On Monday, ESPN.com posted its college football power index (FPI) rankings and, to no one’s surprise, 10 SEC teams dominate the top 25. They included No. 2 – Alabama, No. 3 – Georgia, No. 4 – LSU, No. 8 – Florida, No. 9 – Auburn, No. 11 – Texas A&M, No. 15 – Tennessee, No. 16 – Mississippi State, No. 18 – South Carolina, and No. 19 – Missouri.
Power rankings are a measure of team strength that's meant to be the best predictor of a team's performance for the rest of the season. So, who is the preseason top-ranked college football team in the country according to ESPN? Clemson.
Each year, the Annie Casey Foundation releases its own power rankings. The Foundation’s Kids Count Data book, a measure of overall child well-being in the nation, is broken down by state. The rankings are established based on child well-being measurements in four categories: economic, education, health, and family and community. This year, New Hampshire and Massachusetts are ranked 1st and 2nd in the nation, respectively. New Mexico is ranked 50th.
The SEC is comprised of athletic teams from Alabama (two teams), Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi (two teams), Missouri, South Carolina, Tennessee (two teams), and Texas. Looking at those states’ 2019 Overall Child Well-Being rankings, 10 SEC states dominate the bottom 25:
No. 28 – Missouri, No. 34 – Kentucky, No. 36 – Tennessee, No. 37 – Florida, No. 38 – Georgia, No. 39 – South Carolina, No. 40 – Arkansas, No. 41 – Texas,
No. 44 – Alabama, No. 48 – Mississippi, and No. 49 – Louisiana
In the last five years, the only SEC state to make it out of the bottom quartile of overall child well-being rankings is Missouri, which rose to the 25th spot in 2017. Louisiana has not risen above 48th. While last in the nation from 2015 to 2017, Mississippi improved two spots, to 48th. The only states to have improved from 2018 are Kentucky (from 37th to 34th), Georgia (from 39th to 38th), Arkansas (from 41st to 40th), and Texas (from 43rd to 41st). Florida dropped three spots – from 34th in 2018 to 37th in 2019. Interestingly, in state rankings (including Washington D.C.) of the overall well-being of women — based on data which includes earnings, health care, and homicide rate — SEC states hold six of the bottom 10 spots, with Mississippi ranking 50th and Louisiana ranking 51st.
In February, SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey announced that approximately $627.1 million of total revenue was divided among the 14 schools for the 2017-18 fiscal year, amounting to about $43.1 million per school, excluding bowl money.
Financial successes, fan traditions, and dominant football teams do not cause deficits in child well-being. Anyone who has ever attended an SEC football game understands the pride is deeply deserved and palpable. But as we demonstrate pride in our beloved teams this season, let’s not forget to support our littlest fans — the next generation of students, parents, and supporters. It just means more when we do.
“Some of us have great runways already built for us," said Amelia Earhart. "If you have one, take off. But if you don't have one, realize it is your responsibility to grab a shovel and build one for yourself and for those who will follow after you.”
The Annie Casey Foundation Kids Count data book for Louisiana can be found here: https://www.aecf.org/m/databook/2019KC_profile_LA.pdf.
Stacey Pearson is a recently retired law enforcement professional, the founder of Espoir Consulting and a longtime resident of Lafayette. She's now a doctoral student at Northeastern University in Boston.