Ted Williams: Hall of Fame Fly Fisherman

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You may know Ted Williams as the Hall of Fame (inducted in 1966) left fielder who played for the Boston Red Sox from 1939-1942 and 1946-1960. If so, you probably know Williams was a 17-time All-Star, two-time winner of the American League (AL) Most Valuable Player Award, six-time AL batting champion, two-time Triple Crown Winner (batting average, home runs and runs batted in), and the last man to bat over .400 for a season–.406 in 1941. You probably also know that he served in the United States Navy and the United States Marine Corps during World War II and flew as a Marine pilot during the Korean War. Finally, you may know that Williams managed the Washington Senators/Texas Rangers franchise from 1969-1972.

Williams passed away in 2002, but if he were alive today, he would certainly tell you that baseball was only his second favorite pastime. Fly fishing was the sport he truly loved. “The Kid,” or “The Splendid Splinter,” as Williams was known during his baseball years, became an avid and expert fly fisherman and deep-sea angler during his baseball career.

John Underwood co-authored a book with Williams entitled Ted Williams Fishing “The Big Three,” (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1982). Underwood wrote that Williams would fish anywhere, any time. He caught black marlin in New Zealand and tiger fish in the Zambezi River in Mozambique, and he caught these and other fish with different kinds of tackle, in and on all types of water. Underwood described very nicely what it was like to fly fish with Williams.

“To fish with Williams and emerge with your sensitivities intact is to undertake the voyage between Scylla and Charybdis. It is delicate work, but it can be done, and it can be enjoyable. It most certainly will be educational. An open boat with The Kid just does not happen to be the place for one with the heart of a fawn or the ear of a rabbit. Even his friends called him the Captain Queeg of fishing. There are four things to remember: one, he is a perfectionist; two, he is better at it than you are; three, he is a consummate needler; and four, he is in charge. He brings to fishing the same hard-eyed intensity, the same brooding capacity for scientific inquiry, he brought to hitting a baseball” (Underwood, p. 19).

According to Underwood, Williams believed there were three fish worthy of any true sportsman—tarpon, bonefish, and Atlantic salmon. Considered by Williams the triple crown of fishing, he had caught and released over 1,000 of each by 1982. After Williams retired, he spent time between a home along the Miramichi River in east-central New Brunswick and a home in Islamorada, Florida. Williams spent June to October fishing for Atlantic salmon in Canada and the rest of the year angling for tarpon and bonefish in Florida.

Williams’ favorite spots for catching tarpon were around Islamorada south to Key West, at Homosassa Springs north of Tampa, and around Boca Grande just north of Fort Myers. Nine out of ten times he used a fly rod to catch tarpon.   Williams shared his secrets with Underwood on fly fishing for tarpon.

“I put at least 200 yards of backing on the reel, braided Dacron testing out  to 30 pounds. I tie that to 90 feet of No. 12 fly line with a whip finish. Then I tie on a six-foot butt leader of 60-pound of monofilament with a nail knot. I make a perfection loop the diameter of a pencil on the other end and tie it to the strength measure, a two-foot tippet of 15-pound mono, a Bimini twist loop tied on both ends. I tie to the perfection loop with a clinch knot, going through the bottom and back through the top with a double barrel knot. Then I tie the bottom end of the leader through a loose knot on my 100-pound shock tippet and tighten that down against the Bimini twist. Then I tie the tippet with three half hitches and a whip finish of four wraps. I tie the lure on with a perfection loop” (Underwood, p. 40).

Williams suggested that a fisherman should have several spares in case a line breaks or if he just wanted to change lures. His final advice was that all rigs have at least 15 pound test line. According to Williams, this will be light enough to enhance the sport of the catch but strong enough for the heavy drag from a powerful tarpon. He found the best time to catch tarpon around Islamorada was mid-April to mid-June.

