge, it comes with the territory.
Back to what all has to be done. Believe it or not, these arenas don't host SEC events all year (I hope you can sense my sarcasm). These venues hold various events, and can transform from hockey rinks to Usher concerts in the blink of an eye. While that means the staffs at these establishments are top notch, it also means that in order for you to feel the SEC atmosphere, a little elbow grease must be done early in the week.
Think about it. Every SEC sign, the actual hardwood floor the teams play on, the images in the arena all must be placed in various locations to give it the conference "feel". Every logo and picture on the jumbotron, every ticket package that was sold, they all have to find the right places. I know SEC staffers start their planning months ahead for this four-day span, and have notebooks full of checklists that need to get done before the teams arrive. Just a tad bit stressful.
The sheer enormity of these events can leave you astonished. Over 40,000 fans attended this week's SEC Women's Tournament, and I can only forecast even more headed to Atlanta this week. All those people need tickets, the media covering those teams will need credentials and the SEC staff handles it all. Pretty amazing. They are the first ones to arrive, usually a full work day before the games actually start, and leave the moment before the lights are finally turned off.
So, how do they celebrate a job well done in Nashville? They repack, do some laundry and then drive to Atlanta. The clock starts all over again, and the process with which they just finished begins anew with everyone now shifting their focus to the Georgia Dome
Me, I just sit back and watch it all happen. I engage fans on our Facebook page
, blast out info on our official SEC Twitter account
and make sure "Professor D" Chris Dortch is ready to go for Atlanta
. Despite the time you spend in the middle of all the craziness, it takes the perspective from outside the bubble to really appreciate all the work that goes in to making your SEC experience personal and special.
Hopefully I shed a little light on that today. Be safe driving to Atlanta for the second half of SEC "Madness".