The Official Website of the Southeastern Conference
The Official Website of the Southeastern Conference

SEC History

136 days ago

History of the SOUTHEASTERN CONFERENCE

A pioneer in the integration of higher education and athletic competition, the Southeastern Conference is a leader on the national landscape for intercollegiate athletics in the 21st century.

Since its formation in 1933, the SEC has achieved stature and stability by designating governing/voting power to the presidents of the member institutions. These university leaders determine the policies of the conference and through the years this involvement has been the principal source of strength in the evolution of the SEC. Throughout its 82-year history, the SEC has provided leadership on the vital issues facing intercollegiate competition.

Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi, Mississippi State, Tennessee and Vanderbilt have been in the SEC since its formation in 1933. The league has expanded twice, adding Arkansas and South Carolina in 1991, then Missouri and Texas A&M in 2012.

Organization, Contraction and Expansion

SEC schools began athletic competition with one another more than 100 years ago as members of the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association. Seven institutions (Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Sewanee and Vanderbilt) attended the SIAA organizational meeting of faculty representatives, called by Dr. William L. Dudley of Vanderbilt, in Atlanta Dec. 22, 1894.

Student teams from the schools began meeting in various sports with little pattern to their contests. The American adaptation of the English game rugby, called "football," was drifting down from the East and Midwest. Southerners were quickly attracted to this sport formalized in 1869.

The first football game in the Southeast was played April 9, 1880, on the ground now called Old Stoll Field at the University of Kentucky. Kentucky A&M (now UK) organized a team and in November 1881, played Transylvania College in a three-game series. By 1895, 11 current SEC members were playing football.

Basketball moved quickly to the South as Vanderbilt was playing at the Nashville YMCA in 1893, just two years after Dr. James Naismith originated the game at Springfield (Mass.) College.

Track was organized on a conference level at the 1895 SIAA meeting presided over by President Dudley who served until his death in 1914. The first championship meet was held at Vanderbilt May 15, 1896. By 1900, eight of the 13 charter SEC members were participating.

The seven-member SIAA expanded to 19 institutions in 1895 (Alabama, Auburn, Central, Clemson, Cumberland, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Kentucky, LSU, Mercer, Mississippi State, Nashville, North Carolina, Sewanee, Southwestern Presbyterian, Tennessee, Texas, Tulane and Vanderbilt) and by 1920 there were 30 members.

The larger schools reorganized as the Southern Conference at a meeting in Gainesville Dec. 12-13, 1920. Professor S.V. Sanford of Georgia called the meeting and served as the first president. Charter members of the Southern Conference included: Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi State, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Tennessee, Virginia, Virginia Tech and Washington & Lee.

Despite an original limit of 16, the membership grew to 23 by 1928. In 1922 Florida, Louisiana State, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tulane, Vanderbilt and Virginia Military joined, while Sewanee and Duke became members in 1923 and 1928 respectively. At one time or another, the SIAA and the SC included most of the Southern colleges from Virginia to Texas.

The 13 members west and south of the Appalachian Mountains reorganized as the Southeastern Conference at the annual SC meeting of Dec. 8-9, 1932, in Knoxville. The 10 coast members remained in the Southern Conference. Dr. Frank L. McVey of Kentucky was elected president of the new conference whose charter members were: Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Kentucky, Louisiana State, Mississippi, Mississippi State, Sewanee, Tennessee, Tulane and Vanderbilt. (Sewanee withdrew Dec. 13, 1940, Georgia Tech on June 1, 1964 and Tulane on June 1, 1966). McVey held an informal meeting of the school presidents in Birmingham Feb. 16, 1933, then the first full meeting in Atlanta Feb. 27.

Faced with the task of conference realignment after competing with 10 members since 1966, the SEC welcomed the University of Arkansas on Aug. 1, 1990, and the University of South Carolina on Sept. 25, 1990. Both joined the SEC on July 1, 1991.

Fully incorporated into conference competition by 1992, Arkansas and South Carolina participated in SEC championships for all sports except football during the 1991-92 academic year. The SEC was again at the forefront, introducing football, basketball and baseball divisional play and the nation's first-ever Division I football championship game.

The conference welcomed Texas A&M University on Sept. 25, 2011, and University of Missouri on Nov. 6, 2011, in the only other expansion in SEC history. Both joined the SEC on July 1, 2012 and competed in their first year in all conference sports in 2012-13.