The bonefish, pound for pound, was the toughest fish in the ocean, Williams claimed. His favorite spots for catching bonefish were in the Bahamas, the Marquesas Islands, and around the Florida Keys, and he did so in mid-March through May. To catch bonefish, Williams generally used spinning tackle but would use a fly rod from time to time. When he did, he used a nine foot, three-and-three-quarter ounce graphite fly rod. On the rod he put a minimum of 150 yards of Dacron backing, which tested at 30 pounds, and used a 12-foot tapered leader with a 10-pound tippet, three feet long. Williams generally used weedless hooks. According to Williams, bonefish are indiscriminate eaters, so he would use lures with multi-colored tips. In particular, Williams stated he was successful using orange and pink bucktail jigs. His advice for fishing for bonefish is to be cautious because the fish are nervous and wary and to be very careful handling and working the lure. Retrieving too quickly is the number one error in bonefish fishing, according to Williams.

Williams called the Atlantic salmon “the greatest of game fish” (Underwood, p. 116). He judged fish by their fighting ability and claimed that the tarpon was “a more spectacular fish, an eager, tackle-busting fish that bends hooks and breaks lines. The salmon doesn’t always fight like that but he fights. No fish makes a more impressive first run than a bonefish. The salmon doesn’t always run like that but he runs. I’ve had a twelve-pound salmon that would run as long as any twelve-pound bonefish and jump as much as any tarpon and take me a quarter mile downstream doing it” (Underwood, p. 118). Williams’ favorite spots to catch Atlantic salmon included the north shore of the St. Lawrence River in Canada, the Restigouche River in New Brunswick and the Miramichi River in New Brunswick. Williams’ home was located near Blackville on the Miramichi, where he fished for salmon generally from June into October.

An eight-and-a-half-foot graphite rod that weighed around three ounces was the weapon of choice for Williams when he battled the salmon. On the rod he used No. 8 to No. 9 shooting fly line with a six- to eight-pound leader and tapered the nylon leader with a 40-pound butt down to ten or eight pounds, depending on whether he used a six- or eight-pound tippet. Williams used blood knots to taper the leader and generally used small hooks. His favorite flies were the Black Does and the Conrad.

Whether fishing for tarpon, bonefish, Atlantic salmon, or anything else that moved in the water, Williams generally hit a home run. His fishing prowess earned him a spot in the International Game Fish Association’s Fishing Hall of Fame in 2000. He became one of only three athletes to be inducted into two professional halls of fame–Jim Brown (Pro Football Hall of Fame and Lacrosse Hall of Fame) and Carl Hubbard (Baseball Hall of Fame and Pro Football Hall of Fame). Williams also raised millions of dollars for cancer care and research through the Jimmy Fund. His overall contributions to his fellow man through athletics and charity work prompted President George H. W. Bush to award Williams the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1991. While Williams would agree that all of the accolades bestowed upon him were magnificent, you must know by now that nothing meant more to him than fly fishing for tarpon, bonefish, and Atlantic salmon near his homes in Islamorada and along the Miramichi River.

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!

 

SEC Coach Comparisons: Part 2

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

 

  1. Mark Stoops of Kentucky

Stoops is entering his fourth year as coach of the Wildcats.  His record is 12-24 at this point, a win percentage of .333.  Not only does he have no titles at Kentucky, but none of his teams have been to a bowl game.

Out of 17 coaches that coached at least three years at Kentucky, Stoops has a better win percentage than only one.

Let’s compare Brooks to some of Kentucky’s most successful coaches:

Paul “Bear” Bryant—The Bear coached at UK from 1946-53 and compiled an overall record of 60-23-5.  He won the school’s first SEC title in 1950 and beat Number 1 Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl.  After three years, Bryant had a record of 20-9-2.

Blanton Collier—Collier followed Bryant and coached the Cats from 1954-61.  He compiled a 41-36-3 overall record and was 19-10-1 after his first three years.  Collier won no titles at Kentucky.

Fran Curci—Curci held the reigns at UK from 1973-1981.  His overall record was 47-51-2 with one SEC title.  After three years, Curci had a 13-19-1 ledger.

Jerry Claiborne—This Hall of Fame coach and Kentucky grad amassed an overall record of 41-46-3 from 1982-1989.  He won no titles while at UK and had a record of 15-18-2 after three years in Lexington.

Joker Phillips—The coach Brooks succeeded compiled a record of 13-24 in his three years at UK, 2010-2012.  His win percentage was better than Stoops’ after  three years and Kentucky fired Phillips.

