At a meeting in Knoxville, Tennessee, on December 8-9, 1932, the 13 most western and southern members of the Southern Congference broke off to form the SEC. Charter members were the universities of Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Kentucky, Louisiana State, Mississippi, Mississippi State, Sewanee, Tennessee, Tulane, and Vanderbilt.
League play began with the 1933 football season.
Sewanee, never having won an SEC game, withdrew from the conference on December 13, 1940, and the league eventually was pared to 10 members with the withdrawals of Georgia Tech on June 1, 1964, and Tulane on June 1, 1966.
The SEC underwent a major new expansion in 1990 with the admission of the universities of Arkansas and South Carolina, both began league play in 1992. The expanded league was divided into East and West divisions that year, with the winners meeting in a playoff for the SEC title. Undefeated Alabama beat Florida 28-21 in the first playoff title game.
The 1917 Georgia Tech team, coached by John Heisman, outscored opponents 494-17 in a 9-0 season, but turned down a Rose Bowl bid to permit its' players to join the armed forces in WWI.
Alabama got a share of its first national title in 1925 by outscoring foes 277-7 in a 9-0 season, then edged unbeaten Washington 20-19 in the Rose Bowl behind future cowboy movie star Johnny Mack Brown.
The first conference team to win the national title after formation of the SEC was Alabama in 1934. The Tide got a share of their third national crown by compiling a 9-0 record behind B Dixie Howell and E Don Hutson, then beat undefeated Stanford 29-13 in the Rose Bowl.
Tennessee got a share of its first title in 1938, finishing 10-0 and then beating undefeated Oklahoma 17-0 in the Orange Bowl. The Volunteers also got a share of the 1940 title, going 10-0 behind a stingy defense before losing to unbeaten Boston College 19-13 in the Sugar Bowl.
In 1942 Georgia got a share of its first crown despite a loss to Auburn 27-13. The Bulldogs finished 10-1 behind B Frank Sinkwich, then beat UCLA 9-0 in the Rose Bowl.
Auburn got a share of its first national title in 1957, relying on an outstanding defense to finish 10-0 under Coach Ralph "Shug" Jordan.
In 1958, LSU, with its famed "Chinese Bandits" defense, won the national crown with a 10-0 record followed by a win over Clemson 7-0 in the Sugar Bowl.
Ole Miss earned a share of the national title in 1960 with a 9-0-1 record (the tie was with LSU 6-6) followed by a win over Rice 14-6 in the Sugar Bowl.
Arkansas shared the national crown in 1961, with Alabama, while still a member of the Southwest Conference. The Razorbacks went 10-0 in regular season, then beat Nebraska 10-7 in the Cotton Bowl.
Florida won its first national title in 1996 behind "all-everything" QB Danny Wuerffel. The Gators lost only to unbeaten Florida State 24-21 in the season finale, then trounced the Seminoles 52-20 in a Sugar Bowl rematch.
Alabama was known as the Thin Red Line late in the first decade of the twentieth century, but about the time of World War I the sports editor of the Birmingham Age-Herald, Hugh Roberts, began calling the team the Crimson Tide. Zipp Newman of the Birmingham News joined in popularizing the name, which caught on quickly. 'Bama fans also sometimes refer to their team as the Red Elephants, an informal nickname dating to 1930 when Atlanta Journal sportswriter Everett Strupper compared Alabama linemen to elephants in a 64-0 demolishing of Mississippi. Soon Strupper and other writers were calling the team Red Elephants because of the color of their jerseys. An elephant mascot still appears at Alabama games.
Arkansas was called the Cardinals till the close of the 1909 season. At a postseason rally celebrating a 7-0 record that year, Coach Hugo Bezdek referred to his team as "a wild band of razorbacks." The name quickly caught on with fans and writers.
Auburn adopted its Tigers nickname from a verse in Oliver Goldsmith's 1770 poem, "The Deserted Village," "where crouching tigers wait their hapless prey"; the poem also notes that "Sweet Auburn" is the loveliest village of the plain
LSU adopted Tigers in 1896 during a 6-0 season, the name being derived from a battalion of Confederate soldiers known as the Louisiana Tigers during the Civil War. The 1955 "4th quarter ball club" inspired the Fighting Tigers nickname now used.
Florida's nickname developed in a roundabout way. In 1907 a merchant from Gainesville, Florida, Phillip Miller, was visiting his son at the University of Virginia when he got the idea of ordering, from a Charlottesville firm, some banners and pennants to sell at home in his drugstore. The Virginia company was happy to fill the order, but inquired what mascot or emblem should be used. Florida had just begun football the year before and had no nickname. Miller's son Austin, the U. Va. student, suggested the alligator because it was native to Florida and not used as a mascot by any other team. Thus, banners and pennants displaying alligators in various poses were made up and sent to Miller's store in Gainesville. The symbol caught on, though the name later was shortened to Gators.
Southern sportswriters in 1936 were asked to supply a nickname for the athletic teams at Mississippi, already called "Ole Miss." The student newspaper sent several suggested names to sportswriters throughout the region and the overwhelming choice was Rebels, suggested by Judge Ben Guider of Vicksburg.
Mississippi State's Bulldog nickname dates back at least to 1905 but has been the official emblem only since 1961, when University officials, with alumni support, confirmed Bulldogs as the official nickname. Between 1935 and 1960 State's teams usually were called Maroons, and before that Bulldogs had been shared with Aggies.
South Carolina football teams at the turn of the century were known as Game Cocks, but the Columbia, S.C., morning newspaper, The State, shortened the name to one word in 1903 and in recent years the name evolved into Fighting Gamecocks. The state had been closely connected with the breeding and training of fighting gamecocks since colonial days.
Tennessee adopted Volunteers from the state nickname, The Volunteer State, which dated to the early 19th century when General Andrew Jackson mustered many volunteers from the state to fight Indians, and later the British in the Battle of New Orleans.
Vanderbilt's nickname, Commodores, was first used in 1897 by William E. Beard, a member of the Nashville Banner editorial staff who had been a quarterback on Vandy's 1892 team. It was a natural because the school had been founded in 1873 by a $1 million grant from Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt.
LSU's 1893 baseball team wore royal purple and old gold uniforms in a victory over Tulane. That autumn Coach Charles Coates and some of his players purchased purple and gold ribbons to adorn their gray jerseys for LSU's first football game. The school later followed Coates' suggestion to adopt purple and gold as official colors.
Mississippi's first team in 1893 thought the combination of Harvard's crimson and Yale's blue would enable the school to have "the spirit of both these good colleges," though the Ole Miss colors since have been modified to red and blue.
A member of Tennessee's first football team in 1891, Charles Moore, selected orange and white for the school colors because of the profusion of daisies that grew on the Knoxville campus.