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

History of Women's Athletics in the SEC

56 days ago
SEC Staff
Photo: SEC Staff

This June will mark the 48th anniversary of Title IX. While Title IX has had an impact on American society in many different ways, there is no debating the fact that without it the Southeastern Conference would not be the league it is today.

Since the first women's national title was won by Florida swimming & diving in 1982, a total of 108 national championships have been won by women's teams from the conference. That's 45 percent of the league's 241 total NCAA Championships.

The COVID-19 global pandemic stopped all sports in March, which means only three national championships in which SEC women's teams participate took place in the 2019-20 season. Arkansas' women's cross-country program claimed their first national championship back in November.

Without women's athletics in the SEC, names like Pat Summitt, Tracy Caulkins, Teresa Edwards, and Abby Wambach wouldn't exist. The dynasties of Tennessee Lady Vol Basketball, Auburn swimming & diving and Alabama softball wouldn't be a part of the fabric of the SEC's championship history. There's no doubt that the SEC is a stronger conference because of its women's teams and with that comes the natural progression to start thinking about the rich history of women's athletics in this conference.

While this list is not close to being comprehensive, it highlights many moments in women's athletics in our league.

1979-80: SEC recognizes championships for women's basketball, tennis and volleyball.

1979: The Kentucky Wildcats win the first league title in volleyball with a 35-18 record and a 3-1 win over Tennessee in the tournament finals.

1980: The SEC begins its first ever women's basketball tournament. Held in Knoxville, the first ever tournament game played was Florida defeating Mississippi State, 68-62. Four days later, Pat Head's Tennessee Volunteers defeated Ole Miss, 85-71, in the championship game.

1980: Florida wins the first SEC Championship in women's tennis. In the beginning, the championship was determined by the accumulation of points in an individual flighted tournament.

1980-81: SEC adds championships for women's golf, gymnastics, swimming & diving, and outdoor track & field.

1981: The Florida Gators win the inaugural SEC swimming & diving title with 913 points.

1981: LSU captures the first SEC title in gymnastics with a score of 141.10.

1981: Georgia defeats Pittsburg, California and Arizona State (in OT) to capture the NWIT Championship, the first-ever national championship of any kind for the SEC in women's basketball.

1981: Florida wins the first ever women's golf SEC title in Opelika, Ala. with a team score of 875. The Gators' Lynn Connelly won the individual title with a score of 217.

1981: Tennessee scores 197 points at the first league outdoor track & field championships to take the title.

1982: Florida becomes the first SEC school to win an NCAA title in any sport. The Gators, under Coach Randy Reese, scored 505 points to take the swimming & diving national championship. The SEC has won 11 NCAA titles in the sport of swimming & diving.

1982: The Tennessee Lady Vols become the first SEC team to reach the women's Final Four. After beating Jackson State, Memphis State and Southern Cal to reach the Final Four, the Volunteers lose to Louisiana Tech in the semifinals.

1982: Florida swimmer Tracy Caulkins is the first SEC female athlete to be chosen as the Collegiate Woman Athlete of the Year, an award known as the Honda-Broderick Cup. Caulkins won it again in 1984. In addition, Chamique Holdsclaw (Tennessee), Candace Parker (Tennessee) and Courtney Kupets (Georgia) have won the prestigious award.

1983: Tennessee wins the first SEC Cross Country Championship held in Lexington, Ky.

1983: Georgia becomes the first school to have both its men's and women's teams reach the Final Four. Andy Landers' women defeated North Carolina, Indiana and Tennessee before losing to Southern California in the semifinals of the Final Four held in Norfolk, Va.

1984: Tennessee wins the first SEC Indoor track & field Championship with 148.5 points. September 1, 1984: Women's athletics comes under the auspices of the SEC.

1985: Florida wins the NCAA title in golf, the first national championship in the sport for the league. Four national titles have been won in women's golf. Florida won again in 1986, Georgia in 2001 and Alabama won in 2012.

1987: Georgia wins the national title in gymnastics, scoring 187.90 points. Georgia has won ten NCAA titles in gymnastics, while Alabama has won six and Florida has won three to give the conference a total of 19.

1987: Pat Summitt's Lady Volunteers win their, and the SEC's, first ever NCAA title in women's basketball when Tennessee defeated Louisiana Tech, 67-44, in Austin, Texas. Tennessee has won eight SEC national titles, while South Carolina has won one in basketball.

1987: LSU win the first NCAA title in Indoor Track & Field for the SEC. A total of 17 national titles have been won by SEC women's indoor teams.

1987: LSU also wins the first NCAA Outdoor Track & Field title for the league. A total of 19 national titles have been won by SEC women's outdoor teams.

1988: Auburn and Tennessee reach the Final Four of the women's NCAA Basketball Tournament, marking the first time one conference had two teams in the final round. Louisiana Tech defeated the Lady Vols in the semifinals and nipped Joe Ciampi's Auburn Tigers, 56-54, in the championship game.

1988: The Kentucky Wildcats take home the SEC's first national title in cross country.

1989: The league has the top three teams (1. Auburn 2. Tennessee 3. Ole Miss) in the Associated Press Women's Basketball Poll. The SEC would go on to do it again in 2005 (1. Tennessee 2. LSU 3. Georgia).

1989: Tennessee's and Auburn's women's basketball teams again reach the Final Four and this time both make it to the championship game where Pat Summitt's Volunteers defeat Joe Ciampi's Tigers, 76-60 for the national crown. It is the first time that the same conference has two teams in the title tilt.

