National Championship Tale of the Tape

The 2016 season’s College Football Playoff national championship game will be a repeat of the 2015 game:  the University of Alabama (Southeastern Conference champion) versus Clemson University (Atlantic Coast Conference champion).  Each team has a rich history.  The following contains some facts about each school: first football season, overall record, national championships (Awarded by the Associated Press and/or the designated coaches’ poll at the time. Claimed titles while on probation do not count.), conference titles, consensus All-Americans (players voted first team, second team, or third team by the Associated Press, American Football Coaches Association, Football Writers Association of America, the Sporting News and the Walter Camp Football Foundation), players and coaches in the College Football Hall of Fame, and Heisman Trophy winners.

 

  1. Alabama Crimson Tide

 

First Season:                                                    1892

Overall Record:                                               872-309-41

National Championships:                             16

Conference Titles:                                           30

Consensus All-Americans:                             61

College Hall of Famers:                                  24

Heisman Trophy Winners:                            2

 

  1. Clemson Tigers

First Season:                                                    1896

Overall Record:                                               715-456-45

National Championships:                              1

Conference Titles:                                           22

Consensus All-Americans:                             27

College Hall of Famers:                                   6

Heisman Trophy Winners:                             0

 

 

Last year’s game between the schools saw a lot of offense and great plays throughout the game:  Alabama prevailed 45-40.  This year, both teams boast mobile quarterbacks and great defenses.  The odds makers have made the Crimson Tide a 6.5 point favorite, and the game should be an old fashioned donnybrook.  Make no mistake about it—blood, sweat, and tears will accompany this game.  Fierce battles will take place in the trenches. Spectacular plays will be made on both sides of the ball.  The coaches will be on edge and quick to anger.  The tension will mount with each play as the game progresses.  Only one team will walk away victorious.  Will it be the Crimson Tide or the Tigers?  Whoa Nellie! Let’s bring it on!

 

SEC Title Game History: Alabama vs. Florida

 

 

sec_new_logo1216The Southeastern Conference (SEC) championship game has occurred every year since 1992. The game matches the East Division winner against the West Division winner, and the victor of this game earns the title of SEC champion for that year. The game has been an economic success for the conference and a television ratings bonanza. Birmingham hosted the game for the first two years and Atlanta has had it ever since, with the current contract running through 2026. The most frequent match up in the game has been the University of Alabama and the University of Florida. The Tide and the Gators have met eight times and will meet for number nine on Saturday. These contests have seen some of the league’s all-time great coaches and players pitted against one another when the stakes were the highest. The following is a brief look at each of the eight games.

The inaugural game in 1992 in Birmingham pitted two future College Football Hall of Fame coaches against the other, Alabama’s Gene Stallings and Florida’s Steve Spurrier. The Gators took an early lead on running back Errict Rhett’s five-yard reception, but the Tide stormed back with 21 unanswered points behind two Derric Lassic runs and a 30-yard Jay Barker to Curtis Brown touchdown pass. The Gators tied the game midway through the fourth quarter on another Errict Rhett touchdown, but Bama defensive back Antonio Langham intercepted a Shane Matthews pass and returned it 27 yards for the winning score in the 28-21 Tide victory. Alabama completed an undefeated season with a resounding 34-13 Sugar Bowl victory over number one-ranked Miami, thereby capturing the national championship.

Alabama and Florida met again in the 1993 SEC title tilt. The Gators gained a measure of revenge with a 28-13 victory. The Gators held a tight 14-13 lead in the third quarter before quarterback Terry Dean hit receiver Jack Jackson for a 43-yard touchdown pass and an eight point lead. The Florida defense throttled the Tide the rest of the way and the Gators tallied one more touchdown for the final score. Florida would then win its first ever Sugar Bowl by destroying West Virginia, 41-7.

Atlanta became the permanent home of the championship game beginning in 1994, but the same two participants hooked up for the third year in a row. Alabama trailed 17-10 at halftime before erupting for two field goals and a Dwayne Rudd 23-yard interception return for a touchdown that gave the Tide a 23-17 lead with just under nine minutes to play. Florida quarterback Danny Wuerffel then led the Gators on an 80-yard, 10-play drive culminating with a two-yard Wuerffel to Chris Doering touchdown. The ensuing extra point gave Florida the lead with 5:29 to go in the game. The defense took over from there as the Gators hung on for the 24-23 victory.

The two schools would not meet again in the championship game until 1996, which witnessed the Gators winning a shootout, 45-30, on the way to their first national title. Danny Wuerffel threw for over 400 yards and six touchdowns against an Alabama defense that came into the game ranked sixth in the country in total defense. Wide receiver Reidel Anthony caught 11 of Wuerffel’s passes for 171 yards and three touchdowns. Florida’s victory propelled them to a rematch with arch rival Florida State in the Sugar Bowl for the national title. The Seminoles handed the Gators their only loss of the season, 24-21, but Florida responded with a 52-20 drubbing in the rematch. Wuerffel also won the Heisman trophy that year.

