Last night, I attempted to chronicle The Fifteen Most Important Days in S.E.C. History. It originally started as a top 10 list, but that artificial limitation proved too confining.
"When I was your age, the internet was called 'books.'"
Accordingly, with thanks to Ryan and Paul for setting me straight on a couple of things, I now update the list to include the following additional dates of significance, which bring the list to an even 20:
September 25, 1926---Brigadier General Robert R. Neyland coaches his first game at Tennessee. The Volunteers won more than seven games in only one of the preceding seven seasons, but, in Coach Neyland's first seven campaigns, the Big Orange posted records of 8-1, 8-0-1, 9-0-1, 9-0-1, 9-1, 9-0-1, and 9-0-1. His tenure in Knoxville was interrupted by military commitments, as the West Point alumnus did tours of duty in Panama, China, Burma, and India, deducting five seasons from a coaching career that lasted from 1926 through 1952. Unlike the Volunteers' 1998 squad, which won the national championship as much on luck as on skill, the top-ranked Tennessee squads of 1938 and 1951 reflected Coach Neyland's commitment to discipline. Between November 25, 1937, and November 9, 1940, the Vols gave up a total of 42 points in 31 games. The stadium with the checkerboard end zones bears Coach Neyland's name.
October 12, 1929---Sanford Stadium is dedicated with a game between the hometown Georgia Bulldogs and the visiting Yale Bulldogs. The squad from New Haven was selected because of the historic ties between the two schools; Old Eli produced a pair of University of Georgia presidents, the blueprints for Athens's Old College (which was patterned after Yale's Connecticut Hall), and the inspiration for the Red and Black's canine mascot. Georgia claimed a 15-0 victory in the only football game played by Yale, then an eastern power, south of the Mason-Dixon line.
I needed a picture of a Yale graduate to insert at this point and the choices were George W. Bush, John Kerry, and her. Not a tough call, really.
January 1, 1935---Tulane, winner of the S.E.C. championship in the new league's second year of existence, defeats Temple on the Green Wave's home field in the first Sugar Bowl. Although such short-lived postseason affairs as the Fort Worth Classic, the Dixie Classic, the Los Angeles Christmas Festival, and the San Diego East-West Christmas Classic have come and gone over the years, the postseason tilt in the Big Easy joins the Orange Bowl as one of the two New Year's Day games which, along with the Tournament of Roses, will become permanent fixtures in the upper reaches of the college football firmament. Five of the first six Sugar Bowls were attended either by L.S.U. or by Tulane, but the invitees soon came to include a variety of Southeastern Conference squads: Alabama, Georgia, Georgia Tech, and Tennessee all played in the Sugar Bowl between January 1, 1941, and January 1, 1947. On January 1, 1960, two teams from the league met in New Orleans for a rematch between No. 2 Ole Miss and No. 3 L.S.U. The association between the bowl game and the conference was later formalized and S.E.C. squads went on to appear in 29 of the 33 Sugar Bowls played between the 1973 and 2005 seasons.
September 20, 1947---Ole Miss defeats Kentucky in Oxford, 14-7. The Wildcats were led by second-year coach Bear Bryant. The Rebels were led by first-year coach John Vaught, who was standing on the sideline for his first game at Mississippi. That inaugural season ended in a conference championship and a Delta Bowl win over T.C.U. for the Rebs; by the time his career concluded in 1973, Coach Vaught had won six S.E.C. crowns, five Sugar Bowls, and three national championships. The man whose name now has been given pride of place at the forefront of the nomenclature of the Rebels' stadium coached Archie Manning, introduced the split-T to the Southeastern Conference, and led his team to an 80-21-5 record for the 1950s that was second only to Oklahoma's as the decade's best ledger.
Ole Miss was led to appearances in the Delta Bowl and the Dixie Classic by quarterback Brick Pollitt, whose promising professional football career was cut short by alcohol and Maggie the Cat.
January 4, 2002---Steve Spurrier abruptly resigns as the head coach at his alma mater to try his hand at the N.F.L. For Georgia fans, Darth Visor's departure has no discernible impact, as the 'Dawgs go 1-3 in their next four outings against the Gators, but Florida proceeds to go 8-5, 8-5, and 7-5 over the course of the next three seasons, which seems inconceivable to those with short memories but is, in fact, par for the course: in the four seasons (1986-1989) immediately preceding the Ol' Ball Coach's return to Gainesville, U.F. posted records of 6-5, 6-6, 7-5, and 7-5. Steve Superior is humbled by his two years with the Washington Redskins, in which the storied franchise amassed a 12-20 ledger and finished third in the N.F.C. East twice. Having grown accustomed to losing, the Evil Genius returns to the college coaching ranks in Columbia, S.C., where prior national championship-winning coaches such as Paul Dietzel and Lou Holtz had losing records.
Honestly, I'm not altogether convinced of the overall importance of Steve Spurrier's departure from Florida, as it is not yet clear that any permanent power shift resulted from his resignation, but I am grateful to Paul and Ryan for their constructive criticisms and proposed additions to the list.
Since this is college football, it would only be fitting to make it a top 25 list. What other additions to the list would you propose? Leave your suggestions in the comments below.