The Story of LSU’s Mike I

               Courtesy of Mark Pellegrini

The Louisiana State University (LSU) Tigers have had a live tiger as a mascot since 1936. However, LSU was not the first school to own a large feline as a mascot. Columbia University acquired a real lion in the 1920s to serve as its mascot and Princeton University followed suit with a tiger in the early 1930s. Interestingly, the Columbia lion appears as the roaring lion on the beginning of MGM films. LSU and the University of Memphis are the only schools currently with a live tiger as a mascot. Mike I, the first LSU tiger, came about because of a suggestion from one of the school’s athletic trainers, Mike Chambers.

Chambers made the suggestion publicly and the student body united in its efforts to obtain a real tiger. Chambers found that three tiger cubs had been born in 1935 at the Little Rock Zoo in Arkansas. Once this news reached campus, first-year law student Eddie Laborde led the charge to bring one of the young tigers to the school.

Laborde organized a fundraiser and asked each student to contribute a quarter towards the costs necessary to acquire the tiger. Within an hour, the students had raised about $750. Laborde with the help of football player Ken Kavanaugh made the arrangements for the purchase of the young tiger and its transportation to the LSU campus.

In October, 1936, the student body declared the day of the tiger’s arrival to Baton Rouge a holiday (the actual day could not be verified, but it was October 21 or 23), and the cadet corps turned away professors and students with books trying to enter the campus gates early that morning. The six-foot tiger arrived by train to throngs of adoring students and Chambers immediately placed him in a wheeled cage. Chambers had actual experience handling animals with Ringling Brothers circus and knew how to handle the tiger. Because of Chamber’s circus experience and his popularity with the students, the tiger became evermore known as “Mike.”

With Mike I in his cage, handlers led him in front of a parade down Third Street the wrong way–celebrating up this street the wrong way is how joyous events at the school are commemorated. While Mike rested in his cage at some undocumented place on campus, the students celebrated into the night with dances and bonfires. Several days later, Laborde and others took Mike to Shreveport for the annual game with the University of Arkansas. Along the way, they stopped at various schools to show off Mike and to collect donations for the 19 pounds of meat he ate every day. Mike proved to be a lucky charm as the football Tigers beat Arkansas, 19-7.

One the way back to Baton Rouge, Mike and his handlers took a ferry boat across the Mississippi River and ran into Louisiana Governor Richard W. Leche. Leche asked the handlers where they were going to put the big cat and who was going to care for him. Laborde and an unofficial human mascot named Eddie (a.k.a., Porter Bryant) stated they would care for the cat and were hoping to board him at the zoo in Baton Rouge. Leche decided that while the tiger would be in good hands, he needed an appropriate cage. With the help of President Franklin Roosevelt and a Works Progress Administration grant, a cage worthy of a tiger was built. The cage was officially dedicated on April 13, 1937, and was adjoined to a 12-by-15 foot stone building. In all, Mike had about 600 square feet of living quarters. The stone portion of the cage is part of the current tiger home. As one would imagine, Mike’s abode is a major attraction for campus visitors.

While Mike I became an LSU icon, Laborde’s law school days came to an abrupt end. After a two-week absence from school because of his involvement with Mike I, Laborde was called into the law dean’s office. The dean told Laborde that he had missed too many classes, would be unable to make up the work, and was thereby expelled from the law school. Apparently, school spirit did not carry much weight at the law school!

Mike I passed away on June 28, 1956 of an acute kidney infection. The LSU faithful had him stuffed, and he is now on exhibit on campus in Foster Hall. Within months, Mike II took the helm as the school’s live mascot.  The tradition lives on today.  However, Mike VI passed away in October, 2016 and the university is currently searching for his replacement, Mike VII.

Alabama-LSU Football History

 

 

 

Courtesy Gamezero05

                        Courtesy Gamezero05

When one thinks of University of Alabama Crimson Tide  and Louisiana State University Tigers football, his thoughts must certainly conjure up images of big, fast teams with strong defenses, power running games, and lots of future professional players (LSU has had 93 players drafted by National Football League teams since 2000 and Alabama has had 86). These two programs have arguably been the most powerful in the nation since the turn of the century. Alabama has won three Southeastern Conference (SEC) titles and three national championships since 2009 while LSU has four SEC titles and two national championships since 2001. Generally, the winner of the Alabama-LSU game positions itself for the SEC championship and the national crown on an annual basis, so the importance of the game has been well documented among the regional and national media. However, that has not always been the case. Alabama dominated the rivalry through the Paul “Bear’ Bryant era. Although the Tigers won the first game in 1895, 12-6, Alabama leads the overall series, 50-25-5.

The games have been played over the years in Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Birmingham, Mobile, Montgomery, and Tuscaloosa. The schools began playing on an annual basis in 1964, alternating between Legion Field in Birmingham and Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge. Alabama shifted its home games to Tuscaloosa in 1988. The visiting team has won an inordinate amount of the games in the series. The Tide is 25-9-2 in Louisiana while keeping the Tigers winless in Baton Rouge from 1971-1998. LSU has won 11 of 16 games in the state of Alabama since 1982. Four overtime games have been played with the road team winning each one. College Football Hall of Fame coach Bryant lost to the Tigers only three times from 1964-1982. After Bryant retired, the series became a true rivalry. Since then Alabama has won 19, including the 2011 national championship game, lost 14, and tied one. Future Hall of Fame coach Nick Saban has played a prodigious role in the recent series. Saban coached LSU from 2000-2004 and beat Alabama four out of five tries. Since taking over the Tide in 2007, he is 7-3 against the Tigers. The rivalry has produced some memorable stories and games.