Three years later in 1999, the Tide and Gators met again. While Spurrier remained as Florida’s coach, Mike DuBose was in his third year as the Tide’s leader. Alabama led Florida 15-7 early in the fourth quarter when the Tide erupted for 19 unanswered points. Freddie Milons scored on a 77-yard run and 18 seconds later, Reggie Grimes tallied a 38-yard touchdown after intercepting Jesse Palmer. Alabama added another touchdown later for the final score of 34-7. The Tide defense was the story. Alabama held Florida to 114 total yards, the fewest ever for a Spurrier-coached Florida team. The Tide picked off the Gators four times and did not allow them to convert a third down. Both teams would go on to lose their Bowl games that year.

It would be nine years later until the schools met again. This time, two future Hall of Fame coached squared off, Florida’s Urban Meyer and Alabama’s Nick Saban. The 2008 game marked the first time in SEC history that the number 1 and number 2 ranked teams in the nation (Alabama, 1 and Florida, 2) squared off. With Alabama leading 20-17 in the fourth quarter, Florida scored two touchdowns for a 31-20 victory. The clinching score came on a five-yard touchdown pass from Tim Tebow to Riley Cooper with 2:50 to go in the game. Heisman Trophy winner Tebow would lead Florida to the national championship with a victory over Oklahoma, 24-14, in the Orange Bowl and a 13-1 final record.

The two teams met once more in the 2009 SEC championship but this time Saban and the Tide prevailed 32-13 over Meyer and the Gators. Again the teams came into the game ranked number one and number two in the country (Florida, 1 and Alabama, 2), and this time both teams were undefeated, an SEC Championship game first. Led by quarterback Greg McElroy, running back Mark Ingram, and receiver Julio Jones, the Tide compiled 490 yards of offense against a Florida defense that was giving up only 230 yards per game. Alabama finished the season undefeated and won the national championship with a 37-21 win over Texas in the Rose Bowl.

Last year the Tide and Gators met for the eighth time in the championship game.  Saban led his Number 2-ranked Tide against first-year Gator coach and former Saban assistant Jim McElwain.   The teams played a sluggish first half with Alabama taking a 12-7 lead, but in the second half the Tide exploded for two touchdowns and a field goal to ice the game, 29-15.  Derrick Henry broke Herschel Walker’s SEC record for rushing yards in a season with 189 yards for the game and 1,986 for the season.  The Tide then won the second College Football Playoff series with a thrashing of Michigan State in the semi-finals and a thrilling win over Clemson in the title game.

Saban and McElwain meet again on Saturday in what seems to be the schools’ annual play date.  Prognosticators give the Gators very little chance in the game as the undefeated Tide enters Number 1 in the polls and over a three-touchdown favorite.    Stranger things have happened, but the Tide have the look of a fierce pack of pachyderms set on eating Gator meat and anything else that gets in their way.  The SEC championship game is always a donnybrook with some of the most passionate fans in all of sports.  Cheers to the Tide, the Gators, and the great game of college football!

 

Third Saturday in October: Alabama-Tennessee Rivalry

 

 

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The Third Saturday in October can only mean one thing: the University of Alabama Crimson Tide (Tide) and the University of Tennessee Volunteers (Vols) are about to strap on the helmets extra tight in anticipation of another physical, blood-letting battle on the football field. One of the fiercest rivalries in the Deep South used to take place on the third Saturday in October but when the Southeastern Conference split the league into two divisions in 1992, the game began to gravitate among dates somewhere between the middle to late October. For decades Alabama and Tennessee fans have had a saying: Don’t get married on the third Saturday in October. Sports journalist Beano Cook added, “Don’t die on the third Saturday in October, since the preacher may not show up.”

Alabama officially leads the series 52-38-7. The National Collegiate Athletic Association NCAA) forced Alabama to forfeit the 1993 game, a 17-17 tie, and vacate the 2005 game, a 6-3 Alabama win, because of rules violations. The series has been marked by winning streaks on both sides, and generally, those were directly correlated to the side that had the College Football Hall of Fame coach at the time.  The first game in 1901 between the two schools ended in a 6-6 tie in Birmingham. From 1903 through 1913, Alabama forged an 8-1 record against Tennessee while holding the Vols scoreless. The series took a hiatus until 1928.

Alabama Hall of Fame coach Wallace Wade led the Tide to three national championships from 1925-1930 while Hall of Fame coach Robert Neyland, known as the General, began his tenure at Tennessee in 1926. The coaches became friends and agreed to re-start the series in 1928, a 15-13 University of Tennessee (UT) win. Neyland’s Vols won a tight 6-0 victory over Wade’s Tide in 1929 but Wade gained a measure of revenge with an 18-6 triumph on the way to the 1930 national championship. Wade left for Duke University after that memorable 1930 season and the series pendulum swung in Neyland’s and Tennessee’s favor. Neyland coached at Tennessee from 1926-1952, with the exceptions of 1935 and 1941-1945. His record against Alabama was 12-5-2.

