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Just how good is the SEC exactly?

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The S-E-C cheer: conference members love it, pretty much the rest of the rest of the nation hates it. But is that hatred justified? Are we really THAT good?

Aaron M. Sprecher/Getty Images

Living in Big We-Call-It-Ten-But-That's-Because-We-Can't-Count Country, I'm fairly used to hearing my beloved SEC getting dragged through the dirt. We're cheaters. (Odd, as the last big football scandal involving players was Ohio State.) We bring in players who can't read. (Pretty sure they're thinking of North Carolina there.) Our stadiums are too big. (What does that even mean?) Blah blah would you like some cheese with your whine blah.

So when I started a new job in January, surrounded by proud Wisconsin and Minnesota grads, I braced myself for yet another round of sneering jibes by people who truly cannot conceive of why being in the SEC is so darned fun.

To my surprise, I didn't get this treatment. Not even after that awful night this past April. The only thing I've ever really heard that seemed at all mean-spirited or even mildly spurned by jealousy was "Why do you all yell SEC so much? It's not like your school won all those titles." I'm not even going to try and answer that question. But it did made me wonder: I hear a lot about how good we are. But just how good are we, really?

Fueled by curiosity, I turned to that beloved friend who seems to know everything, the Interwebz. I reviewed the NCAA site, and championship sites, and even individual school athletic department sites. My notes included things like: how many sports does the SEC compete in? Which schools participate in which sport? Are there any unique elements within the SEC, like water polo or fencing? How do we compare to the rest of the country?

My Google-Foo skills discovered that we have a far more diversified sports base than I think we get credit for. Everyone knows we play football. We get a lot of credit for having true cream of the crop programs in both men's and women's basketball. Our gymnastics programs are pretty impressive but beyond that, what do we stand for?

  • We're really good at track and field. Like, REALLY GOOD. Cross Country, Indoor, Outdoor, you name it, we're good at it. The SEC has won a combined fifty team national championships in the last 20 years. Arkansas has definitely set the standard here, but other programs, like A&M and LSU, have more than a few titles to their names. Hopefully under the strong leadership of Edrick Floreal, Kentucky will be able to join our sister schools in bringing home some hardware very soon.
  • We're quite good at swimming and diving. Did you know the SEC has won 20 national titles in swimming and diving since 1995? Mostly because Auburn freaking OWNS the sport, but Georgia and Florida have titles as well.
    • Random factoid: No Mississippi schools compete in swimming and diving. I guess a.) cowbells echoed too much inside the pool, and b.) none of the Manning kids were interested.
  • In the world of golf, the SEC is truly feared. A combined 9 national titles in 20 years, to include most recently LSU, will do that.
  • Not all schools compete in all sports, but the selective holdouts surprised me. I understand why Vandy plays in less - their small student base makes balancing men's vs. women's sports tricky, but Tennessee, South Carolina and A&M not hosting women's gymnastics was a revelation. Mizzou has no men's tennis but I'm guessing that is to balance out their solo representation in men's wrestling.
  • It never fails to amaze me that Kentucky, home of the best known horserace on the freaking PLANET, doesn't have an equestrian team but somehow Auburn, A&M, South Carolina and Georgia do.
  • Every school but Vandy has women's volleyball. LSU, South Carolina and Mississippi State go one step further with sand volleyball. Who knew?
  • Alabama and Tennessee have rowing teams. Florida and Vandy have lacrosse teams. Kentucky and Ole Miss have rifle teams. And Vandy is the lone bowling team. Diversity is fun.

After reviewing all our various sports and national titles, I decided to check into the Power 5 Conferences to see how we compared. This gets tricky, as every conference has some unique sports. SEC has equestrian, PAC 12 has fencing, water polo, men's volleyball, gymnastics and skiing, Big "Math Is Hard" has hockey, and the ACC had lacrosse but now that Denver won the title I guess it's not so unique anymore. SO, in the interest of keeping things somewhat apples to apples, I dropped any counts across the board for relatively one-off sports. Hence, titles in equestrian, rowing, rifle, bowling, fencing, men's gymnastics, men's volleyball, water polo, skiing, ice and field hockey were not included. (I left in wrestling, but mostly because I felt sorry for the Big Ten.)

The title count since 1995 stands as follows:

SEC: 133

PAC 12: 118

Big Ten: 48 (note: without wrestling this number drops to 28, but if you include hockey it jumps up to 64.)

Big XII: 39

ACC: 36

The TL;DR version: YES, WE ARE THAT DARNED GOOD. And hopefully the Vandy baseball team makes us one better this week!