The Big Orange – getting strong showings from almost every sport – compiled 64.5 points in the all-sports derby, edging Florida (63.5) for the top spot.
Bruce Pearl's UT basketball team led the way by winning the program's first SEC championship since 2000. Phillip Fulmer's football squad won the Eastern Division title and finished second overall behind LSU. Sam Winterbotham's tennis team tied for second in regular-season action and advanced to the semifinal round of the conference tournament.
With one exception, the rest of UT's varsity sports were not far behind. John Trembley's swim team placed third among SEC programs, as did Bill Webb's indoor and outdoor track teams. George Watts' cross country squad placed fourth and Jim Kelson's golf team placed sixth. Only first-year coach Todd Raleigh's baseball team posted a second-division finish this year, ranking 10th among the 12 league schools.
“The fact that the SEC is so competitive makes this accomplishment that much more impressive,” UT athletics director Mike Hamilton said in a statement released by the sports information department. “It validates all the hard work of our coaches, student-athletes and staff who support their efforts.
“It also is a tribute to our great university and great fans, and to their loyalty and the emphasis they put on success in athletics.”
Following UT and Florida in the men's all-sports competition were Georgia at No. 3 and LSU at No. 4. Auburn finished fifth, followed by Arkansas, Kentucky, Alabama, Ole Miss and Vanderbilt. South Carolina and Mississippi State tied for 11th.
Florida won the women’s all-sports trophy by piling up 159.5 points. The Lady Gators were so dominant that they enabled Florida to capture the combined men's/women's overall title based on rankings provided by the New York Times Regional Newspaper Group.
Georgia (140.0) was second on the women's side and second overall. LSU (136.5) was third in women's sports and fourth overall. Tennessee (128.5 points) placed finished fourth on the women’s side and third overall. The Lady Vols claimed three consecutive SEC All-Sports Trophies (2004, 2005, 2006) before slipping to second place in 2007 and fourth this year.
The Tennessee men, edged 68-64 by Florida in last year's all-sports competition, turned the tables this year. No one was happier about that than the Vols' athletics director.
“The athletics program at Tennessee is in great shape,” Hamilton said. “And our best days are ahead of us.”