Alabama won the 1935 game, 25-0. In that game, senior end Paul “Bear” Bryant played the entire contest with a broken leg. After the game, Bryant shrugged it off stating, “It was one little bone.”

Such toughness inspired the University of Kentucky to hire Bryant as its head coach in 1946. Kentucky played Neyland’s Volunteers seven times during Bryant’s period as coach, but the General outflanked the Bear winning five times, with no losses, and two ties. In his book Third Saturday in October, Al Browning stated that those losses to Neyland fueled Bryant’s intense desire to defeat Tennessee while serving as Alabama’s head coach.

Bryant took over the reins at Alabama in 1958 and coached there until his retirement after the 1982 season. The Hall of Fame coach swung the series pendulum back to Alabama. Bryant’s teams struggled against Tennessee from 1958-1960 as the Volunteers tallied a 2-0-1 record against the Bear. However, the Tide broke through in 1961 with a resounding 34-3 victory. After that game, Alabama trainer Jim Goostree, a UT graduate, started a tradition that continues today. Goostree dispensed cigars to the players and coaches to celebrate the victory. After every game since then, the winning team has broken out the cigars. The NCAA considers this practice a violation of its rules, so the winning team immediately reports itself afterwards.

Under Bryant, Alabama dominated the series with 16 wins, seven losses, and two ties and won 11 in a row from 1971 to 1981. The Bear used the games against Tennessee as a barometer for his teams. According to Browning, the Bear once declared, “You found out what kind of person you were when you played against Tennessee.”

From 1983 through 1991, Alabama won six of the nine games. Tennessee coach Johnny Majors beat the Bear in 1982 but proceeded to lose six out of the next eight, which directly led to his termination. The pendulum swung back to Tennessee when Hall of Famer Phillip Fulmer took over as coach in 1992.

Fulmer compiled an 11-5 record against the Tide, including the forfeited 1993 tie and the 2005 vacated Alabama win. During Fulmer’s tenure, the Vols won nine of 10 versus Alabama from 1995-2004. Arguably, his most memorable game facing the Tide came in 2003 when the Vols beat the Tide in five overtimes, 51-43. Fulmer had great respect for the rivalry, “It’s important for our players to realize that the guys on both sides that have worn the orange and white or the crimson and white forever look at this third Saturday of October as being special.”

When future Hall of Fame coach Nick Saban took over at Alabama in 2007, the pendulum swung hard back to the Tide. Saban has led the Tide to nine consecutive victories over the Volunteers by an average score of 34-12.

The games played on or close to the Third Saturday of October have seen Hall of Fame coaches strolling both sidelines, gutty performances on the field, and an intensity only a few rivalries in any sport can claim. This rivalry symbolizes everything that people love about college football. So whether you are a fan of Alabama or Tennessee or some other school, light up a victory cigar to celebrate all those people who have given their all or who will give their all on the Third Saturday of October or any date during the college football season.

 

 

SEC Coach Comparisons

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How do the current SEC coaches match up with some of the prior coaches at their respective schools?  Let’s start the comparisons with Nick Saban, Bret Bielema, Gus Malzahn, Jim McElwain and Kirby Smart.  We’ll examine the rest in the near future.

 

  1. Nick Saban of Alabama

Saban begins his 10th season in Tuscaloosa.  His official record at Alabama is 100-18, a .847 win percentage His teams have won six SEC titles and four national championships.  Here are the statistics from two of the more famous Alabama coaches after their ninth seasons in Tuscaloosa:

Frank Thomas—From 1931-1939 Thomas had a record of 69-9-4, an .840 win percentage.  During this time he won four SEC titles and two national championships.

Paul “Bear’ Bryant—From 1958-1966 Bryant compiled a record of 80-12-6, an .820 win percentage.  Bryant, during this time, won four SEC titles and three national championships.

No other Crimson Tide coaches managed to stay in Tuscaloosa for at least nine seasons.  Arguably, Saban is the most successful football coach in Alabama history.  Unless something unforeseeable takes place, Saban will remain at Alabama as long as he wants.

 

  1. Bret Bielema of Arkansas

Bielema is entering his fourth season as coach of the Razorbacks.  His record after three seasons in Fayetteville is 10-15, a .400 win percentage.  He has won zero SEC titles and zero national championships.

Arkansas has had 13 coaches who lasted at least three years.  Of those 13, Bielema’s win percentage is better than just two.  His win percentage does not come close to Arkansas legends Hugo Bezdek, Frank Broyles, Lou Holtz, Ken Hatfield and Houston Nutt.  That does not bode well.  If Bielema doesn’t win more games over the next couple of seasons, you may see a different coach in 2018 at Arkansas.

