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

Overview of women's sports in the SEC

185 days ago
SEC Staff
Photo: SEC Staff

On June 23, 1972, the Title IX of the Higher Education Act was passed as U.S. legislation. It was enacted to ensure: "No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance."

Title IX has had an impact on American society in many different ways including ensuring women athletes equal opportunities to compete and succeed in sports. The Southeastern Conference has been a leader in providing opportunities for women in sports and has enjoyed five decades of success.

The first Southeastern Conference title in a women's sport was awarded in 1979, since that time the SEC has created and expanded opportunities for women in sports, producing some of the great names ... the great faces ... and great moments in SEC history.

Over the years, the SEC has won 112 national championships in all sports. More importantly, thousands of young women have earned their college degrees on athletics scholarships.

SEC women student-athletes make a difference every day in competition, in the classroom and in the community. This year, the 50th anniversary of Title IX, we celebrate their successes and look to the opportunities ahead in SEC women's athletics.

A BRIEF LOOK BACK AT A CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY

Basketball, volleyball and tennis were the first sports to be recognized with a conference championship during the 1979-80 athletic year. The Kentucky Wildcats won the first league title in any SEC women's sport by winning the volleyball championship with a 35-18 record and a 3-1 win over Tennessee in the tournament finals.

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

Later that year, Florida became the first team to win a tennis championship in the SEC.

The following year, the SEC added championships for women's golf, gymnastics, swimming & diving, and outdoor track & field. Florida won the first ever women's golf and swimming & diving titles and Tennessee captured the inaugural outdoor track championship.

Meanwhile, LSU claimed the first SEC gymnastics title under head coach D-D Breaux - who would eventually become the longest tenured coach in SEC history - men or women - surpassing Adolph Rupp.

In 1982, Florida became the first SEC school to win an NCAA title in any sport as the Gators claimed the swimming & diving national championship. Also in 1982, the Tennessee Lady Vols became the first SEC team to reach the Women's Final Four and Florida swimmer Tracy Caulkins became the first SEC female athlete to be chosen as the Collegiate Woman Athlete of the Year, an award now known as the Honda-Broderick Cup.

In 1983, Tennessee won the first SEC Cross Country Championship held in Lexington, Ky., and later that year in 1984 the Lady Vols won the first SEC Indoor Track & Field Championship.

Later in the 1980s, more SEC teams would claim national titles for the first time in their sport for the conference. Florida won the NCAA golf title in 1985, and in 1987 Georgia took the gymnastics title, LSU won both the indoor and outdoor track titles and Tennessee won its first women's basketball national championship.

In 1988, Auburn and Tennessee reached the Final Four of the women's NCAA Basketball Tournament, marking the first time one conference had two teams in the final round. Also in 1988, the Kentucky Wildcats took home the SEC's first national title in cross country.

In 1992, Florida won the NCAA Division I Women's Tennis Championship, the first of ten national titles in women's tennis for the conference.

Southeastern Conference schools came together in 1993 to adopt the Principle of Gender Equity recognizing that each school will provide at least two more women's intercollegiate programs than the number of men's teams.

Soccer became an SEC sponsored sport in 1993 with four teams playing (Arkansas, Auburn, Kentucky and Vanderbilt) and Vanderbilt defeated Arkansas in double overtime to take the first SEC crown in soccer. All 12 members began play in 1996.

In 1997, South Carolina defeated Florida to win the first SEC Softball Championship.

In 1998, Florida won the SEC's first and only national title in soccer by taking the NCAA Division I Women's Soccer College Cup over North Carolina.

In 2012 it was announced that the SEC would determine a league champion in equestrian beginning in the 2012-13 season. It became the 21st sports sponsored by the league. South Carolina won the first conference title in equestrian and Auburn claimed the SEC's first national title in the sport in the same season. Also in 2012, Alabama won the SEC's first national title in softball.

Arkansas won its first, and the SEC's second, NCAA Women's Cross Country title in 2019, as collegiate sports were later canceled due to the global Covid-19 pandemic. With the win, Arkansas became only the second NCAA women's team to accomplish the three-season triple crown.

In 2021, Kentucky became the first SEC program to win a national title in volleyball, giving the SEC at least one national championship in every sport it sponsors.

The SEC announced in July 2021 that the University of Oklahoma and the University of Texas will become members effective July 1, 2025, with competition to begin in all sports for the 2025-26 academic year.

Sport Inaugural Season  First SEC Champion First NCAA Champon
Volleyball 1979-80 Kentucky, 1979 Kentucky, 2020-21
Basketball 1979-80 Tennessee, 1980 Tennessee, 1987
Tennis 1979-80 Florida, 1980 Florida, 1992
Swimming & Diving 1980-81 Florida, 1981 Florida, 1982
Gymnastics 1980-81 LSU, 1981 Georgia, 1987
Golf 1980-81 Florida, 1981 Florida, 1985
Outdoor Track & Field 1980-81 Tennessee, 1981 LSU, 1987
Cross Country 1983-84 Tennessee, 1983 Kentucky, 1988
Indoor Track & Field 1983-84 Tennesee, 1984 LSU, 1987
Soccer 1993-94 Vanderbilt, 1993 Florida, 1998
Softball 1996-97 South Carolina, 1997 Alabama, 2012
Equestrian 2012-13 South Carolina, 1997 Auburn, 2013