Most Influential In SEC

The Birmingham News didn't let the 75th anniversary of the Southeastern Conference go unnoticed. In the first of a series celebrating the anniversary of the SEC, the News assembled a panel to determine the most influential people in the history of the conference. That effort earns an "A" grade, although some of the choices might be questioned.

It was little surprise that the top two selections were men considered at or near the top of their professions. Former Alabama Football Coach Paul Bryant was named most influential, followed by former Kentucky Basketball Coach Adolph Rupp.

While Alabama fans might bristle at the number three selection, former SEC Commissioner Roy Kramer, that is a good pick. He took the SEC to a new level in many areas, particularly financially. And although it probably didn't figure into the equation in his selection, his misdeed in sandbagging SEC member Alabama was also influential.

The list:

1. Alabama Coach Paul Bryant, 2. Kentucky Basketball Coach Adolph Rupp, 3. SEC Commissioner Roy Kramer, 4. Tennessee Football Coach Robert Neyland, 5. South Caroloina Coach Steve Spurrier (but for his play and coaching at Florida),

6. Tennessee Women's Basketball Coach Pat Summitt, 7. Georgia Football Coach and Athletics Director Vince Dooley, 8. LSU basketball player Pete Maravich, 9. Alabama and Vanderbilt Basketballl Coach and Kentucky Athletics Director and Kentucky basketball and baseball player C.M. Newton, 10. SEC Commissioner Roy Kramer,

11. Ole Miss quarterback Archie Manning, 12. Ole Miss Football Coach John Vaught, 13. Georgia footballo player Herschel Walker, 14. Auburn football player Bo Jackson, 15. SEC Commissioner Bernie Moore,

16. Mississippi State Baseball Coach Ron Polk, 17. Tennessee football player Condredge Holloway, 18. LSU basketball player and Athletics Director and basketball television broadcaster Joe Dean Sr., 19. SEC Commissioner Mike Slive, 20. Mississippi State Basketball Coach Babe McCarthy,

21. SEC Commissioner Harvey Schiller, 22. Arkansas Athletics Director Frank Broyles, 23. LSU Baseball Coach and Athletics Director Skip Bertman, 24. Auburn Football Coach Shug Jordan, 25. Florida Athletics Director Jeremy Foley.

The newspaper selected a panel representing each SEC school. Former Alabama Basketball Coach Wimp Sanderson was the Alabama representative. Newton represented Kentucky.

At first blush, Sanderson might appear to be a questionable selection, but he is an astute observer of athletics. A Birmingham News representative said he was an excellent contributor. Broyles was the Arkansas representative and Tom Price, the longtime sports information director at South Carolina, represented the Gamecocks. Neither is likely to have a great grasp of SEC history, but no one can fault the News for the selection of its panel on that basis.

Although a handful of athletes were selected, it is difficult to acknowledge any influence from most of them. An exception is Pete Maravich, the superstar LSU basketball player. It is because of Maravich that SEC schools went on a building boom, erecting large arenas for basketball. (Auburn could have saved a lot of money by not having to downsize if the league could get a Maravich every few years.)

Dooley would probably sneak on to my list because of his participation in breaking the stanglehold of the NCAA on football television revenues for schools, but has ever there been a head football coach who achieved less with his assets?

There is no question that Summit is the best at what she does, but what she does is coach women's basketball, and only a handful of schools have put near the resources into that non-revenue sport as has Tennessee. In fact, women's athletics has almost no influence other than that required by Title IX. As evidence, is there any women's sport at any school that pays its own way?

Personally, I think both Newton and McWhorter should have been ranked much higher. Both had exceptional vision regarding college athletics and were leaders in implementing them.

It should be noted that Newton, Broyles and Joe Dean, Jr., were panelists, but both Newton and Joe Dean, Sr. are rightful members of the Most Influential List. Broyles more appropriately should be on some Southwest Conference list of achievement for his longtime success as a football coach in that league. And that's giving consideration to Broyles as the color commentator with Keith Jackson on ABC broadcasts of college football in the 1970s.

Putting Archie Manning ahead of his coach, John Vaught, is questionable. Vaught was far more influential in football than most give him credit for. But Archie did have two fine football playing sons.

Putting Condredge Holloway, the Tennessee quarterback from Huntsville, on the list was probably the biggest surprise. He was listed because he was black and a quarterback. It is understandable that a black should be on the list as a pioneer, but former Vanderbilt basketball player Perry Wallace, the first black in a major sport in the SEC, would be a better choice than Holloway. So would Wendell Hudson, the first black scholarshipped athlete at Alabama, who was a bona fide star.

In fact, Joe B. Hall, the man who succeeded Rupp as basketball coach at Kentucky, probably should have had some consideration. I don't subscribe to the notion that Rupp was a racist, but Hall is the one who convinced Kentucky basketball fans that a Wildcasts team could be black.

Bernie Moore, the first commissioner of the SEC, certainly belongs. Harvey Schiller had seen the big bucks available in sports from his Olympic days and if his name had been Bob we'd be referring to him as "Bottom Line Bob." Current Commissioner Mike Slive may make my list on the 100th anniversary of the SEC, but he hasn't done it yet.

Shug Jordan? Hey, it's the Birmingham News. If you're going to pick someone from Auburn, Pat Dye was a better coach. My choice would have been David Housel, who was the Auburn representative on the panel. He was highly-regarded as a longtime sports information director and (by everyone except Auburn Football Coach Tommy Tuberville) athletics director at Auburn.

Herschel and Bo were great players, but for star power they don't compare to Joe Namath. And I can't think of any other reason for selecting good players to this list.

It's hard to fathom how much influence baseball coaches Polk and Bertman have had. A friend suggested that they should have tied for 25th along with, say, Jim Wells of Alabama. Polk would get 3/8 vote, Bertman 3/8, and Wells (or whomever) 1/4, symbolic of the NCAA limits on baseball scholarships that require breaking them into fractions.

The one omission that is beyond belief is former Tennessee Athletics Director Bob Woodruff. He was the leader in turning the SEC from a football conference (plus Kentucky in basketball) into an all-sports conference.

And almost no one would have thought of them, but two men who had a huge influence in the SEC are Elmore "Scoop" Hudgins and Doug Layton. Hudgins was the longtime publicist (he'd been some sort of media relations associate director today) of the SEC. He was very innovative, worked with some tough task-masters, and was everything media could ask for. The 800 or so at this week's SEC Media Days in Birmingham have grown from Hudgins' idea of the Sky-Writers, a group of journalists who used to fly to each SEC camp in August training days.

Layton, the former Alabama football color broadcaster and basketball play-by-play announcer, was an innovator in two major areas. He hosted the first coach call-in show, convincing Bryant to answer calls from fans on his "Bear Line" show. And Layton was the first to put together a mid-week network of televised basketball in the SEC.

All-in-all an excellent job by the Birmingham News.


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