- This page is about the defunct Southwest Conference (SWC). For the unrelated and currently active conference abbreviated as the SWAC, see Southwestern Athletic Conference. For the Ohio High School Conference abbreviated as the SWC, see Southwestern Conference (Ohio)
|Members||8 (final), 13 (total)|
|Region||South Central United States|
The Southwest Conference (SWC) was a college athletic conference in the United States from 1914 to 1996. It consisted of schools mostly in the state of Texas and one in Arkansas, with historical members in Oklahoma.
The charter members of the conference were Baylor University, Oklahoma A&M University (now Oklahoma State University), Rice University, Southwestern University (in Georgetown, Texas), Texas A&M University, the University of Arkansas, the University of Oklahoma, and the University of Texas.
The first organizational meeting of the conference was held in May 1914 at the Oriental Hotel in Dallas, Texas. It was chaired by L. Theo Bellmont, who originated the idea for the athletic conference and was at the time athletic director at the University of Texas. Originally, Bellmont wanted Louisiana State University and the University of Mississippi to join the conference as well, but they declined to do so. The Southwest Conference became an official body on December 8, 1914, at a formal meeting at the Rice Hotel in Houston.
Its early years saw fluctuation in membership; Southwestern (a comparatively smaller school) dropped out of the conference in 1916, and Southern Methodist University joined in 1918; Texas Christian University became a member in 1923. Rice University left the conference in 1916, only to re-join in 1918.
Phillips University (Enid, Oklahoma) was a conference member for one year (1920). Oklahoma left in 1919 to join the Missouri Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Association (later known as the Big Eight Conference), and was followed by Oklahoma A&M in 1925. However, the intense series between Texas and Oklahoma would continue in the annual Red River Rivalry game held in Dallas. From 1925 until 1991, the University of Arkansas would be the only conference member not located within the state of Texas.
After its organizational years, the conference settled into regularly scheduled meetings among its members, and began to gain stature nationwide. The SWC would be guided by seven commissioners, the first of whom, P. W. St. Clair, was appointed in 1938. In 1940, the conference took control of the then five-year-old Cotton Bowl Classic, which further established the prestige of both the bowl and the conference. Texas Technological College (now Texas Tech University) joined the SWC in 1958, followed by the University of Houston for the 1976 season (Houston won the SWC football championship in its first season in the league).
The conference celebrated its glory football years in the 1960s. Texas won the 1963 National Championship, and Arkansas won a National Championship in 1964 in the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and Helms Athletic Foundation (HAF) polls. In 1969, Texas won another National Championship by beating #2-ranked Arkansas 15-14 in the regular season's final game (dubbed the "Big Shootout"). The 1969 Arkansas-Texas game in Fayetteville, Arkansas, attended by President Richard Nixon, is usually counted among the greatest college football games ever played. Texas also won the 1970 United Press International (UPI) National Championship (i.e., the coaches' poll), which until 1974 was awarded prior to the bowl games. Texas lost the Cotton Bowl Classic following the 1970 season to Notre Dame by a score of 24-11, giving the Associated Press (AP) Championship to Nebraska after they beat LSU by a score of 17-12 in the Orange Bowl.
Beginning in the late 1930s and lasting until 1995, the Southwest Conference Champion automatically received an invitation as the "host" team in the Cotton Bowl Classic game on New Year's Day in Dallas, Texas. Opponents usually were the runners-up from the Big 8 Conference or the Southeastern Conference, although independents Penn State and Notre Dame were also often featured. From the 1940s onward, the Cotton Bowl Classic was counted among the four major bowl games, and often had national championship implications. However, in the 1990s, the game declined in importance, largely because of the decline of SWC prominence. In 1978, Notre Dame became the last team to win a national championship in the Cotton Bowl Classic.