Office of The Commissioner

The office of the commissioner was formed in 1940 in Jackson due to the great amount of detail work developing, especially in recruiting and eligibility.

  • Martin S. Conner, former governor of the state of Mississippi, took office as Commissioner Aug. 21, 1940. Conner later became ill and the secretary of the conference, Dean N.W. Dougherty of Tennessee, served as Acting Commissioner during the fall of 1946.
  • Bernie H. Moore became the second full-time Commissioner on Feb. 21, 1948, when the office moved to Birmingham. Moore, a former LSU coach, guided the SEC to national respect in his 18-year tenure.
  • A.M. (Tonto) Coleman succeeded Moore as Commissioner upon his retirement April 1, 1966. The Alabama native, who was experienced in athletic coaching and administration, served six and a half years.
  • Dr. H. Boyd McWhorter, then Dean of Arts and Sciences at Georgia and secretary of the league since 1967, accepted the position of Commissioner upon the retirement of Coleman Aug. 1, 1972. Under his leadership the SEC experienced unparalleled growth. In McWhorter's first year the SEC distributed $1.57 million and 14 years later, his final year as Commissioner in 1986, the league distributed $15 million in revenue to the member institutions.
  • Dr. Harvey W. Schiller, an Air Force colonel and faculty chair at the U.S. Air Force Academy, followed McWhorter upon his retirement, taking office as Commissioner on Sept. 15, 1986. Under his guidance the SEC established itself as a leader in the areas of athletic scholarship and marketing.
  • Roy F. Kramer succeeded Schiller on Jan. 10, 1990. Kramer, who served on numerous NCAA committees, joined the league office after spending 12 years as athletic director at Vanderbilt. Kramer was Commissioner for more than 12 years before retiring in 2002. The SEC expanded by two schools during his tenure, he created the ultra-successful SEC Football Championship Game and was instrumental in the creation of the Bowl Championship Series.
  • Michael L. Slive, who served as Commissioner of Conference USA for seven years, was appointed the seventh Commissioner of the Southeastern Conference on July 2, 2002. Serving in the position for 13 years, he created a new culture of NCAA compliance in the league, oversaw the expansion of the SEC by two schools, negotiated landmark television agreements and engineered the birth of the SEC Network in a partnership with ESPN. He also played a key role in the development of the College Football Playoff.
  • Gregory A. Sankey, a former Commissioner of the Southland Conference and 13-year veteran of the SEC Office, became the eighth commissioner of the Southeastern Conference on June 1, 2015. Sankey served under Slive as Associate Commissioner for Compliance and then Executive Associate Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer, playing a central role in crafting the new Autonomy structure of the NCAA that was adopted in January 2015.

Sport Sponsorship

The first SEC champions were crowned in 1933 in baseball, basketball, football and outdoor track. The league's inaugural championship event was a basketball tournament in Atlanta, Feb. 24-28, 1933. Records show the first men's team title for cross country was awarded in 1935, while golf and swimming were added in 1937. The league later began hosting championships in tennis (1938) and indoor track (1957).

In the 1979-80 academic year SEC championships for women were recognized in basketball, tennis and volleyball. The following year golf, gymnastics, swimming and track & field were added. Soccer was added in 1993 and softball began SEC play in 1997. The administration of women's athletics officially came under the auspices of the conference office on Sept. 1, 1984.

In 1993, the member institutions adopted The Principles of Gender Equity. Committed to increasing the quantity and quality of women's athletic opportunities, each school provides at least two more women's intercollegiate programs than the number of men's teams on each campus.

The conference approved equestrian as its 21st sponsored sport for the 2012-13 academic year.

SEC All-Time National Championships
Men's - 126
Women's - 101
Coed - 1
TOTAL - 228

SEC National Championships Since 2000
Men's - 54
Women's - 57
Coed - 1
TOTAL - 112

*Note: NCAA National Champions only with the exception of football and equestrian.

SEC Commissioners
1940-1945 Martin S. Conner
1951-1965 Bernie H. Moore
1966-1971 A. M. Coleman
1972-1985 H. Boyd McWhorter
1986-1989 Harvey W. Schiller
1990-2001 Roy Kramer
2002-2015 Michael L. Slive
2015-Present Greg Sankey