Feb. 8, 2012
Tennessee is hosting the SEC Swimming and Diving Championships for the eighth time in program history beginning Feb. 15 at Allan Jones Intercollegiate Aquatic Center. In the seven days leading up to the meet, here is a summary of the previous championships in Knoxville, starting with 1968.
BY AMANDA PRUITT
In 1968, swimming and diving at Tennessee was back.
After a 15-year absence from Southeastern Conference and most intercollegiate competition, Tennessee began rebuilding its program in earnest in preparation for the 1968 spring. The school hired Ray Bussard in 1966 and started construction of a new state-of-the-art facility: the Student Aquatic Center.
As the last publically funded athletics facility on campus, new Student Aquatic Center was completed in time for the season. The Vols made full use of the new indoor and outdoor pools right away, competing in the indoor 25-yard pool and diving well.
Tennessee's inaugural home meet was against Sewanee on Jan. 6, 1968. The Vols earned an 88-25 victory and were off to the races from there, winning 9 of 10 meets in the first year back on the conference stage.
UT hosted six meets at the Student Aquatic Center, but none more important than the final event on the calendar, the SEC Swimming and Diving Championships.
Florida had won 12 consecutive SEC titles heading into the conference meet in Knoxville. The Gators opened with a 73-point lead after the first day with victories by Bruce Williams in the 500-yard freestyle and Mark McKee in the 200 IM in addition to a first-place finish by the 800 freestyle relay team.
Diver Bill Ferry provided Tennessee's first victory in its return to SEC Championship competition. On the first day of the meet, he won the 1-meter springboard with a two-round score 437.25.
The Gators continued to pull away from the competition and captured their 13th consecutive title. Florida finished with 578.5 points and Tennessee was an impressive second with 383.5 points. Alabama was third with 352.
All told, 11 SEC records were set or tied during the meet, one by a Vol. Steve Gilliam tied the record in the 100 backstroke with a time of 55.4 seconds.
Bussard had never coached collegiate swimming until arriving at Tennessee, but it wasn't long until the Vols were the best on a national scale. The Vols won their first SEC title the very next year when the tournament was held in Nashville.
1968 SEC Championships: Final Standings
1. Florida 578.5
2. Tennessee 383.5
3. Alabama 352
4. Georgia 278
5. Vanderbilt 130
6. Kentucky 90