 

  1. Gus Malzahn of Auburn

Malzahn enters his fourth season on the Plains with a 27-17 record, a win percentage of .610.  He has won one SEC title and lost to Florida State in the BCS national championship game after his first season in 2013.  Since then, Auburn has been very mediocre.

Thirteen Auburn coaches lasted at least three seasons.  Of those 13, Malzahn has a better win percentage than nine.  This includes Hall of Fame coaches Mike Donahue and Shug Jordan.  A better comparison may be Gene Chizik, the man Malzahn succeeded.  Chizek lasted four years.  With Heisman-winning quarterback Cam Newton, Chizik won the national championship in his second season, 2010.  Two years later, Auburn fired Chizik and hired Malzahn.  If Auburn struggles again this season, Malzahn will probably be looking for work elsewhere.

 

  1. Jim McElwain of Florida

McElwain enters his second season at Florida after a 10-3 first year and second place finish in the conference.  Not a bad start.   His win percentage is .770.

The University of Florida has had 24 coaches before McElwain, but let’s compare him with three Hall of Fame coaches, two future Hall of Fame coaches and two coaches who replaced those two future Hall of Fame coaches.

Hall of Famer Charlie Bachman coached Florida from 1928-1932.  He was 8-1 his first year and finished with an overall record of 27-18-3. He won no titles of any kind.

Hall of Famer Ray Graves coached Florida from 1960-69 and tallied a 9-2 record his first year.  He went on to compile a 70-31-4 overall record with no titles.

Hall of Famer Doug Dickey coached the Gators from 1971-78.  He went 7-4 his first year and amassed an overall record of 58-43-2, with no titles.

Future Hall of Famer Steve Spurrier coached Florida from 1990-2001.  He accumulated a record of 9-2 his first year.  His overall record at Florida was 122-27-1, with six SEC titles and one national championship.

Ron Zook took over the Florida reigns from 2002-2004. Zook finished 8-5 his first year, 23-14 overall, with no titles. He could not match Spurrier’s success.

Future Hall of Famer Urban Meyer took over in 2005 and went 9-3 his first year.  He coached through the 2010 season amassing a record of 65-15, with two SEC titles and two national championships.

Will Muschamp replaced Meyers and went 7-6 his first season in 2011.  After four years and an overall record of 28-21, with no titles, Florida terminated him.

Florida’s most successful coaches have had very good first seasons, something that McElwain achieved in his first campaign.  This bodes well for him, although it is too early to make a prediction of success along the lines of Spurrier and Meyer.

 

  1. Kirby Smart of Georgia

Smart starts his first year at Georgia after spending 11 years as an assistant coach under Nick Saban, the last eight as defensive coordinator.  Smart has the pedigree to be very successful.  Time will tell. Below are first year comparisons to prior Georgia coaches who had success at the school.

Harry Mehre coached the Bulldogs from 1928-1937.  His record was only 4-5 his first year, but he ended his Georgia career with a record of 59-34-6, a win percentage of .600.  He won no titles at Georgia.

Wally Butts had the helm at Georgia from 1939-1960.  In his first year, Butts finished with a losing record of 5-6. However, he ended his UGA career at 140-86-9, a win percentage of .600.  Butts won four SEC titles and one national championship while coaching the Bulldogs.

Vince Dooley is the winningest coach at UGA.  He coached the Bulldogs from 1964-1988. Dooley finished his first year with a 7-3-1 record and compiled an overall tally of 201-77-10, a win percentage of .700.  Dooley’s teams won six SEC titles and one national championship.

Jim Donnan coached at UGA from 1996-2000.  He finished 5-6 his first season but amassed an overall record of 40-19, a win percentage of .680.  Donnan won no titles while at UGA.

Mark Richt coached at Georgia from 2001-2015 and finished with a record of 8-4 after his first season.  His overall record at UGA was 145-51, a.740 win percentage.  Richt won two SEC titles but no national championships.

Again, only time will tell as to the overall success of Kirby Smart.  Even if for someone reason UGA struggles in 2016, the past has shown that Smart could still have a very successful career at Georgia.  However, Smart will always be compared with Richt.  While Richt has a terrific win percentage, he could not bring the Georgia fans a national title.   Will Smart?

 

Next time we’ll take a look at Mark Stoops of Kentucky, LSU’s Les Miles, Hugh Freeze of Ole Miss, Dan Mullen of Mississippi State and South Carolina’s Will Muschamp.

