By: Eric SanInocencio
SEC Digital Network
Birmingham, Ala. -- It was like celebrating New Year's Eve...in July.
After nearly a year of speculation, announcements and transition, Missouri and Texas A&M officially became the 13th and 14th members of the Southeastern Conference on midnight this past Saturday/Sunday. The experience of #SEC14 (the hashtag used to signify the event on Twitter) was much like the start of a new year, or in this case, the dawn of a new era. Not only were SEC schools and fans welcoming two new members of the family, but it was another chance to remind the rest of the world what makes the conference so great.
The SEC Digital Network played a part of the coronation, and served as the center piece for a celebration that many Missouri and Texas A&M fans had waited their entire life for. There were parties all over the league's footprint, as both new and old fans got together to mark this memorable occasion.
On our end, preparation for this historic day began months ago, as the process for adding the two new teams started as the calendar hit April. More meetings took place than I can possibly remember, as we thoroughly examined each step as July 1st approached. Not only did we want the "blocking and tackling" completed, but we all brainstormed on a special way to usher in our new partners. We wanted this celebration to be all about them.
All the hours of preparation lead to what you see today, which is a tribute to what makes Missouri and Texas A&M special. From the picture rails to the plethora of articles about the schools, the SEC website is in the midst of a #SEC14 takeover. Everything you need to know or ever wanted to know can be found with the click of a mouse, as we introduced the conference's fans to their new brethren.
That wasn't all that happened Saturday night though. In the midst of that "work", I was once again reminded of what being a part of the SEC truly means.
10 o'clock central time started it all, as the SEC website went "down" for construction. Instead of seeing the normal front, a special splash explained that "neighborhood" expansion was in progress. Once that page was live, the intensity only grew.
As the time ticked closer to midnight, the chorus of ovation got louder. Fans from Columbia, Missouri to Columbia, South Carolina started to chime in, sending thoughts of encouragement and welcome as hours turned to minutes. Watching it all from my living room in Birmingham, the conference's Twitter and Facebook feeds began to explode, as people began counting down time like they were sitting in Times Square on New Year's Eve.
At Midnight Eastern time, the first "ball" dropped. SEC followers from up and down the East Coast began to celebrate, claiming the transition was official. While the league website didn't agree, that didn't stop me (and the rest of the SEC staff
) from encouraging that group to rejoice. That started what became an hour-by-hour culmination of new conference history.
Rejoice they did, as countless streams of congratulatory tweets and messages poured in, both from conference cities and those with no tie to the SEC. That only raised the level of energy even higher, as the fans in the Central Time Zone found themselves on hour away from a life changing moment.
That hour flew by, as countdowns and fireworks rained down over the Southeast. According to those who tweeted at me, there must have been 100 "official" parties for this occasion. I did my own "countdown" on twitter (as did others in the SEC office
), marking each minute with a reminder of how much time remained. Others shared famous speeches from past motion pictures.
Once the clock hit midnight, the "ball" dropped...for good.
Only this time, the celebration was conference wide. For the first 15 minutes after midnight, I could hardly keep up with my twitter feed. Cheers zoomed down the columns of my computer screen, with people ecstatic to be a small part of something bigger. The SEC website was live, this time with new additions that are now permanent fixtures in the conference landscape. #SEC14 was finally here.
Despite my "work" being done, the night was far from over. The celebration didn't stop, as the energy kept me awake even as my body told me to go to sleep. I had to watch, even participate in a moment that will go down in annals of SEC history.
No one goes to bed a 12:01 on New Year's Eve right?
Let the celebration continue. It is truly a "New Year" in the Southeastern Conference.