Stoops has done very little to inspire faith from the Big Blue Nation.  If Stoops does not lead UK to a bowl game this season, Kentucky may have a new coach to start the 2017 season.

 

  1. Les Miles of LSU

Miles is on the hot seat and was almost terminated after the last game of the regular season last year.  However, his record is stellar.  Miles has coached at LSU since 2005 and owns a 112-32 record, a win percentage of .778.  He has won two SEC titles and one National Championship.  He also lost in the BCS title game in 2011 to Nick Saban and Alabama.  Miles has the best win percentage of any LSU coach who coached more than two years and has the second most wins behind Charlie McClendon’s 203.  LSU fans are unhappy that he has won no SEC titles since 2011 and hasn’t beaten Saban and Alabama since 2011.  In a-what-have-you-done-lately-SEC, Miles may be terminated if he doesn’t at least get into the College Football Playoffs after this season.  Here is how he compares to some of LSU’s most successful coaches.

Bernie Moore—Hall of Famer Moore coached at LSU from 1935-1947 and compiled an overall record of 83-39-6.  After 11years, Moore’s record was 69-35-4, a .639 win percentage.  He won two SEC titles—1935 and 1936—with the Tigers.

Paul Dietzel—Though he only coached at LSU from 1955-1961, Dietzel won two SEC titles and one national championship.  His win percentage with the Tigers was .630.

Charlie McClendon—Hall of Famer McClendon coached in Baton Rouge from 1962-1979 and amassed a record of 137-59-7.  After 11 years at LSU he had a record of 88-29-5, a win percentage of .721.  He won one SEC title in 1970.

Nick Saban—Future Hall of Famer Saban only coached in Baton Rouge from 2000-2004, but he had a win percentage of .750, including 2 SEC titles, one second place in the SEC and LSU’s second national championship.

Saban set the bar very high at LSU and the Tiger fans want someone who can compete with him on a yearly basis.  Miles’ LSU teams won three out of the first five encounters with Saban’s Crimson Tide but as previously noted, Alabama has won the last 5, including the BCS national championship game in 2012.  A victory for Miles against the Tide in November would most likely propel LSU into the College Football Playoffs.  Another loss to Saban may cost Miles his job.

 

  1. Hugh Freeze of Mississippi

Freeze has tallied a four-year record at Ole Miss of 34-18, a win percentage of .650.  As of yet his teams have won no titles of any kind.  Of the eight Rebel coaches who stayed at the school at least four years, Freeze has a better win percentage than all but two, including Steve Sloan, Billy Brewer, Tommy Tuberville, David Cutcliffe and Houston Nutt.  Let’s compare Freeze with the two most successful coaches in Ole Miss’ history.

Harry Mehre—He left the University of Georgia to coach at Ole Miss.  He guided the Rebels from 1938-1942 and from 1944-1945.  After four years, Mehre’s teams compiled a win percentage of.780 but with no titles of any kind.

Johnny Vaught–He led the Rebels from 1947-1970 and for eight games in 1973.  The Hall of Fame coach is the gold standard at Ole Miss, where he won six SEC titles and three national championships.  His overall win percentage at Ole Miss stands at .720 but after four years it stood at .650, the same as Freeze’s percentage.

Freeze appears to have a bright future at Ole Miss. He will probably never come close to Vaught’s record as long as Saban remains at Alabama but is clearly the best Rebel coach since Vaught.  An impending NCAA investigation into alleged rules violations could have a major impact on the Ole Miss program if the allegations prove true.  How that would affect Freeze’s tenure at the school remains to be seen.

 

  1. Dan Mullen of Mississippi State

Mullen, entering his eighth season in Starkville, has compiled a record of 55-35, a win percentage of .610.  Only three other coaches in Mississippi State’s 121 year history of football have stayed as long as Mullen.  That right there speaks volumes.  As of yet, Mullen has no titles at MSU.

Hall of Fame coach Allyn McKeen coached in Starkville from 1939-1942 and from 1944-1948.  He had a win percentage of .764 and the school’s lone SEC title.

Emory Bellard coached the Bulldogs from 1979-1985.  He compiled a win percentage of .468 with no titles.

Jackie Sherrill held the reigns at MSU from 1991-2003.  After seven seasons, Sherrill had a win percentage of .510.  He won no titles at Mississippi State.

