It had been at least 13 years since a college football team from the conference had been bestowed the title of National Champions. Often times teams from the conference could not play significant bowl games because they were not considered strong enough outside of conference play and therefore were not invited. When they did play strong opponents from other conferences they often blew the opportunity. Even the flagship team of the conference was known to get the crap beat out of it when playing for all the marbles. Other times they played well and won convincingly only to have pollsters second guess the strength of their opponent. It was a self-perpetuating cycle from the mid 60's to the late 70's.
So what did people in the region do? Rather than rag on their conference they boldly proclaimed that they were in fact the best conference in the land. The usual argument went like this. "If those teams from other parts of the country had to play in our conference they would not win as many games. Our teams beat each other up all season long and that is why their records aren't as good." Additional arguments complained that refs looked on their teams as inferior keeping them from getting the benefit of the doubt on critical calls. Pollsters from the region began to stack their votes against teams from other parts of the country to make this conference look better. One famous quote from a Southern pollster was, "I will never vote for Notre damn Dame Yankee U as long as I have a vote."
But the most amazing demonstration was from rank and file fans who simply believed that their teams were the best no matter what the polls or the scoreboards said. Call it chutzpah, call it moxie, call it gumption, call it delusional, over the decades it began to work. Talk about your cliches -"fake it till you make it; believe it till you conceive it; think it is so until it is so; act as if . . ." Eventually reality caught up to belief. Polls started to change. The ball began to bounce differently. Calls from refs became more favorable. It all came together.
The amazing thing about this conference is that the flagship team, Alabama, is still an abysmal 4-16-2 against Texas, Notre Dame, Michigan and Oklahoma, but it doesn't matter. History is forgotten. Hype reigns. Success breeds success. The fans believed in the conference with such ferocity that they finally convinced the players, pollsters and fans of this conference and every other conference. And by my estimation believing is about 90% of winning.