Feb. 25 is perhaps the most important date in the history of the Southern Conference. On that particular Friday in 1921, the first day of the league’s groundbreaking basketball tournament, representatives from 14 of the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association’s 30 members gathered in Atlanta, Georgia, to establish the Southern Intercollegiate College. A hundred years later and now known as simply the Southern Conference, the league celebrates a century of athletic and academic excellence in 2021.
“One hundred years. That’s a long time since the Southern Conference was founded,” said Jim Schaus, the ninth commissioner in the league’s illustrious history. “It has been a century of excellence. As we officially celebrate our Founders’ Day on Feb. 25, 1921, we reflect on the incredible teams, student-athlete accomplishments, academic achievements and historic moments that have made the Southern Conference one of the nation’s finest conferences. We look forward to what is in store for our second century.”
The nation’s fifth-oldest NCAA Division I athletic association, the SoCon has been a pioneer. In addition to contesting the first-ever collegiate conference basketball tournament in 1921, the league tackled freshman eligibility in 1922, became the first conference to adopt the 3-point field goal in basketball in 1980 and developed women’s championships in 1984.
Forty-four schools have called the Southern Conference their full-time home since 1921, including the schools that exited to form the Southeastern Conference in 1932 and the Atlantic Coast Conference in 1953. In all, 21 schools that are now members of “Power 5” conferences were once members of the SoCon.
The conference currently consists of 10 members in six states throughout the Southeast and sponsors 22 varsity sports and championships that produce participants for NCAA Division I Championships. The league prides itself on the diversity of its institutions, as four are private and six are state schools, two of which are military colleges.
SoCon teams have won eight Football Championship Subdivision titles, second-most in NCAA history. Furman men’s basketball player Frank Selvy scored 100 points in a game in 1954, a mark that still stands as the Division I record for single-game points. In 1990, The Citadel became the first military school to reach the College World Series.