By Cole Frederick/Sports Correspondent
For years, teams from the Southeastern Conference have excelled in virtually every NCAA sport. While success in college football is typically the most recognizable because of its prominence throughout the country, the SEC has also competed for championships annually in various sports for both men and women.
For 2018-19, however, the SEC’s dominance diminished. The league only won five national championships across all sports. Meanwhile, Stanford won six national titles just this year. In fact, of the 10 best athletic programs in the country for 2018-19, only one was from the SEC (Florida).
Vanderbilt baseball just completed the best season in school history en route to its second national championship, and the Commodores’ run through the postseason was the highlight of the 2018-19 academic year for the SEC. The Arkansas women’s track teams swept both the indoor and outdoor national titles, while the Florida men’s team won the indoor track championship. In April, Auburn won its sixth equestrian national championship in school history.
While that was the only national title this year for the Tigers, they enjoyed unprecedented success in men’s basketball. Auburn made the Final Four for the first time in school history and just barely missed out on a chance to play for a national title. The Tigers also won the SEC Tournament.
In baseball, Auburn made the College World Series for the first time in over two decades despite playing on the road in the regionals and super regionals. Outside of those sports, though, it was not a great year overall for Auburn athletics.
Alabama was dominant in football for almost the entirety of 2018, but the season ended with a thud as Clemson walloped the Crimson Tide in the national title game. Aside from football, the closest Alabama came to a national championship was in softball, where the UA lost to eventual runner-up Oklahoma in the College World Series.
Florida had the best year overall of any SEC school, and it translated to one na-tional championship in track. The Gators won the SEC Tournament title in both softball and swimming and diving. Dan Mullen led the football program to a 10-win season in his first year, while Mike White gui-ded the basketball team to a trip to a Round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament.
In addition to Arkansas’ championships in track and field, the Razorbacks won SEC titles in women’s cross country and men’s golf. Ole Miss won the conference title in women’s golf and
men’s cross country.
The second-best program overall in the SEC this past year was Texas A&M. The Aggies won the SEC title in swimming and diving and were also one of the top teams in men’s golf. However, the Aggies have not brought many national titles to the table since joining the SEC.
LSU had a very successful year overall, which in-cluded conference titles in outdoor track and field, women’s soccer and gymnastics. The Tigers were runner-up to Oklahoma in gymnastics. Mississippi State took home league titles in women’s basketball and men’s tennis and South Carolina won the conference title in women’s tennis. Kentucky won its only conference championship in volleyball, though the Wildcats had very successful seasons in men’s basketball and football.
It was a down year for the league overall, and the SEC’s trajectory is not overwhelming positive moving forward. That can certainly change in the near future, but the ACC was much be-tter overall and has been over the past few years. Of course, football will always be of the utmost importance to most SEC schools and fans, but the ACC even bested the SEC in that sport this past season.
Clemson football and Virginia basketball won the two most high-profile sports, and the ACC has emerged as a legitimate threat to the SEC as the best conference in college athletics.