The SWC had many legendary players and coaches over the years. In football, Dana X. Bible, Paul "Bear" Bryant, Darrell Royal, Frank Broyles, Hayden Fry, Lou Holtz, Bill Yeoman, Gene Stallings, and Grant Teaff all served as head coaches in the conference. Some notable SWC players included Davey O'Brien, Sammy Baugh, Bobby Layne, Doak Walker, Tom Landry, Don Meredith, Earl Campbell, Andre Ware, Mike Singletary, John David Crow, Lance Alworth, and Eric Dickerson. The trio of kicking contemporaries Steve Little of Arkansas, Tony Franklin of Texas A&M, and Russell Erxleben of Texas all kicked record setting field goals of 60 + yards in the same season.
The early 1980s were the glory years of SWC basketball, especially the Phi Slama Jama teams at the University of Houston. However, the most consistent program during the last quarter of the 20th century was the University of Arkansas with Sweet 16 appearances in 1978, 1979, 1981, 1983, 1990, 1991, Elite 8 appearances in 1978, 1979, 1990 and 1991 and Final Four appearances in 1978 and 1990. Arkansas's famed Triplets, Marvin Delph, Ron Brewer and Sidney Moncrief, gave the rest of the league fits. Furthermore, the Razorbacks' Lee Mayberry, Todd Day and Oliver Miller won three straight SWC regular season and tournament titles from 1989–1991, the school's last three seasons in the conference. The passion of Arkansas fans for their Razorbacks often overran the confines of SWC basketball venues, so much so, that Reunion Arena in Dallas (annual site of the SWC postseason tournament) was deemed "Barnhill South" (after the Razorbacks' on-campus arena) based on the numbers and intensity of Hog fans present.
Outstanding basketball coaches included Nolan Richardson, Tom Penders, Eddie Sutton, Abe Lemons, Guy V. Lewis, Shelby Metcalf and Gerald Myers. Great SWC hoops players included the aforementioned Triplets, Akeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler, Vinnie Johnson, Jon Koncak, Alvin Robertson, Ricky Pierce, Day, Mayberry, Miller and U.S. Reed, among others.
The Texas Longhorns were the class of SWC baseball, who under legendary coach Cliff Gustafson won national titles in 1975 and 1983, as well as titles under Bibb Falk in 1949 and 1950. Texas added titles in 2002 and 2005 under coach Augie Garrido, whose arrival in Austin coincided with the Longhorns' move to the Big 12. The Arkansas Razorbacks also fielded fine teams that advanced to the College World Series. The Hogs finished 2nd in 1979, 3rd in 1985 and 5th in both the 1987 and 1989 seasons. The Hogs have continued this tradition since moving to the SEC, reaching the CWS three times under Arkansas alum Dave Van Horn. Texas A&M rose to power in the late 1980s, going 58-5 in 1989 before losing twice in the regional championship round on its home field to LSU. The Aggies reached the College World Series in 1993. Rice began its ascent to college baseball's elite in the conference's final years under coach Wayne Graham, reaching the CWS in 1997, the year after the conference disbanded.
The Arkansas Razorbacks were dominant in track and field winning 15 SWC cross country team titles, 11 SWC indoor track team titles, 9 SWC outdoor track team titles and an incredible 8 SWC triple crowns (cross country, indoor track and outdoor track champions all in the same season. During their SWC days, the Razorbacks won 14 NCAA national team championships and one NCAA team triple crown. The list of Arkansas individual SWC champions and individual NCAA champions is long. Standout coaches and athletes include the legendary John McDonnell of Arkansas, the winningest coach in NCAA history regardless of sport. Baylor's Michael Johnson, Texas A&M's Randy Matson, Houston's Carl Lewis and Arkansas' Mike Conley all went on to win Olympic gold medals.
The 1980s saw many of the conference's athletic programs hit by recruiting scandals and NCAA probations. The only programs to escape probation in the 1980s were Arkansas, Baylor, and Rice. Because of repeated major violations, the Southern Methodist University football program in 1987 became only the third program in NCAA history to receive the so-called "Death Penalty" (after Kentucky basketball in 1952-53 and Southwestern Louisiana basketball from 1973 to 1975). The NCAA canceled SMU's 1987 season, and limited it to seven road games for 1988. However, nearly all of the school's lettermen transferred elsewhere, forcing SMU to keep its football program shuttered for 1988 as well. SMU also remained on probation until 1990. At that time, NCAA rules prohibited schools on probation from appearing on live television. As a result, the conference's market share in television coverage dwindled.