 

 

 

College Football National Champions Since 1990

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Of the Power 5 conferences, the Southeastern Conference (SEC) has twice as many national champions since 1990 than the second place Big 8/Big 12 Conference—12-6. During this same period, the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) has four national champions, the Big 10 Conference has three and the Pacific 10/Pacific 12 Conference has two, although the 2004 champion USC Trojans had their title vacated by the NCAA for rules violations. Only schools voted number one by the Associated Press and/or the coaches’ poll at the time are included in this compilation. Dual champions were crowned in 1990, 1991 and 1997. With the advent of the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) in 1998, the national title went to the winner of the BCS game. Two years ago marked the beginning of the College Football Playoff system. Listed below are the national champions since 1990 and their affiliated conference at the time.

1990    Georgia Tech (ACC), Colorado (Big 8)

1991    Miami (Big East), Washington (Pacific 10)

1992    Alabama (SEC)

1993    Florida State (ACC)

1994    Nebraska (Big 8)

1995    Nebraska (Big 8)

1996    Florida (SEC)

1997    Michigan (Big 10), Nebraska (Big 12)

1998    Tennessee (SEC)

1999    Florida State (ACC)

2000    Oklahoma (Big 12)

2001    Miami (Big East)

2002    Ohio State (Big 10)

2003    LSU (SEC)

2004    USC (Pacific 10)

2005    Texas (Big 12)

2006    Florida (SEC)

2007    LSU (SEC)

2008    Florida (SEC)

2009    Alabama (SEC)

2010    Auburn (SEC)

2011    Alabama (SEC)

2012    Alabama (SEC)

2013    Florida State (ACC)

2014    Ohio State (Big 10)

2015    Alabama (SEC)

One can argue about the best conference in college football on a year-to-year basis, but one cannot argue with the recent success of the SEC in the national title games. Since 2006, the national champion has come from the SEC, and the two times the SEC did not win the national title, the conference lost in the title game—Auburn in 2013 and Alabama in 2014. When it comes to big games the SEC has no peer. The 2016 season kicks off in about three weeks. Can’t wait!

College Football 247Sports Composite Recruiting Rankings for 2012-2016

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College football recruiting determines the success or failure of any program.  Successful schools recruit very well and a number of recruiting sources analyze just how well these schools recruit over the course of a specific period.  The recruiting site 247Sports compiles a composite list of school rankings that include the lists from Scout, Rivals, ESPN.com, and its own. These services compile team rankings based on the number of athletes a school signs who are ranked using a star system; for example, the highest ranking is a five-star, then four-star, three- star and two-star.   Simplistically, the more high star athletes a school signs the higher that school will be ranked. Conversely, a school signing athletes who are ranked as three stars and two stars will receive a lower ranking. However, the Composite Rating system is much more complicated than that. A degree from MIT may help someone understand the system.

According to the 247Sports.com website:

The 247Sports Composite Rating is a proprietary algorithm that compiles prospect “rankings” and “ratings” listed in the public domain by the major media recruiting services. It converts average industry ranks and ratings into a linear composite index capping at 1.0000, which indicates a consensus No. 1 prospect across all services.

The 247Sports Composite Rating is the industry’s most comprehensive and unbiased prospect ranking and is also used to generate 247Sports Team Recruiting Rankings.

All major media services share an equal percentage in the 247Sports Composite Rating.

The composite index equally weights this percentage among the services that participate in a ranking for that specific prospect.

 

Interpret this as you will but the 247Sports Composite list is widely regarded by media and college football personnel as the gospel when it comes to college football team recruiting rankings.

The Top 25 list for 2016 follows:

  1. Alabama
  2. Florida State
  3. LSU
  4. Ohio State
  5. Michigan
  6. Mississippi
  7. Georgia
  8. Southern California
  9. Auburn
  10. Clemson
  11. Texas
  12. UCLA
  13. Florida
  14. Tennessee
  15. Notre Dame
  16. Stanford
  17. Baylor
  18. Texas A&M
  19. Penn State
  20. Oklahoma
  21. Miami
  22. Michigan State
  23. TCU
  24. Nebraska
  25. Arkansas

The 247Sports Composite List from 2012-2015 follows:

  1. Alabama
  2. Ohio State
  3. Florida State
  4. LSU
  5. Southern California
  6. Florida—Tie with Georgia
  7. Georgia
  8. Auburn
  9. Texas A&M
  10. Notre Dame—Tie with Texas
  11. Texas
  12. UCLA
  13. Tennessee
  14. Clemson
  15. Oklahoma
  16. Miami
  17. Michigan
  18. Oregon
  19. South Carolina
  20. Mississippi
  21. Stanford
  22. Virginia Tech
  23. Mississippi State—Tie with Arkansas
  24. Arkansas
  25. Washington

When you analyze this year’s rankings with the composite from the last four years, you see the same teams, albeit in different order. Oregon and South Carolina slipped this year while Mississippi, Michigan and Baylor seem to be moving up. The Southeastern Conference had nine out of the Top 25 in 2016 and 11 out of the Top 25 the prior four years. Clearly, a school must make a commitment to a winning program in order to recruit the best athletes.  This means top-notch facilities; high paid head coaches and assistants; large recruiting budgets; financial assistance from alumni, fans,and donors;  leniency from the school’s admissions group from time to time; and classes that allow athletes to be successful both on and off the field.  The vast majority of schools cannot or will not make such a commitment, so look for the same 15 or so schools to be competing for spots in the College Football Playoff system over the next few years.