Bear Bryant seemed to own the Tigers and was not the least bit intimidated by Tiger Stadium.  He had a pre-game ritual that would enrage Tiger fans and calm his players. Bryant would slowly walk towards the northwest corner of the field where the LSU students sat. His players dressed in suit and ties would then walk around the field while Bryant ambled on over to the left hash mark around the 10-yard line. The Bear, completely composed, would have a nonchalant conversation with a security guard or a member of his staff while the LSU fans were screaming and yelling all sorts of things at him. After about 10 minutes, Bryant would wave to the LSU students which prompted further abusive language and a chorus of loud boos. When leaving the field amidst the yelling and screaming, Bryant would walk right by Mike’s cage, the live tiger mascot. The purpose of this ritual was to show the team that playing at Tiger Stadium in front of 80,000 plus screaming, rabid fans was really not an issue. Bryant’s record against LSU in Baton Rouge proves the point.

When former LSU coach Les Miles and Alabama coach Nick Saban battled, their teams played to their respective strengths–aggressive, physical, smash mouth football. So it was unusual that a trick play helped to decide one of these games. Such was the case in 2010 when Number 6 Alabama met Number 10 LSU in Baton Rouge. With Alabama leading 14-13 with 9:26 left in the game, LSU had fourth and one at the Tide 26. Instead of trying a 43-yard field goal to take the lead,  Miles reached into his bag of tricks. He called for an inside reverse to a tight end who had never had a rushing attempt in his college career. DeAngelo Peterson took the hand off and ran all the way to the Alabama 3-yard line. The Tigers took the lead for good moments later and eventually upset the Tide 24-21.

The regular season game in 2011 in Tuscaloosa is a classic example of the smash mouth football so typical when the two teams get together. LSU came in undefeated and ranked Number 1 while Alabama was undefeated and ranked Number 2. This marked the first time in SEC history that two undefeated teams were meeting in the regular season ranked one and two in the country.  Before 101,821 rabid fans, LSU won the game 9-6 in overtime. LSU kicker Drew Alleman made all three of his attempts, including a 30-yarder with 1:53 to go in regulation. His 25 yard field goal won the game in overtime. Alabama’s kickers made only two of six of their attempts, but the real story were the defenses. Alabama gained only 295 yards while LSU gained a paltry 239. Alabama would gain a large measure of revenge and the national title with a 21-0 victory over the Tigers in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans on January, 9, 2012.

Alabama gained the rematch with LSU but not without controversy. Many writers and fans believed Oklahoma State, the number two team in the computer rankings, deserved a shot at undefeated LSU since the Tide and Tigers had already met. However, the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) decision makers believed a one-loss Alabama team a better foe than anyone else in the nation. The game marked the first and only time in the BCS era that two teams from the same conference met for the national title.

The defenses once again dominated the game. Alabama kicker Jeremy Shelley made three of four field goals to give the Tide a 9-0 lead at the half. LSU could muster only one first down and never crossed the 50-yard line in the first half. The second half was much the same. LSU compiled four first downs and crossed the 50 only once. Shelley kicked two more field goals and running back Trent Richardson added a 34-yard touchdown run with only 1:39 left to account for the final score. While LSU won the SEC championship, Alabama won the national title.

The Alabama-LSU rivalry ranks as one of the Deep South’s best. Conference and national title aspirations normally accompany the battle. Two southern behemoths line up facing the other with muscles flexed, helmets strapped on tight, and a collective iron-sharpened will and determination to vanquish its foe. This is Alabama-LSU football. This is college football at its best!

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.

 

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.

Kentucky’s Worst Loss in SEC Play

 

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University of Kentucky basketball personifies excellence. The school has the most wins of any college basketball program in the country, eight national championships, 17 Final Four appearances, and 46 Southeastern Conference (SEC) titles. Yet, even great programs experience low points. Kentucky’s low point in SEC play came on February 12, 2008 in Memorial Gymnasium in Nashville, Tennessee. On that fateful night, the Vanderbilt University Commodores annihilated the Wildcats 93-52, administering the worst loss in the history of SEC play for Kentucky and the five-worst loss ever by a Kentucky basketball team.

Shan Foster pumped in 20 points for the Commodores while A.J. Ogilvy tallied 19 along with 12 rebounds (Lionel Richie did not score that night, at least in the game). Vanderbilt led 41-11 at halftime and led by as many as 43 points several times during the contest. Kentucky finished with more fouls (26) than made field goals (17).

Kentucky forward and future NBA player Patrick Patterson put it succinctly, “They played like men, and we played like boys.”

Under first-year coach Billy Gillespie, Kentucky started slowly at 6-5 with lopsided losses to Gardner-Webb and Indiana but had won five straight coming into the game, including a win over Tennessee. The Wildcats had already beaten Vanderbilt earlier in the year in Lexington, 79-73 in overtime.

So no one would have predicted a game like this, including Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings, “I didn’t see this coming in any way, shape or form. Not of this magnitude.”

Before this defeat to Vanderbilt, Kentucky’s worst loss to the Commodores came in 1989 by 30 points. Kentucky’s worst loss ever also came in 1989, this time to the Kansas Jayhawks by 55 points. Its previous worst SEC loss came to LSU by 35 points in 1987.  All of these losses came under Kentucky coach Eddie Sutton’s watch.

Kentucky does not lose many basketball games, certainly not along the lines of the February 2008 Vanderbilt game. As a point of reference, Kentucky leads the all-time series with Vanderbilt 140-46, as of January 22, 2016.  To be fair to the Commodores, Kentucky has dominated most of its opponents over the years, but this game serves as an example of how even the great programs will belly flop from time to time.  As the old saying goes, “Nobody is perfect.”

 

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!