1992: Florida wins the NCAA Division I Women's Tennis Championship. It's the first of ten national titles in women's tennis for the conference. Vanderbilt has won one, Georgia has won two, while the Gators have won eight.

1993: SEC institutions adopt the Principles of Gender Equity recognizing that each school will provide at least two more women's intercollegiate programs than the number of men's teams.

1993: Vanderbilt defeats Arkansas 3-2 in double overtime to take the first SEC crown in soccer. Soccer became a sponsored sport by the SEC with four teams playing (Arkansas, Auburn, Kentucky and Vanderbilt). All 12 members began play in 1996 with all 14 currently sponsoring.

1995: FOX Sports South broadcasts the SEC Tournament Championship match between Alabama and Kentucky on a tape-delayed basis, signifying the first appearance of an SEC women's soccer match on television.

1995: Lea Slatter of Vanderbilt becomes the first SEC soccer player named an All-American. The NSCAA named her to the third-team.

1997: South Carolina's Trinity Johnson pitches the first perfect game in SEC softball history. The Gamecocks defeated North Carolina, 1-0.

1997: South Carolina defeats Florida, 6-0 to win the first SEC Softball Championship.

1997: Tennessee's Dena Head becomes the first SEC player to be drafted by the WNBA. Head was drafted first overall in the first round of the Elite Draft. Since the inaugural WNBA draft in 1997, the SEC has had 119 former players drafted for the professional league, including five No. 1 picks.

1998: Florida wins the NCAA Division I Women's Soccer College Cup with a 1-0 victory over North Carolina. It's the only national title in soccer for the league.

1998: The SEC enters the record book as the only conference to sweep the top three spots at the NCAA gymnastics meet (Georgia, Florida, Alabama).

1999: The SEC is the first league to ever have eight teams invited to the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament. The league has achieved this feat five times, in 1999, 2002, 2012, 2014 and 2017.

2004: Kristin Schmidt of LSU becomes the SEC's first Women's College World Series MVP.

2007: Vanderbilt wins the national championship in women's bowling. The Commodores are the only SEC institution with a bowling team.

2007: Monica Abbott of Tennessee throws two no-hitters, five days apart, in the NCAA Women's College World Series.

2007: The Tennessee Lady Vols reach No. 1 in both the ESPN.com/USA Softball poll and the NFCA poll. They were the first SEC team to ever reach No. 1 in the softball polls.

2009: A league record nine teams receive a bid into the NCAA Division I Softball Championship. The SEC matched that number in 2012.

2011: A league record eight teams receive invitations to compete in the NCAA Division I Women's Soccer Championship.

2011: Kentucky wins the national title in Rifle, a co-ed sport. They also won the title in 2018.

2012: Alabama becomes the first Southeastern Conference team to win an NCAA softball championship with their 5-4 win over Oklahoma.

2012: It is announced that the SEC will determine a league champion in equestrian beginning in the 2012-2013 season. It becomes the 21st sports sponsored by the league. Currently Auburn, Georgia, South Carolina and Texas A&M compete in collegiate equestrian.

June 3, 2014: With two SEC teams in the championship series of the 2014 Women's College World Series, Florida defeated Alabama, 6-3, winning the best-of-three series to claim its first national championship.

June 3, 2015: Florida becomes just the third program in NCAA softball history to win back-to-back national titles as the Gators defeated Michigan in Game 1 and Game 3 in the championship series of the Women's College World Series.

2016: The SEC sends nine teams to the NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Championship. It's the most SEC teams to receive bids to the NCAA's in conference history and the second time in NCAA history that one conference has sent nine teams to the tournament.

June 2016: Four SEC teams advance to the Women's College World Series (Alabama, Auburn, Georgia and LSU), marking the first time that one conference made up half the field of teams participating in Oklahoma City.

2017: The SEC again has two teams in the NCAA Women's Final Four as South Carolina defeats Mississippi State, 67-55 for the Gamecocks first and the SEC's ninth national title.

2017: The conference set the all-time attendance high for any conference with 1,108,511 fans in women's basketball.

May 2017: The Southeastern Conference sets an NCAA Tournament record as all 13 programs earn a spot in the 2017 NCAA Division I Softball Championship. The SEC earn eight national seeds.

2017: An SEC record nine women's soccer teams advanced to the NCAA Tournament with South Carolina advancing to the national semifinals.

December 16, 2017: Florida advances to its second title match in the 2017 NCAA Division I Women's Volleyball Tournament. The Gators finish as the National Runner-Up to Nebraska.

May 2018: For the second consecutive year, the Southeastern Conference sent 13 programs to represent the league in the NCAA Division I Softball Tournament. The SEC also set the NCAA record with nine national seeds.

2018: An SEC record-tying nine women's soccer teams advanced to the NCAA Tournament with seven moving on to at least the second round.

April 2019: Auburn's second straight national championship in Equestrian marked the 18th consecutive national title in equestrian for the SEC. It also marked the third year in row the national championship final featured two teams from the SEC.

May 2019: For the third consecutive year, the Southeastern Conference had all 13 programs represent the league in the NCAA Division I Softball Tournament.

November 2019: Arkansas wins the program's first NCAA Women's Cross Country title and the league's only national title for the season, as collegiate sports were canceled due to the global Covid-19 pandemic. With the win, Arkansas is only the second NCAA women's team to accomplish the three-season triple crown.