 

 

 

The Origins of the Southeastern Conference

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Utter the words “Southeastern Conference” during football season and your listeners will envision national championships, top ten rankings, and lucrative television contracts. Today the term is synonymous with the madness that is college football in the South. But in truth, the phrase was not always so meaningful.  The Southeastern Conference (SEC) was not always known by this name.

As college football took hold at schools across the country, southern school officials began to realize that an affiliation with similar institutions would make sense from an economic and geographic perspective. Southern football’s first game took place in 1881 as Kentucky State (now known as the University of Kentucky) beat Kentucky University (now known as Transylvania University) 7.5 to 1.  By 1892, the birth of southern football began in earnest.  Teams from Alabama, A & M College of Alabama (Auburn), Georgia, Georgia Tech, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Vanderbilt were playing.  LSU began its proud football history in 1893, Arkansas and Texas A & M in 1894, Mississippi A & M (Mississippi State) in 1895, and Florida in 1906.

Dr. William Dudley, a chemistry professor at Vanderbilt, answered the call for an affiliation of southern schools.  Representatives from seven schools—Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Sewanee, and Vanderbilt—met Dudley on December 22, 1894 at the Kimball House in Atlanta to form the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association (SIAA), the grandfather of the SEC.  The SIAA was formed, according to Dr. Dudley, to provide faculty regulation and control of all college athletics.  A year later, 12 more schools were added, including Clemson, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi, Mississippi State, Tennessee, Texas, and Tulane.

The SIAA held together through the 1920 season.  At the annual conference on December 10, 1920, a disagreement among the schools took place.  The smaller SIAA schools, through their collective vote, passed a rule allowing freshmen players to compete immediately with the varsity and voted down a proposition to abolish a rule that allowed athletes to play summer baseball for money.  Additionally, the SIAA had reached 30 members making it very difficult for the schools to play one another and crown a true champion.  Led by University of Georgia English professor Dr. S.V. Sanford, 18 schools left to form the Southern Intercollegiate Conference (Southern Conference) on February 25, 1921 in Atlanta.  At that point, the SIAA became a conference for small colleges and eventually disbanded in 1942.

The Southern Conference grew to 23 schools by 1932.  Again, the league was too big.  Dr. Sanford convinced the 13 schools west and south of the Appalachian Mountains—Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Kentucky, LSU,  Mississippi, Mississippi State, Sewanee, Tennessee, Tulane, Vanderbilt–to reorganize as the Southeastern Conference.  Play began in 1933.  By December 1953, eight other schools—Clemson, Duke, Maryland, North Carolina, North Carolina State, South Carolina, Virginia, Wake Forest—had left the Southern Conference to form the Atlantic Coast Conference.  The Southern Conference survives to this day.

Sewanee resigned from the SEC in 1940, Georgia Tech in 1964, and Tulane in 1965.  Arkansas and South Carolina joined the SEC in 1990, and Missouri and Texas A & M joined in 2012.

From its SIAA infancy in 1894 to its full maturation in 2012, the SEC has been a force in college football.  The league boasts eight out of the last ten national champions, landed the largest television contracts (CBS and ESPN) in the history of college football in 2008, and launched its own network in 2014.  The South has indeed risen again.

 

Sources:  Newman, Zipp, The Impact of Southern Football, (MB Publishing: Montgomery, 1969).

“The Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association,” www.wikipedia.org.

“The Southern Conference,” www.wikipedia.org.

“The Southeastern Conference,” www.wikipedia.org.

SEC Basketball Milestones

 

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The Southeastern Conference (SEC) has long been known as a football conference, but it also plays a high quality brand of basketball. Everyone with a modicum of college basketball knowledge understands that Kentucky will have a team year in and year out that will challenge for the national championship. However, the SEC has a history of other programs competing in the upper echelons of the sport.

Below is a breakdown of the current conference teams in terms of overall win-loss records (through the 2014-15 season) and place within the Top 50 nationally; the number of national championships as determined by winning the NCAA Tournament, which began in 1939; the number of Final Four appearances and the number of SEC titles (From 1933-34 and 1936-1950 the SEC champion was determined by the winner of the SEC Tournament. In 1935 and 1951 to the present the SEC champion has been the regular season victor as determined by conference win percentage, so consequently many seasons have resulted in a tie for first place. It is unclear why no tournament was held in 1935.)

