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.

 

 

 

 

Third Saturday in October: Alabama-Tennessee Rivalry

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

SEC Coach Comparisons: Part 3

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Today we will examine Butch Jones of Tennessee, Derek Mason of Vanderbilt, Missouri’s Barry Odom and Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin.

 

A. Butch Jones of Tennessee

Jones has performed an admirable job of replenishing the talent at Tennessee. He is entering his fourth season with a record of 21-17 and a win percentage of .553 and no titles to date.  His biggest critics point to his teams’ inability to close out games against quality opponents; for example, Florida in 2014 and 2015 and Oklahoma in 2015.  Still, football pundits believe Tennessee to be the best team in the SEC East in 2016.  If Tennessee does not meet expectations this season Vol Nation may be looking for another coach in 2017.  Here is how Jones compares with some other Tennessee coaches of notoriety after three seasons.

  1. Bob Neyland: He is the gold standard for UT coaches. Hall of Famer Neyland coached at Tennessee from 1926-1934, 1936-1940, and 1946-1952.  He left Knoxville with a record of 173-31-12, a win percentage of .801.  Neyland won eight SEC titles and four national championships.  After three years, Neyland had compiled a record of 25-1-3, a win percentage of .862 and 1 SEC title.
  2. Bowden Wyatt: He coached the Vols from 1955-1962 and compiled an overall win percentage of .622.  The Hall of Fame coach won 1 SEC title, in his second season.  After three years, his record was 24-7-1, a win percentage of .750.
  3. Doug Dickey: Dickey coached the Big Orange from 1964-1969, accruing an overall win percentage of .738.  The Hall of Famer won 2 SEC titles while with the Vols.  After three years, he compiled a win percentage of .625.
  4. Johnny Majors: Majors led UT from 1977-1992. His amassed an overall win percentage of .645 while winning three SEC titles.  After three seasons, the Hall of Fame coach amassed a win percentage of .471.
  5. Phillip Fulmer: This Hall of Fame coach compiled an overall win percentage of .745 from 1992-2008.  He won two SEC titles and one national championship.  Fulmer, after three full years, had a win percentage of .801.

Other than Majors, the other UT coaches above had a better win percentage than Jones after three seasons.  In his defense, the cupboard was pretty bare when he arrived.  However, people on Rocky Top are not very patient when it comes to their football coaches.  If Jones does not lock down a weak SEC East division this season, he may be gone before 2017.

 

 B.  Derek Mason of Vanderbilt

Mason came to Vanderbilt after serving as defensive coordinator on some outstanding Stanford University teams.  He supposedly understood what it took to be successful at a Power Five school with high academic standards.  Mason lost to Temple 37-7 in Nashville in his first game.  Vanderbilt fans had just experienced three straight years of bowl games under James Franklin and believed the program had turned a corner.  Mason finished his first year 3-9, 0-8 in the SEC.  Vanderbilt became Vandy again.  Mason compiled a 4-8 record his second year with two SEC wins.  So after two seasons, the former Stanford assistant is 7-17, a win percentage of .292.  Even by Vandy standards, Mason’s record is putrid.  Believe it or not, Vanderbilt was considered a football power from the program’s infancy into the early 1950s.  Then a losing culture took root from the 1950s to the present mainly because of poor coaching, subpar athletes and an overall lack of caring from the administration.  Certainly, the Commodores enjoyed some very competitive seasons during this time, notably under Steve Sloan in 1974, George MacIntyre in 1982, Bobby Johnson in 2008 and the aforementioned Franklin in 2011-2013. Let’s compare Mason with these former Commodore coaches.

  1. Steve Sloan: He only coached the Commodores for two seasons, 1973-1974. Sloan compiled a .520 win percentage and led Vanderbilt to its second bowl game in the program’s history after the 1974 season.  Like all VU coaches who had any success with the Commodores after the 1950s he left for greener pastures–Texas Tech.
  2. George MacIntyre: He guided the program from 1979-1985 and left with a win percentage of .390. His 1982 team went 8-4 and played in the third bowl game in the program’s history.
  3. Bobby Johnson: He led the Commodores from 2002-2009, had one winning season (2008), and a bowl game win after that season.  Johnson retired suddenly two months before the start of the 2010 campaign with a win percentage of .310.
  4. James Franklin: He arguably has been the best Vanderbilt coach since Red Sanders, who last coached a Vanderbilt team in 1948. From 2011-2013, Franklin compiled .615 win percentage and guided the team to three consecutive bowl games. He left after the 2013 season for Penn State.

Franklin proved to Vanderbilt fans and the administration that the program could be very competitive and go to a bowl game consistently.  In Mason’s short tenure, the program has reverted to it old losing ways. The guess here is that if Mason doesn’t finish with a record close to .500 in 2016, Vanderbilt will have a new coach for the 2017 season.

 

C.  Barry Odom of Missouri

Missouri has not won a conference championship since 1969, the Big Eight Conference, and has no national championships since beginning play in 1890.  Safe to say that Missouri fans do not have delusional expectations for championships that other SEC fan bases have.  Still, Missouri has had some very good teams in its history and has come close to winning more conference titles recently.  The Tigers could not win Big 12 title games in 2007 and 2008 nor win SEC title games in 2013 and 2014. Let’s compare Odom to Missouri coaches who have stayed at the school for at least five years.