If Mullen decides to remain in Starkville, he may well be the Bulldogs’ all-time winningest coach—he is 19 victories shy of Sherrill. History has shown that winning championships at Mississippi State is a herculean task.  My guess is that Mullen will leave to pursue championships at a school that has a better recruiting base, a larger stadium and a larger football budget than State.

 

  1. Will Muschamp of South Carolina

Muschamp begins his first season as head coach of the Gamecocks.  His only other head coaching experience came at the University of Florida where he recorded a 17-15 record from 2011-2014, after which the Florida administration terminated him.

The South Carolina situation is different from that of Florida.  In the history of the football program that dates back to 1896, South Carolina has won only one title, the Atlantic Coast Conference championship in 1969.  Florida, on the other hand, has won six SEC titles and three national championships since 1991.  Florida expects to win championships on a regular basis.  While South Carolina would love to have such expectations the reality is that the program has no history of such.  So the Gamecock Nation may be a bit more patient with Muschamp as he tries to win titles and establish title expectations from both the administration and the fan base.

Since 1896, South Carolina has had 12 coaches who stayed at the school for at least 5 years.  Only six left with a win percentage of .500 or better.  Sol Metzger coached from 1920-1924 and left with a win percentage of .587.  Billy Laval guided South Carolina from 1928-1934 and left with a win percentage of .590.  It wasn’t until Warren Giese’s tenure of 1956-1960 that the program would see another coach with a win percentage over .500.  Giese left with a .570 win percentage.

Interestingly, Paul Dietzel won South Carolina’s only title in 1969 but left win a win percentage of .443 after  coaching at the school from 1966-1974.  Jim Carlen guided the Gamecocks from 1975-1981 and left with a win percentage of .555. Joe Morrison coached from 1983-1988 and compiled an impressive win percentage of .580 but died of a heart attack while exercising in Columbia.  Even Hall of Fame coach Lou Holtz couldn’t amass a winning overall record during his time at the school from 1999-2004.  His win percentage is .471.  Finally, future Hall of Famer Steve Spurrier found the most success in Columbia with an overall win percentage of .637, but he could not secure an SEC title or national championship for the program from 2005 into the 2015 season.

South Carolina fans are starved for championships and Muschamp will likely be given time to attain one.  We’ll just have to see if Muschamp can make the Gamecock fans crow.

 

Next time we’ll analyze Butch Jones of Tennessee, Derek Mason of Vanderbilt, Missouri’s Barry Odom and Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin.

 

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

1921VandyFootballteam

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!

 

The Florida Gator

Gators1907Gator bait. Gator bait. Gator bait. Make no doubt about it, when you’re talking Gators and college football, you’re talking about the University of Florida. Here’s a quick look at how the gator moniker became associated with the school.

Florida opened in 1905 and began playing football in 1906. It was around that time that the alligator became the symbol and nickname of the school.  Gainesville native Austin Miller enrolled at the University of Virginia law school in 1908.  Austin’s father, Phillip, visited him in Charlottesville and decided to order some pennants and banners for sale in his Gainesville store.  The two visited a company that manufactured pennants.  When the company representative asked the Millers what the symbol for the University of Florida was, they realized the school had none.  Austin told the company rep that he believed the symbol was the alligator.  Austin quickly thought of the alligator because it was native to the state and as far as he knew, no other school had an alligator as its symbol.  The company rep designed an alligator for the pennants and banners based on a picture Austin provided from the University of Virginia library.

Phillip brought the pennants and banners back to his Gainesville store. The pennants and banners portrayed an alligator in different poses.  Some only portrayed an alligator head.

One banner was blue with an orange alligator in the middle.  This banner became the first official symbol of the school and the gator name took its home in Gainesville.

Albert, the first live alligator, appeared on campus in 1957.  Several Alberts have served since.  A costumed gator, also called Albert, began roaming the Gator sidelines in 1970.  Albert’s friend, Alberta, joined him in 1986.

You may be thinking that a better story surely exists for the origin of the Gator nickname–like maybe a gator eating a horse  or something on the very site of Florida Field years before the first football game–but you would be mistaken.  At any rate…Go Gators!