The SWC's performance in football declined precipitously. The final eight SWC champions lost in their bowl games. After SMU's second-place finish in most polls in 1982, SWC programs usually were not serious contenders for the national title. Texas had strong teams in 1983 and 1990, Arkansas had a strong team in 1988, and Texas A&M was strong in 1992, but by the end of their respective seasons none were able to remain in the national championship hunt or the weekly football polls.
In 1990, Arkansas announced it would leave for the Southeastern Conference, marking the beginning of the end for the conference. In March 1994, Texas, Texas A&M, Baylor, and Texas Tech accepted invitations to join with the members of the Big Eight Conference to form the Big 12 Conference. Soon afterward, SMU, TCU, and Rice accepted invitations to join the Western Athletic Conference, while Houston joined Conference USA. In May 1996, after the completion of championship matches in baseball and track & field, the Southwest Conference was officially dissolved.
Over the course of its 82-year history, teams of the Southwest Conference garnered 64 recognized national championships in collegiate sports.
In 1997, the official records of the conference from 1914 to 1996 were moved from Dallas to the campus of Texas Tech University, becoming part of the Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library. The archive also contains an extensive assortment of images and memorabilia from each member university.
- Arkansas (1915–1991)
- Baylor (1915–1996)
- Houston (1971–1996)
- Oklahoma (1915–1919)
- Oklahoma A&M (1915–1925)
- Phillips (1920)
- Rice (1915–1917 provisional, 1918–1996)
- Southern Methodist (1918–1996)
- Southwestern (1915–1916)
- Texas (1915–1996)
- Texas A&M (1915–1996)
- TCU (1923–1996)
- Texas Tech (1956–1996)
Subsequent conference affiliationsEdit
|Team||Left for||Current home|
|Baylor||Big 12 Conference|
|Oklahoma||Missouri Valley Conference||Big 12 Conference1|
|Oklahoma A&M (now Oklahoma State)|
|Phillips||Sooner Athletic Conference||University closed in 1998|
|Rice||Western Athletic Conference||Conference USA4|
|Southwestern||Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference|
|Texas||Big 12 Conference|
|Texas A&M||Big 12 Conference||Southeastern Conference2|
|TCU||Western Athletic Conference||Big 12 Conference3|
|Texas Tech||Big 12 Conference|
- ^ Oklahoma and Oklahoma A&M (Oklahoma State) left for the Missouri Valley. Oklahoma then joined the Big 6 which became the Big 7 when Colorado joined in 1947. The conference became the Big 8 with Oklahoma A&M's arrival. They then joined the Big 12 when Baylor, Texas, Texas A&M, and Texas Tech joined with the other former Big Eight Conference members.
- ^ Texas A&M joined the Southeastern Conference effective July 1, 2012. The 2012 football season will mark its first competition in Southeastern Conference play.
- ^ TCU went to the WAC, later joined C-USA, then joined the Mountain West Conference (MWC). In December 2010, TCU announced it would join the Big East Conference on July 1, 2012. Then in October 2011, TCU instead accepted an invitation to the Big 12 Conference.
- ^ Houston and SMU will join the Big East Conference in July 2013.
- P. W. St. Clair (1938–1945)
- James H. Stewart (1945–1950)
- Howard Grubbs (1950–1973)
- Cliff Speegle (1973–1982)
- Fred Jacoby (1982–1993)
- Steven J. Hatchell (1993–1995)
- Kyle Kallander (1995–1996)
- Tips, Kern (1964). Football, Texas Style: An Illustrated History of the Southwest Conference. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday & Co.
- Pennington, Richard (1987). Breaking the Ice: The Racial Integration of Southwest Conference Football. Jefferson, N.C.: MacFarland & Co. ISBN 0-89950-295-4.
- The Southwest Conference: Memorabilia, audio files, links
- A Look Back at the Southwest Conference
- Southwest Conference Records, 1914-1996 and undated, at the Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library
- Southwest Conference football helmets
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