  1. Overall Won-Loss Record and National Ranking (vacated and/or forfeited games do not count):
    1. Kentucky 2178-673 (1)
    2. Arkansas 1605-901 (33)
    3. Alabama 1600-984 (34)
    4. Missouri 1585-1089 (37)
    5. Tennessee 1568-985 (41)
    6. Vanderbilt 1547-1093 (49)

No other SEC school placed in the Top 50 nationally.

  1. National Championships:
    1. Kentucky 8
    2. Florida 2
    3. Arkansas 1
  1. Final Four Appearances:
    1. Kentucky 17
    2. Arkansas   6
    3. Florida 5
    4. LSU  4
    5. Georgia 1
    6. Miss. State 1
  1. SEC Titles:
    1. Kentucky 46
    2. LSU 10
    3. Tennessee 9
    4. Alabama 7
    5. Florida 7
    6. Miss. State 6
    7. Vanderbilt 3
    8. Arkansas 2
    9. Auburn 2
    10. Georgia 1
    11. South Carolina 1

The SEC can play basketball as well as football. Clearly, Kentucky is the conference powerhouse but other programs have shined on the national scene over the years. Six programs are ranked in the national Top 50 of all-time win leaders, including the number one team, Kentucky. The recent additions of Texas A & M and Missouri (NCAA probation notwithstanding) will only add to the conference’s reputation in basketball. So while you’re waiting for spring practice to start, pay attention to SEC basketball. You’ll be pleasantly surprised!

 

Alabama Nicknames

 

 

CrimsonTideAlogoMany of you know that the University of Alabama football teams are commonly referred to as the Crimson Tide or the Red Elephants.  But how many of you know the stories behind the names?

In newspaper accounts of the 1900 Alabama football team, the squad was referred to as the “Varsity” or the “Crimson White” because of the school colors.  By 1906, writers were referring to the team as the “Thin Red Line.”  Birmingham Age-Herald sports editor Hugh Roberts is credited with the first use of the term “Crimson Tide.”  Alabama and Auburn played in Birmingham in 1907 and Auburn was a heavy favorite to win.  The underdog boys from Tuscaloosa played Auburn to a 6-6 tie in the red mud.  Roberts called the Tuscaloosa boys the Crimson Tide and the name stuck like the mud on the Alabama team’s jerseys.

Alabama’s association with the elephant goes back to the 1930 team coached by icon Wallace Wade.  Alabama and Mississippi battled one afternoon.  Atlanta Journal writer Everett Strupper reported that Wade started his second team line, which was bigger than the Mississippi line.  However, the Mississippians held their own for most of the first quarter.  At the end of the quarter, according to Strupper, “The earth started to tremble, there was a distant rumble that continued to grow.  Some excited fan in the stands bellowed, ‘Hold your horses, the elephants are coming,’ and out stamped this Alabama varsity.”  Strupper and other writers  continued to refer to the Alabama linemen as the Red Elephants…the color referring to the crimson jerseys.

Incidentally, that 1930 Alabama team went undefeated and held the opposition to a total of 13 points.  After blanking Washington State in the Rose Bowl, the Red Elephants were declared national champs.

 

The Holy Trinity of Georgia Tech Football

 

Courtesy of UserB

Courtesy of UserB

In the 120+-year history of Georgia Tech (Tech) football, three coaches have accounted for nearly 60 percent of the school’s overall wins. From 1904 through 1966, John Heisman, William Alexander, and Bobby Dodd led the program to more than 400 wins and three national championships. For over 60 years, Tech was a football power. Since this era, Tech has produced some very good teams– the most notable being the 1990 national champions–but has not enjoyed the sustained success that these three men engineered. Each man had his own coaching style and personality, but they share a common thread: the ability to win football games. Meet the Holy Trinity of Georgia Tech football.

John Heisman coached Tech from 1904 -1919, compiling a 102-29-7 record. Heisman honed his skills while playing at Brown University and the University of Pennsylvania (Penn) in the 1890s. He earned a law degree at Penn but decided coaching football was more satisfying. Heisman started his coaching career at Oberlin College in Ohio in 1892, moved to Buchtel College (now the University of Akron) and then back to Oberlin before heading south to coach the Alabama Polytechnic Institute (now Auburn University) in 1895 and Clemson University in 1900. Heisman left Tech after the 1919 season to coach Penn. He and his wife divorced and as part of the settlement, Heisman agreed not to reside in the same city as his wife, who chose to remain in Atlanta. After Penn, Heisman coached at Washington & Jefferson University and Rice University before becoming the director of athletics at the Downtown Athletic Club (DAC) in New York. The DAC began awarding a trophy to the nation’s best college football player in 1935. Upon Heisman’s death in 1936, the trophy became known as the Heisman Memorial Trophy.

Heisman was a demanding perfectionist and keen strategist. He loathed fumbling and would tell his players at the beginning of pre-season practice while holding up a football, “Better to have died as a small boy than to fumble this football.” His teams employed the jump shift,the forerunner to the T and I formations; lateral passes; backward passes; reverses; onside kicks and sweeps with pulling guards. His players did not huddle and the quarterback would shout a play or series of plays at the line of scrimmage. Heisman is also credited with developing the center/quarterback exchange to begin a play and leading the battle to legalize the forward pass.

