At a meeting in Knoxville, Tennessee, on December 8-9, 1932, the 13 most western and southern members of the SC broke off to form the SEC. Charter members were the universities of Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Kentucky, Louisiana State, Mississippi, Mississippi State, Sewanee, Tennessee, Tulane, and Vanderbilt. League play began with the 1933 football season. Sewanee, never having won an SEC game, withdrew from the conference on December 13, 1940, and the league eventually was pared to 10 members with the withdrawals of Georgia Tech on June 1, 1964, and Tulane on June 1, 1966.
The SEC underwent a major new expansion in 1990 with the admission of the universities of Arkansas and South Carolina, both of which began league play in 1992. The expanded league was divided into East and West divisions that year, with the winners meeting in a playoff for the SEC title. Undefeated Alabama beat Florida 28-21 in the first playoff title game.[Top]
The SEC has had a number of coaches known for winning records at the same school over a long period of time, the most famous of whom, Bryant, compiled one of the outstanding coaching records in college football history. The "Bear's" overall record was 323-85-17, a winning percentage of .780, for 1945-1982. Most of those games were as an SEC head coach, eight years at Kentucky and 25 at his alma mater, Alabama. Bryant won 15 conference titles (14 in the SEC), had 29 bowl teams, coached eight teams unbeaten in regular season, and won six national titles (all at Alabama).
Another outstanding record was compiled by Robert R. Neyland at Tennessee. Neyland coached the Volunteers to a 173-31-12 record for 1926-1934, 1936-1940, and 1946-1952, with six conference titles (five in the SEC), eight bowl teams, nine teams unbeaten in regular season, and three national champions. He stands sixth among college football coaches with a winning percentage of .829.
Other SEC coaches with top winning percentages over a long period were Dan McGugin, Bobby Dodd, John Vaught, and Vince Dooley.
McGugin's career at Vanderbilt, covering 1904-1917 and 1919-1934, was spent almost entirely before the SEC was formed. He compiled a record of 197-55-19, a winning percentage of .762. A brother-in-law of Michigan Coach Fielding H. "Hurry Up" Yost, McGugin saw Yost's Wolverines give his teams their only defeats in 1905, 1906, 1907, and 1911. In nine tries against his more famous brother-in-law, McGugin's best result was a 0-0 tie in 1922, when both Vanderbilt and Michigan were unbeaten.
Dodd spent his entire head coaching career at Georgia Tech, where he was 165-64-8 for 1945-1966, a winning percentage of .713. He won two SEC titles and had thirteen bowl teams and two unbeaten seasons. Vaught spent his entire coaching career at Mississippi, compiling a record of 190-61-12 for 1947-1970 and part of 1973, a winning percentage of .745. Included were six SEC titles, eighteen bowl teams, four teams unbeaten in regular season, and one national title. Dooley's entire head coaching career was at Georgia, where he compiled a record of 201-77-10 for 1964-1988, a winning percentage of .715. He had six SEC champions, twenty bowl teams, three teams unbeaten in regular season, and one national champion.[Top]
The man for whom the Heisman Trophy is named, John Heisman, was a head coach for 36 years, including two stints at schools that would be charter members of the SEC. His longest stint was at Georgia Tech, which went 102-29-7 under Heisman in 1904-1919, including a national champion. Earlier, he had coached Auburn to a record of 12-4-2 in 1895-1899.
While Arkansas was still in the Southwest Conference, Frank Broyles directed the Razorbacks to a record of 149-62-6, a winning percentage of .700, for 1958-1976. He won seven SWC titles and had 10 bowl teams.[Top]
An unusual display of sportsmanship took place in the 1939 contest between those fierce rivals. The Green Wave went into the game unbeaten and looking for a Sugar Bowl bid, while the Tigers were playing mainly for pride. The contest was scoreless when Tulane E Ralph Wenzel caught a long pass along the sideline near the LSU 5-yard line and trotted into the end zone for an apparent TD. The play had caught the small officiating crew of the period by surprise, and none of them was near Wenzel when he made the catch. The nearest official signaled touchdown, but as he approached Wenzel, the Tulane player tossed him the ball and said, "I think I stepped over the line while running for the touchdown. I think the fair thing to do is to tell you." As it turned out Tulane scored anyway and went on to a 33-20 victory, but Wenzel wanted no part of a tainted TD--however great the pressure to win.
