The sport your SEC team excels at the best (hint: it's not football)
Every SEC team believes deep down that they’re a football school, but that’s not always the case. In fact, it’s often not the case.
When it comes to national titles, the SEC is a well-diversified conference. As Florida begins play in the 2016 College World Series this weekend, it’s a good time to analyze exactly which programs at each SEC school have earned the right to strut around campus a little harder than the rest of their peers.
Here’s a look at the winningest teams at every league school based on national championships.
This one’s a bit of a no-brainer. Of the 26 national championships that Alabama’s men’s and women’s programs have claimed, 16 belong to the Crimson Tide’s football team.
So who follows football with the most banners? That would be the school’s women’s gymnastics squad. The women have won six national titles, the most recent coming back-to-back in 2011 and 2012. The program has seen 69 athletes earn a combined 312 All-American honors, led by Dee Foster, the NCAA’s all-time leader for individual first-team All-American recognition. Ex-Tide athlete Terin Humphrey won a silver medal on the uneven bars at the 2004 Athens Olympics.
ARKANSAS: TRACK AND FIELD
This is another one that belongs filed in the “no duh” folder. The Arkansas football team claims a national title in 1964 that is backed up by the Football Writers Association of America, Helms Athletic Foundation and Poling System, the College Football Researchers Association, Billingsley Report, National Championship Foundation and Sagarin Ratings. The Nolan Richardson-led Hogs basketball team won the NCAA tournament in 1994 behind the prowess of Corliss Williamson. However, other than that, Arkansas athletics is all about track and field.
The Razorbacks have won 20 indoor and 10 outdoor national titles on the men’s side as well as 11 cross country championships. Arkansas has won the triple crown of NCAA track and field (indoor, outdoor and cross country) five times, the last coming in 1999. Arkansas athletes have also won nine medals on the Olympic stage. Not to be outdone, the women’s program is also the owner of an indoor national title, coming this past year in 2015.
If we’re going by most-recent national titles, then Auburn is an equestrian school. Tigers on horses earned national championships in both 2013 and 2011 — a year after Cam Newton led the school to the now-defunct BCS’ highest honor.
But Auburn is far and away a swimming school when it comes to placing hardware on the athletic department’s mantle. The Tigers have won 13 NCAA swimming and diving national championships between its men’s and women’s programs dating back to 1997. The men have claimed eight national championships as well as 128 individual champions. The women have churned out five national titles that were paced by 50 individual champs.
FLORIDA: MEN’S SWIMMING AND DIVING/WOMEN’S TENNIS
Florida is on an impressive run of national titles, including 14 since 2010 alone. The Gators’ gymnastics, softball and men’s outdoor track and field squads were each coming off national titles this year. Gymnastics have won three consecutive national championships and softball just saw its two-year reign come to an end. But it’s the men’s track and field program and women’s tennis squad that share the distinction of being Florida’s winningest team, and each have earned six national titles. Across the pool, the Gators women have brought the most individual national championships (56 athletes, 204 titles) back to The Swamp.
Alabama and Florida might have closed the gap by combining to win the last five national championships, but gymnastics belongs to Georgia with 10 titles — most in the nation in the sport. The Georgia Gym Dogs were as dominant as a program can be, winning five straight titles from 2005 to 2009. The next-closest Bulldogs program in terms of national titles is the men’s tennis program with eight championships, the last coming in 2008.
The SEC has owned the sport, winning 18 of the 33 national titles since the NCAA sanctioned gymnastics beginning with the 1982 season. The conference has been particularly dominant of late, winning or sharing 10 national titles dating back to 2005.
— Georgia Gymdogs (@UGAGymnastics) June 17, 2016
Kentucky might get pushed around at times on the gridiron in the SEC, but the Wildcats repay the favor on the hardwood. The program currently headed by John Calipari has cut down the net eight times. Kentucky, of course, is one of the legendary programs that college basketball has to offer, developing 90 players that went on to play in either the NBA or ABA. The only other Wildcats programs to claim national titles are the women’s cross country squad in 1988 and the co-ed rifle team 23 years later in 2011.