From 1915-1918, Heisman’s Tech teams were 30-1-2 –the University of Pittsburgh beat Tech in 1918. The 1917 team went 9-0 and won the national championship.

Probably the most memorable contest of Heisman’s Tech coaching career was a game against Cumberland College in 1916. Heisman also coached baseball at Tech and he agreed to take his 1916 baseball team to Nashville to play Cumberland College. Cumberland embarrassed Heisman’s team 22-0, allegedly using pro players against Tech’s college kids. Even though Cumberland had dropped its football program before the 1916 season for economic reasons, Heisman was determined to avenge the baseball loss and demonstrate to sportswriters the folly of awarding the national championship to the highest-scoring team. Heisman offered Cumberland a $500 guarantee and an all-expenses-paid trip to Atlanta if they would honor their agreement to play Tech in football. Cumberland accepted and produced 16 players, mostly members of the Kappa Sigma fraternity with little knowledge of football. The game lasted 45 minutes and Tech scored 32 touchdowns in the 222-0 rout.

Unlike Heisman, William Alexander, also known as Alex, began and ended his coaching career at Tech. Alexander came to Tech to study engineering in 1906 as a 16-year-old boy. He walked on to the Tech football team in 1908 and played sparingly under Heisman. However, Heisman must have seen something in Alexander because he added Alex to the coaching staff after Alex’s senior season. Upon Heisman’s departure to Penn, Alexander became Tech’s head coach, serving from 1920-1944. He compiled a 134-95-15 record, won the 1928 national championship, and was the first coach to place a team in all four of the major bowls of the time: the Rose in 1929, the Orange in 1940, the Cotton in 1943, and the Sugar in 1944.

Alex was regarded as a tough taskmaster and a man of high character who rarely lost his poise. He was a fierce defender of his players. After Tech lost a game to Alabama on a last-minute interception return for a touchdown, an assistant coach began verbally abusing some of the players in the locker room after the game. Upon hearing the assistant’s tirade, Alex told him to leave and declared, “This is your team only when it wins. Now it’s my team. Get out before I throw you out.”

After disappointing seasons in 1929 and 1930, Alexander sought a bright young assistant. In the middle of the 1930 season, Alex sent assistant Mac Tharpe to Knoxville to scout the North Carolina -Tennessee game. Tharpe’s car broke down en route and he did not arrive in Knoxville until after the game. Tharpe hoped to receive an analysis of Carolina from Tennessee head coach Bob Neyland, but Neyland directed Tharpe to quarterback Bobby Dodd. Tharpe reported back to Alexander that, “Dodd’s analysis of Carolina is better than any scouting report that I could have made.”

Alex hired Dodd as an assistant coach in December of 1930. Dodd said of Alexander, “Coach Alex was wonderful to me. He could growl and snap, but when it came to an emergency, he was our guy. He enabled me to purchase the home my family and I lived in so many years. And he did the same thing for our black trainer, Porto Rico.”

Bobby Dodd worked for Alexander as an assistant for 14 years before succeeding him as head coach in 1945. Dodd coached Tech from 1945-1966 and had a record of 165-64-8. He guided Tech to a 31-game winning streak from 1951-53, including a 12-0 season and a national championship in 1952. Also in the 1950s, Dodd engineered an eight-game winning streak against arch rival Georgia, the longest Tech streak in the series. After coaching, he remained at Tech as athletics director until 1976, then as an alumni association consultant until his death in 1988.

Generally, Dodd believed in taking it easy on his players during practices (although, numerous exceptions can be documented). He rarely left his team bruised and battered after practice–some coaches believed this method would toughen the players for the upcoming game. Instead, Dodd left his players physically and mentally piqued to give it their all on Saturday. Instead of being among the players during practice, Dodd stood in a tower overlooking the field while his assistants ran the practices.

Bobby Dodd never graduated from Tennessee, something he deeply regretted. So he constantly preached and demanded education. He provided tutors for players struggling in the classroom and badgered them until they earned their diploma. He also approved of marriage for his players while most coaches frowned on the players being married so young.   Dodd believed that the wives would police their husbands and felt confident that he knew where his married players were every night.

Bobby Dodd was arguably one of the greatest football coaches of all time. Furman Bisher wrote in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “Robert Lee Dodd brought a different style to coaching, an emphasis on craftsmanship, finesse, well-rehearsed execution and sideline genius. Many a time have I heard it said, ‘Bobby Dodd was the best sideline coach I ever saw.’”

The Holy Trinity brought football fame and recognition to the Flats for over half a century. Heisman, Alexander, and Dodd are names that will forever be linked to the halcyon days of Georgia Tech football.