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The SEC’s Best Football Programs Part 2: Tradition

mrsec stat analysis newIn our ongoing effort to rank the SEC’s football programs from best to worst, we now turn our attention to tradition.  Historical records, championships and accomplishments.  The banners on the wall and the trophies in the case.

For an explanation of our overall project, click right here.  You will find there that our first decision was to look at the SEC’s programs from four different angles: Recruiting Base, Tradition, Campus Life and Recent History.  Each category is divided into sub-categories (there are 20 in all).  The more important a category is to a program’s current success, the more sub-categories within that category.

Recruiting Base was the least important category, so it was made up of just two sub-categories.  You can find those two listings by clicking right here.  Tradition, in our view, is more important to the success of a program.  Those programs that have been good for ages tend to bounce back when they stumble.  Strong programs might wander through the gridiron wilderness for anywhere from five to 20 years — Alabama, Oklahoma, Southern Cal, Tennessee, LSU, and Texas all have — but eventually they rise again.  Part of the reason?  Traditional powers have something to sell to recruits even when they’re struggling in the win column.

Being an important category, there are actually five numbers (or sub-categories) that we include under the Tradition umbrella.

First, we look simply at all-time wins.  Straight and to-the-point, these numbers were taken directly from the 2013 SEC Football Media Guide:


Tradition: All-Time Wins

  ALA   ARK   AUB   UF   UGA   UK   LSU   MSU   MU   UM   USC   UT   A&M   VU
  827   684   714   680   759   580   743   514   631   628   565   799   692   572


When it comes to tradition, Alabama and Tennessee are going to score well time and again.  That is certainly true in terms of all-time victories.  With the Volunteers’ next win, they will join the Crimson Tide in the 800-victory club.  Georgia, LSU and Auburn are the only other SEC schools to have notched 700 wins.

At the other end of the chart, Kentucky, Vanderbilt, South Carolina and Mississippi State are all below the 600-win mark.


Next, we consider all conference championships dating back to 1950.  Forfeited or vacated championships were not counted.  Championships in other leagues like the Southwest Conference, Big 8, Big 12, or ACC were included in this category:


Tradition: Conference Championships (1950-2012)

  ALA   ARK   AUB   UF   UGA   UK   LSU   MSU   MU   UM   USC   UT   A&M   VU
  19   11   7   8   9   1   9   0   2   5   1   9   10   0


Alabama is once again the hands-down leader in this category, boasting 19 Southeastern Conference championships.  Mississippi State and Vanderbilt have yet to win a conference title of any sort.  South Carolina (ACC) and Kentucky each have one crown.

Kentucky and Florida have each been stripped of one conference title due to NCAA and SEC sanctions.


Next, we tally the number of major national championships won by each SEC institution since 1936 (the Associated Press poll has run every season since that year).  We have counted the national titles awarded by the AP Poll, the Coaches’ Poll, and the BCS.  A school was credited for the season, not the total championships.  So even if a school won both the AP and UPI Coaches’ polls, the school would be credited with one national title:


Tradition: National Championships (1936-2012)

  ALA   ARK   AUB   UF   UGA   UK   LSU   MSU   MU   UM   USC   UT   A&M   VU
  10   0   2   3   1   0   3   0   0   0   0   2   1   0


Before you email us, we are very much aware that there have been dozens of other football polls and computer services that have awarded national crowns over the years.  We also know that for many years the final polls were released before the bowl season, which aided some schools and hurt others.  Them’s the breaks.

Once again, we find that Alabama leads the way.  Crimson Tide fans have enjoyed 10 national championship-winning seasons since ’36, with three coming in the last four years.

Seven programs — exactly half of the conference — are able to claim at least one major national crown.  Five schools can claim two or more.


Next on our list is the number of all-time bowl appearances made by each SEC program.  Again, these numbers were taken directly from the 2013 SEC Football Media Guide:


Tradition: All-Time Bowl Appearances

  ALA   ARK   AUB   UF   UGA   UK   LSU   MSU   MU   UM   USC   UT   A&M   VU
  60   39   37   40   48   15   44   16   29   34   18   49   34   6


As you can see, Alabama is far ahead of everyone else in this category, too.  And once again, Tennessee finishes in second place.  Georgia, LSU and Florida are the only other SEC programs with 40 or more bowl trips on their resumes.


Finally, we include college football’s most talked about award, the Heisman Trophy.  A stiff-arming statue or two in a school’s trophy case can serve as quite the conversation-starter with recruits.  The totals:


Tradition: All-Time Heisman Trophy Winners

  ALA   ARK   AUB   UF   UGA   UK   LSU   MSU   MU   UM   USC   UT   A&M   VU
  1   0   3   3   2   0   1   0   0   0   1   0   2   0


Ironically, a school that has been as traditionally dominant as Alabama has had just one player win the Heisman (running back Mark Ingram).  In this category, it’s the Tide’s biggest rival, Auburn, and Florida who lead the way with three past winners apiece.


And with that, seven our sub-categories have been revealed.  We still have 13 more to go, plus an explanation of our scoring system and the final ranking of the league’s best football programs.  Much more on the way.



I enjoy your analyses - keep 'em coming. I do have a question about this one though, mostly on the timings. I understand, but do not necessarily agree with, the starting of counting national championships at 1936. 

But why start conference championships at 1950? It seems like a very arbitrary date. Conference champs are completely unambiguous - seems like you would count all of them at least back to the same year you started the national champ count. Personally, I would start it all the way back to the inception of the Southern conference in 1921, which eventually gave rise to the SEC in 1933.


  1. […] Part 2 of the series — Tradition — can be found here. […]

  2. […] Part 2 of our series — Tradition — can be found here. […]

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