LSU: TRACK AND FIELD
LSU is the lone SEC school to win a national boxing championship (1949) before the sport was banished. It’s one of a litany of titles for the Tigers. All told, LSU is tied with Arkansas for sixth on the list of all-time NCAA national team championships with 43 apiece. And while the LSU baseball team has won the College World Series six times, women’s track and field has left an indelible mark on their sport. The Lady Tigers have won 14 outdoor and 11 indoor national titles. Notable alums include Lolo Jones, who’s won four gold medals and a silver on the Olympic stage and currently holds the United States’ record in the 60-meter hurdles. She also spent time on the USA women’s bobsled team.
MISSISSIPPI STATE: BASEBALL
Mississippi State is still waiting for its first national title in any sport. But Starkville belongs to baseball. Specifically, the Left Field Lounge, which is arguably the best place you’ll find to take in a college baseball game. Bulldog alums and former teammates, Will Clark and Rafael Palmeiro, are credited with putting the sport on the map, as brilliantly laid out in the SEC Storied documentary “Thunder and Lightning.” Mississippi State has won 11 SEC baseball championships, including seven SEC tournaments.
— LetsPlayBall™ (@iLetsPlayBall) May 22, 2016
Technically speaking, Missouri’s team national championship leaders are the school’s baseball program (1954) and men’s indoor track and field squad (1965). But the Tigers are very much a wrestling school — the only one in the SEC, in fact, forcing them to compete out of the Mid-American Conference. Mizzou has crowned six individual national wrestling champions, the most recent coming on the heels of Drake Houdashelt’s 2015 title in the 149-pound weight class. The program is also home to 60 All-Americans.
OLE MISS: FOOTBALL
One of the few SEC schools that can technically claim football as its top sport is Ole Miss. But it comes with a bit of an asterisk as we have to harken the John Vaught era of the 1950s and 60s. The Rebels have never won an Associated Press-recognized championship but claim three national titles in 1959, 1960 and 1962 in various other polls, such as the Football Writers Association of America in 1960. Those Ole Miss squads simply dominated, going 39-3-1 between 1959-62 under Vaught. The next Rebels program to come close to a national championship is the 1995 men’s tennis team, captained by Mahesh Bhupathi. The first Indian-born player to win a grand slam title, Bhupathi earned doubles titles in the French (twice) and U.S. Open, as well as at Wimbledon.
SOUTH CAROLINA: BASEBALL
The sport of equestrian is quickly gaining ground on the NCAA level via its current league, the National Collegiate Equestrian Association, and South Carolina is among those leading the horseback-charge. The Gamecocks have won three national equestrian titles (2005, 2007 and 2015). All told, the 15-team NCEA — with squads ranging from the Big 12 to the Summit League — has always been won by an SEC team dating back to its inception in 2002.
However, South Carolina is a baseball school by virtue of its College World Series championships earned in 2010 and 2011. The Gamecocks returned to the CWS in 2012 but were felled by the University of Arizona. It should come as no surprise that Jackie Bradley Jr. is tearing it up on the MLB level with the Boston Red Sox. The outfielder was part of both Gamecocks squads that won back-to-back titles in Omaha.
TENNESSEE: WOMEN’S BASKETBALL
Pat Summitt is about as Tennessee as you get. The legendary coach won eight NCAA titles and twice as many SEC championships in her 38-year coaching career. She was also the first coach in college basketball history to crest 1,000 career wins (1,098-208, .841 win pct). The Tennessee football team checks in at No. 2 on the school’s all-time list for most national championships with four, the last coming under the watch of quarterback Tee Martin in 1998, the year after Peyton Manning jaunted off to the Indianapolis Colts.
TEXAS A&M: OUTDOOR TRACK AND FIELD
Even if we allot Texas A&M its three claimed national gridiron championships — despite arguments that the program’s 1919 and 1927 titles are nothing more than revisionist math — the Aggies’ football team is still not top collie on campus when it comes to national accolades. That designation belongs to the men’s and women’s outdoor track and field program. Both squads ran away with national titles by three-peating between 2009-2011. The men added their fourth championship in 2013, followed by the Lady Aggies the following outdoor season.
The Vanderbilt women’s tennis team is technically the school’s incumbent national champion after earning a ring in 2015. But the Commodores baseball team has been equal parts, if not more, impressive by winning the College World Series in 2014 only to fall to Virginia in the finals a year later. However, the one title each puts them in the same lane as Vandy’s bowling team, which won it all in 1997. Here the 2012 Vanderbilt bowling team can be seen via Twitter honoring former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow after the ladies beat Arkansas.
— Nicole Chanin (@na_COLE15) January 15, 2012