This section is limited to a year by year description of major events that took place in connection with men’s outdoor track and field at Tennessee. It is not the intention to include indoor track and cross country; to examine too closely the intolerable conditions under which the athletes performed at times; to study individual great athletes or coaches; to explain the reasons for improved performances over the years; to spend too much time on any short period of time by explaining all the events; or to examine methods of training.
There has been no previous attempt to assemble an account of outdoor track and field at the University of Tennessee. Thus, it is the purpose of this paper to describe the origin and development of outdoor track and field athletics at Tennessee; to chart its progress from year to year; to describe the deeds of individuals who were active participants in the track and field program; and to relate through emphasis on school records the evolvement of performances.
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.
In 1932 it became apparent that the Southern Conference was too large and unwieldy for good competition. A division along geographical lines was agreed on by representatives, and the Southeastern Conference (SEC) was formed consisting of Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Kentucky, Louisiana State, Mississippi, Mississippi State, Sewanee, Tennessee, Tulane, and Vanderbilt.
Chuck Rohe and Ray Mears exceeded all expectations. Their dedication, enthusiasm, and leadership turned the tide and led directly to the success of Tennessee’s initiative to excel in all sports. It was the beginning of a new era for sports other than football at the University of Tennessee.
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.
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