  1. Don Faurot: This Hall of Famer coached the Tigers from 1935-1942 and 1946-1956. He left with a win percentage of .558 and three conference titles (Missouri Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Association, precursor to the Big 8).  He has the most wins, 101, of any Missouri coach and his name adorns the stadium.
  2. Dan Devine: Another Hall of Famer, Devine coached at Missouri from 1958-1970.  He left with a .704 win percentage and two Big Eight Conference titles, including the 1969 title.
  3. Al Onofrio: He coached from 1971-1977 but had a win percentage of only.481.
  4. Warren Powers: He guided the Tigers from 1978-1984 and left with a win percentage of .579.
  5. Bob Stull: He left the Missouri program with a win percentage of .291 after leading Mizzou from 1989-1993.
  6. Larry Smith: Smith’s tenure ran from 1994-2000 and his win percentage was .419.
  7. Gary Pinkel: The second longest tenured coach in Missouri history, 2001-2015, Pinkel retired after last season with a win percentage of .622.

Odom will be given every opportunity to succeed at Missouri and if he can continue to recruit like Pinkel, Odom may have a long career with the Tigers.  If he can manage to break Missouri’s title drought and win an SEC and/or national title, he may never have to buy another meal in Columbia for the rest of his life.  Time will tell.

 

D.  Kevin Sumlin of Texas A & R M:

Sumlin begins his fifth season with a win percentage of .750 but is on the hot seat.  The last two seasons Sumlin’s teams have started 5-0 only to finish 2-5 in 2014 and 3-4 in 2015.  Quarterback controversies ensued both seasons prompting multiple quarterback transfers out of the program.  One of the transfers after last season, Kyler Murray, accused Sumlin of allowing a culture without discipline.  Murray complained that players could do anything as long as they produced on game day and that this culture started when Johnny Manziel was the quarterback.  Such allegations may be the undoing of Sumlin if the Aggies don’t improve their won-lost record immediately.

Sumlin’s win percentage is still very impressive and it rates highly with those of other A & M coaches.  The university boasts six Hall of Fame coaches who spent time running the program.  Let’s look at how Sumlin compares with those coaches.

  1. Dana X. Bible: He coached the Aggies in 1917 and 1919-1928 and compiled a win percentage .765.  Bible won three Southwest Conference (SWC) titles and one national championship.  After four seasons his win percentage was .860.
  2. Madison Bell: He guided A & M from 1929-1933 and amassed a win percentage of .531, .470 after his first four seasons.  Bell won no titles with the Aggies but won four SWC titles and one national championship with Southern Methodist University after his time at Texas A & M.
  3. Homer Norton: He led the Aggies from 1934-1947 and had a .531 win percentage, .470 after four seasons.  Norton won three SWC titles and one national championship in College Station.
  4. Paul “Bear” Bryant: The Bear coached at A&M from 1954-1957, before leaving for Alabama.  While with the Aggies, Bryant tallied a win percentage of .610 and won one SWC title.
  5. Gene Stallings: He coached the Aggies from 1965-1971, won one SWC title and had a pedestrian win percentage .377, .410 after four seasons.  He would later win one SEC title, participate in three other SEC championship games and win a national championship at Alabama.
  6. R. C. Slocum: He led the Aggie program from 1989-2002 and won three SWC titles and one Big 12 title. Slocum compiled a .721 win percentage, .780 after four seasons.

Sumlin has a greater win percentage than four of the aforementioned Hall of Fame coaches after four seasons in College Station.  Most of the Aggie faithful believe it would be even higher if not for the quarterback issues the last two seasons.  Sumlin has proven he can recruit, especially quarterbacks.  However, if the culture that Murray portrayed is true and A & M struggles in the second half of the season again, Sumlin may be looking for another job in 2017.

This concludes the examination of the current SEC coaches.  Some will continue to flourish while others will be looking for work at the end of the season.  In the ultra-competitive SEC, winning is everything.

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.

 

 

 

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!

 

Tennessee Traditions

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Courtesy of TN66/CC-BY-SA-3.0

When you hear the words “University of Tennessee football,” what comes to mind?  Maybe an image of an orange-clad team with a “T” on the side of the helmet that plays in a big stadium with the song “Rocky Top” seemingly played every five minutes.  But how many of you know how the school decided on orange as their main color, or the nickname “Volunteers” or the Rocky Top song?

Charles Moore, a member of the 1891 football team, thought the colors of orange and white would be suitable.  These were the colors of the American daisy that grew in abundance on the Tennessee campus.  The student body voted to approve the  nomination of the colors at a later date.  Interestingly, the first orange jerseys were not worn until the 1922 season.

The school gets its nickname from the state motto. Tennessee acquired the name “Volunteer State” during the War of 1812 after General Andrew Jackson led a group of about 1500 volunteers to fight against the British at the Battle of New Orleans.  Several decades later Tennessee sent 30 thousand volunteers to Texas to aid in its fight against Mexico.  So the Volunteers seemed an appropriate nickname for the school.  At all athletic events, UT’s color guard wears 1840s dragoon uniforms similar to those worn during the fight against Mexico.

The song “Rocky Top” was first played at halftime of the 1972 Tennessee-Alabama football game as part of a country music show.  The Tennessee faithful immediately embraced the song and the UT band made it part of its game music repertoire soon after.

The University of Tennessee has a proud athletic tradition.   The school’s “Volunteer” nickname, orange uniforms, and classic song give the school instant recognition among college sports enthusiasts.

The Holy Trinity of Georgia Tech Football

 

Courtesy of UserB

Courtesy of UserB

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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