The University of Tennessee men's swimming and diving program has a unique path within the Southeastern Conference. Then team was an ever so brief member of the conference at one time, realized the water was way above its head (no pun intended), left the conference to build the program further before challenging the big boys of the SEC, and then came back and not only challenged those elite programs, but became one of them themselves. Not a bad story.
The University of Tennessee men's swimming and diving program initially joined the Southeastern conference back in 1938, where it competed for 4 seasons before dropping out in the early 40's. They then once again aligned with the SEC in 1952. However, that partnership lasted all of one season. Tennessee was badly overmatched in its SEC conference play, ultimately finishing a distant last place in the SEC Championship. The university decided to withdraw from the SEC to, among other reasons, further build then program.
The program rejoined the SEC in 1968, and what a difference 15 or so years makes. The team finished a strong 2nd in 1968, and then in 1969, took the SEC title away from traditional favorite Florida. And that 1869 title was just a taste of things to come, as in 1972, the University of Tennessee men's swimming and diving program kicked off a run of 7 straight SEC Championship wins. What was even more impressive about this feat is that Florida was still very good throughout this stretch, and every year, Tennessee beat the best.
Tennessee has maintained a high level of play since that stretch, winning additional titles in 1989 and 1996, and remaining among the top 3-4 SEC teams most years since.
2009 Tennessee Volunteers Women's Swimming and Diving
The University of Tennessee women's swimming and diving program probably has the distinct honor (depending on how you look at this) of being the single best women's swimming and diving program in the Southeastern Conference to have never won an SEC Championship. Indeed, while the team has gotten close, and has been very competitive for most of its SEC history, it never has yet gotten over the hump and won an SEC Championship.
The Lady Vols swimming and diving squad was a member of the inaugural season of SEC play back in 1981. It was a season that was worth forgetting if you were a UT fan, as the team finished in last place. However, the team quickly shook that finish off and began its march up the standings in subsequent years. Through the early and mid-1980's, the teams finished towards the middle of the SEC pack. And then finally, in the late 1980's, this team really hit its stride. In 1988, the team finished 2nd to Florida, a team which was in the midst of a dynastic run no other team has duplicated in SEC women's swimming and diving. And in 1989 and 1990, that finish was duplicated.
Since then, the Tennessee women's swimming and diving program has remained consistently good although rarely great, with a couple of 3rd place finishes and a number of 4th place finishes to its credit in the SEC Championships. This program is, however, well run, and should be considered a contender to be the next Auburn, once the cyclical wheel that is the SEC spins once again.
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