The last major college football team to go through a season unbeaten, untied, and unscored-on was SEC member Tennessee in that same season of 1939. However, the Volunteers were beaten in the Rose Bowl by Southern California 14-0.[Top]
Alabama was known as the Thin Red Line late in the first decade of the twentieth century, but about the time of World War I the sports editor of the Birmingham Age-Herald, Hugh Roberts, began calling the team the Crimson Tide. Zipp Newman of the Birmingham News joined in popularizing the name, which caught on quickly. 'Bama fans also sometimes refer to their team as the Red Elephants, an informal nickname dating to 1930 when Atlanta Journal sportswriter Everett Strupper compared Alabama linemen to elephants in a 64-0 demolishing of Mississippi. Soon Strupper and other writers were calling the team Red Elephants because of the color of their jerseys. An elephant mascot still appears at Alabama games.
Arkansas was called the Cardinals till the close of the 1909 season. At a postseason rally celebrating a 7-0 record that year, Coach Hugo Bezdek referred to his team as "a wild band of razorbacks." The name quickly caught on with fans and writers.
Auburn adopted its Tigers nickname from a verse in Oliver Goldsmith's 1770 poem, "The Deserted Village," "where crouching tigers wait their hapless prey"; the poem also notes that "Sweet Auburn" is the loveliest village of the plain. LSU adopted Tigers in 1896 during a 6-0 season, the name being derived from a battalion of Confederate soldiers known as the Louisiana Tigers during the Civil War. The 1955 "4th quarter ball club" inspired the Fighting Tigers nickname now used.
Florida's nickname developed in a roundabout way. In 1907 a merchant from Gainesville, Florida, Phillip Miller, was visiting his son at the University of Virginia when he got the idea of ordering, from a Charlottesville firm, some banners and pennants to sell at home in his drugstore. The Virginia company was happy to fill the order, but inquired what mascot or emblem should be used. Florida had just begun football the year before and had no nickname. Miller's son Austin, the U. Va. student, suggested the alligator because it was native to Florida and not used as a mascot by any other team. Thus, banners and pennants displaying alligators in various poses were made up and sent to Miller's store in Gainesville. The symbol caught on, though the name later was shortened to Gators.
Southern sportswriters in 1936 were asked to supply a nickname for the athletic teams at Mississippi, already called "Ole Miss." The student newspaper sent several suggested names to sportswriters throughout the region and the overwhelming choice was Rebels, suggested by Judge Ben Guider of Vicksburg. Mississippi State's Bulldog nickname dates back at least to 1905 but has been the official emblem only since 1961, when University officials, with alumni support, confirmed Bulldogs as the official nickname. Between 1935 and 1960 State's teams usually were called Maroons, and before that Bulldogs had been shared with Aggies.
South Carolina football teams at the turn of the century were known as Game Cocks, but the Columbia, S.C., morning newspaper, The State, shortened the name to one word in 1903 and in recent years the name evolved into Fighting Gamecocks. The state had been closely connected with the breeding and training of fighting gamecocks since colonial days.
Tennessee adopted Volunteers from the state nickname, The Volunteer State, which dated to the early 19th century when General Andrew Jackson mustered many volunteers from the state to fight Indians, and later the British in the Battle of New Orleans.
Vanderbilt's nickname, Commodores, was first used in 1897 by William E. Beard, a member of the Nashville Banner editorial staff who had been a quarterback on Vandy's 1892 team. It was a natural because the school had been founded in 1873 by a $1 million grant from Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt.[Top]
Mississippi's first team in 1893 thought the combination of Harvard's crimson and Yale's blue would enable the school to have "the spirit of both these good colleges," though the Ole Miss colors since have been modified to red and blue.
South Carolina adopted garnet and black, colors of the gamecock mascot, near the turn of the century.
A member of Tennessee's first football team in 1891, Charles Moore, selected orange and white for the school colors because of the profusion of daisies that grew on the Knoxville campus.[Top]
|1935||Louisiana State||5-0||9-1||Sugar (L)|
|1936||Louisiana State||6-0||9-0-1||Sugar (L)|
|1939||Georgia Tech||6-0||7-2||Orange (W)|
|1943||Georgia Tech||3-0||7-3||Sugar (W)|
|1944||Georgia Tech||4-0||8-2||Orange (L)|
|1951||Georgia Tech||7-0||10-0-1||Orange (W)|
|1952||Georgia Tech||6-0||11-0||Sugar (W)|
|1958||Louisiana State||6-0||10-0||Sugar (W)|
|Louisiana State||6-0||9-1||Orange (W)|
|1970||Louisiana State||5-0||9-2||Orange (L)|
|1986||Louisiana State||5-1||9-2||Sugar (L)|
|Louisiana State||6-1||8-3||Hall of Fame (L)|
|Auburn||6-1||9-2||Hall of Fame (W)|
|Mississippi State||6-2||8-4||Cotton (L)|