The Southeastern Conference (SEC) is an American college athletic conference whose member institutions are located primarily in the South Central and Southeastern United States. Its fourteen members include the flagship public universities of ten states, three additional public land grant universities, and one private research university. The conference is headquartered in Birmingham, Alabama. The SEC participates in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I in sports competitions; for football, it is part of the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), formerly known as Division I-A.|
The SEC was also the first NCAA Division I conference to hold a championship game (and award a subsequent title) for college football and was one of the founding members of the Bowl Championship Series (BCS). The current SEC commissioner is Greg Sankey. The conference sponsors team championships in nine men's sports and twelve women's sports.
The SEC was established on December 8 and 9, 1932, when the thirteen members of the Southern Conference located west and south of the Appalachian Mountains left to form their own conference. Ten of the thirteen founding members have remained in the conference since its inception: the University of Alabama, Auburn University, the University of Florida, the University of Georgia, the University of Kentucky, Louisiana State University ("LSU"), the University of Mississippi ("Ole Miss"), Mississippi State University, the University of Tennessee, and Vanderbilt University.
At the same time, the SEC organized competition for some sports into two divisions. The Western Division comprised six of the seven member schools in the Central Time Zone, while the Eastern Division comprised the five member schools in the Eastern Time Zone plus Vanderbilt, which is in the Central Time Zone but was placed in the Eastern Division to preserve its rivalry with Tennessee. Initially, the divisional format was used in football, baseball, and men's basketball. The divisional format was dropped for men's basketball following the 2011–2012 season.
The SEC Symposium component of SECU was crafted by Vanderbilt University Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos, who at the time was the Vice President of the SEC Executive Committee and liaison to SECU. In an interview with Dr. Zeppos about the formation of the SECU he noted, "that the member institutions of the Southeastern Conference are committed to a shared mission of fostering research, scholarship, and achievement. The SEC Symposium represents a platform to connect, collaborate and promote a productive dialogue that will span disciplinary and institutional boundaries and allow us to work together for the betterment of society.
The SEC Cooperative Education Abroad Agreement provides opportunities for students from all SEC universities to access international programs offered at other SEC universities. As part of a renewable agreement, Italian engineering students from the Politecnico di Torino (PdT) have the opportunity to enroll at SEC universities each fall, and engineering SEC students may study there the following spring.
Before expansion to 14 teams, the conference schedule was 16 games. Although the divisions were eliminated beginning with the 2011–12 season, that season's schedule was still set according to the divisional alignments, with each team facing each team from its own division twice and each team from the opposite division once. As part of the proposal by SEC head coaches that led to the scrapping of the divisional structure, a task force of four coaches and four athletic directors was set to discuss future conference scheduling. At that time, options included a revamped 16-game schedule, an 18-game schedule, or a full double round-robin of 22 conference games. However, these discussions came before Texas A&M and Missouri were announced in late 2011 as incoming members for the 2012–13 season, which required a format that could support 14 teams rather than twelve.
Prior to moving to the Georgia Dome, the tournament (during its modern, post-1979 era) was most often contested at the venue now known as Legacy Arena in Birmingham, Alabama, home of the SEC's headquarters and centrally located prior to the addition of Arkansas and South Carolina. Other sites to host include on-campus arenas at LSU, Tennessee and Vanderbilt; Rupp Arena in Lexington; and the Orlando Arena.
Since 1990, the SEC has become the most successful conference on the college baseball diamond. That year, Georgia captured the conference's first national championship at the College World Series. Following that, LSU won six of the next 19 titles, including five of ten between 1991 and 2000 and its sixth title in 2009. This was followed by South Carolina winning back-to-back titles in 2010 and 2011, Vanderbilt winning its first title in 2014, Florida winning its first title in 2017, and Vanderbilt winning again in 2019. During that same span, nine teams have also been runners-up at the CWS. The CWS final series has featured two SEC teams in 1997, 2011, and 2017. The only current SEC member that has never appeared in the CWS is Kentucky. Among other current SEC members, only Missouri has not appeared in the CWS while a member of the SEC (and has yet to make the NCAA tournament as an SEC member), although it made six CWS appearances in the 1950s and 1960s while in the Big Eight Conference. Both Georgia Tech and Tulane have made appearances in the CWS after leaving the SEC.
The league voted to keep a 16-game league schedule even after the addition of Missouri and Texas A&M. Arkansas and LSU are no longer permanent opponents, with the Razorbacks picking up Missouri and the Lady Tigers picking up Texas A&M. The other permanent opponents are the same as men's basketball, except for Florida-Georgia and Kentucky-South Carolina (both pairs had been permanent women's basketball opponents before the 2012 expansion). Each school plays two others home-and-home during a given season and the other ten once each. The divisional alignments no longer play any role in scheduling.
In August 2008, the SEC announced an unprecedented 15-year television contract with CBS worth an estimated $55 million a year. This continues the relationship the SEC already has with CBS, which puts the SEC in the unique position as the only conference to have its own exclusive national television network of the four major over-the-air broadcast networks (CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox) to display the SEC's events.