UT Track and Field History 1889-1971 – Chapter IV: Southern Conference Days

At a meeting held in Atlanta officials of the larger schools in the SIAA decided to group into a separate conference. Tennessee joined 22 other large schools from the South in the new Southern Intercollegiate Conference which began operating on December 7, 1923. (9)

Track at the University of Tennessee, like everything else in the way of athletics, was on the boom. Coach Hobt made a determined effort to master the techniques of track and field. He was so successful that at the beginning of each season he would give a series of lectures to his athletes dealing with the fine points of each event. In 1926 he published an excellent series of track articles in the student newspaper.

1923 Outdoor Track Season

The 1923 team responded to Coach Hobt by defeating Maryville and Kentucky, winning the sprint medley relay at the Georgia Tech Relays, and finishing eighth in the new Southern Conference meet. The only loss came at the hands of arch rival Vanderbilt by 68 to 62. Captain Ben Davis blazed an unheard of 1:59.4 half-mile anchoring the sprint medley relay team at the Georgia Tech relays.

The winner of the first Southern Conference track and field meet was Mississippi
State who ruled the track world in the South during the first quarter of the century.
Point winners for Tennessee in the Southern Conference meet were:

  • Ben Davis, winner of the 880 in the time of 2:01.2.
  • Floyd “Pinkie” Kay, winner of the 220 low hurdles at 25.6 and third in the
    120 yard high hurdles
  • Estes Kefauver, third in the discus with a throw of 119’-3”. Estes Kefauver
    would go on the become a United States Congressman from 1939 to 1949, a
    United States Senator from 1949 to 1963, and a candidate for Vice-President in
    1956. He was known for the coon skin cap he often wore while campaigning.

1924 Outdoor Track Season

The 1924 team started where it left off the year before by beating Maryville, but then losses to Kentucky and Vanderbilt set it back. At the Georgia Tech Relays Captain Kay placed second in the high hurdles and Estes Kefauver won second place in the discus at 127’-3”.

A surprising fifth place finish in the Southern Conference meet was the result of second place finishes by Pinkie Kay in both the high and low hurdles, by J.R Deatherage in the two-mile, and by Estes Kefauver at 131’-8 ½” in the discus.

1925 Outdoor Track Season

The 1925 season was disastrous as Tennessee only beat Maryville, lost to Vanderbilt, and was shut out in Southern Conference scoring.

1926 Outdoor Track Season

The Volunteers of 1926, the last year Coach Hobt was in charge, improved slightly as they beat Maryville again but lost to Kentucky and Vanderbilt. Carmack Wadsworth tied for third in the high jump in the Southern Conference meet. These were Tennessee’s only points and they finished eighteenth.

Arthur Gloster was the Captain of this team, which was commended in the Volunteer for even staying out for track due to unfavorable conditions. A new drainage system was being installed on Shields-Watkins Field causing crowded conditions and all the old stars were gone resulting in a general let down. One bright spot was the emergence of John Barnhill, a consistent point winner who later became an outstanding coach.

1927 Outdoor Track Season

In 1927 Bill Britton came to the “Hill” and took over the track team. Sam Jones was elected Captain of the team. The Orange and White commented about Jones:
The fact that he is a hard worker and one of the cleanest athletes that
ever donned the Orange and White colors could make him an excellent

Under Coach Britton’s direction the Vols beat Kentucky and Maryville, but lost to Sewanee and Vanderbilt despite Bruce Boggan’s 4:44 record breaking mile run.

Tennessee did not enter the Southern Conference Meet in 1927.

1928 Outdoor Track Seasons

R.P. Burke was the Captain of the 1928 team that featured a freshman sprint star named Bob Winfrey. Winfrey as a high school star at Somerville, Tennessee, had won the 100 yard dash in the Stagg Meet in Chicago and had defeated the world’s fastest human, Charley Paddock, in an exhibition in Memphis.

The 1928 trackmen beat Maryville, Sewanee, and Kentucky; lost to Vanderbilt by three points; and won the freshman mile relay in the Georgia Tech Relays. Roy Underwood ran a 9:58 two-mile to place second in the Southeastern Conference meet for the team’s only points.

Another bright spot in the 1928 season was the selection of Dr. Hesler to be head timer at both the Georgia Tech Relays and the Southern Conference Meet.

1929 Outdoor Track Seasons

Captain Ben McGuffee led the 1929 Volunteers over Maryville; Bob Winfrey set school records of 10.0 in the 100 yard dash and 22.3 in the 220 yard dash as Tennessee beat Vanderbilt for the first time ever; and Ivan Andes tied Paul Hug’s record of 52.0 in the 440 yard run as Sewanee edged the Vols 62 to 55.

In the Southern Conference Meet Paul Hug ran a 50.8 in the 440 on a wet track to finish second, Bob Winfrey picked up a fourth in the 100, and Maurice Corbitt placed fifth in the broad jump.

1930 Outdoor Track Season

Tillman Stewart took over as Captain in 1930 as Coach Britton’s trackmen went undefeated in dual meets coming out victorious over Maryville, Sewanee, Kentucky, and Alabama. Against Kentucky Lawrence Dysart set a new half-mile record of 2:00.2. A four-mile relay team took second place in the Georgia Tech Relays.

A sixth place finish in the Southern Conference Meet was accomplished by Tillman Stewart, winner of the two-mile run in 9:56.5; Herman Hickman, second in the shot put; Paul Heydrick, second in the discus; LeClaire Greenblatt, the first Volunteer to high jump six feet, fourth in the high jump; and Maurice Corbitt, fifth in the broad jump.

Commenting on Tillman Stewart, Tom Siler, student Sports Editor for the Orange and White and later for the Knoxville News-Sentinel, says:
Besides leading the team in great style he is a great performer himself.
He holds the school records in the mile, two-mile, and cross country and
in addition has won first in the two-mile and mile in every dual meet that
he has participated in this year. His latest triumph is first place in the
two-mile in the Southern Conference Carnival last week.

1931 Outdoor Track Season

The 1931 track team with Maurice Corbitt the Captain beat Clemson and Sewanee, and lost to Kentucky and Alabama. Against Alabama Ernie Clark ran the 220 in 22.1 and John Crane ran the 880 in 1:59.2 to set school records.

Herman Hickman threw the 16 pound shot put 45’-1¾” for third place in the Southern Conference Meet and John Crane took third place in the 880 to give Tennessee six points.

1932 Outdoor Track Season

Co-captains LeClaire Greenblatt and Ernie Clark led the 1932 squad over Lincoln Memorial and Maryville, but Alabama and Kentucky were too strong to conquer. Chauncey Stout was the only point winner for the Vols in their last Southern Conference meet, winning the mile in the time of 4:28 for a school record breaking Tillman Stewart’s old 4:29.3.

The Chuck Rohe Track Era

In 1962 the University of Tennessee hired a young track coach, Chuck Rohe. The next nine years, along with the Stan Huntsman era to follow, began the most successful era of SEC track & field and cross-country dominance in the school’s history.

Chuck Rohe