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 eleven 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.

 

 

 

 

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 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.

 

 

 

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!

 

A Gamecock?

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The State, a newspaper in Columbia, South Carolina, began referring to the University of South Carolina football team as the Gamecocks in the early 1900s. The name came from a South Carolina Revolutionary War her, General Thomas Sumter. Sumter earned the nickname “The Carolina Gamecock” from British General Banastre Tarleton after a battle during which Sumter “fought like a gamecock.” Soon afterwards, the moniker became associated with all South Carolina athletic teams.
Garnet and black were the unofficial colors of the football team in 1895. Those also happen to be the dominant colors on a gamecock. Once the Gamecock nickname became official for the school athletic teams so did the garnet and black colors.