More than two decades ago, the SEC decided to expand to 12 schools and host a conference championship game for the first time in college football history. Many thought that this would jeopardize national title aspirations for the schools involved. The additional game was scheduled at the end of the regular season, pitting the league's two division champions against one other. It was a risk, as the inaugural game in 1992 indicated.
Undefeated Alabama normally would have gone straight to a matchup with Miami in the Sugar Bowl with the national championship on the line, but instead was forced to play Steve Spurrier's Florida squad first for the SEC title. Alabama was on a 21-game winning streak, but the last school to beat the Crimson Tide was Florida, 35-0, just one year earlier. In the fourth quarter of the '92 title game, it looked like Florida would march to victory once again. But then came one play that not only changed the course of the game, but also helped shape the future of college football.
The first SEC Championship Game was ultimately seen as a major success, rather than an ill-conceived experiment.
The Play That Changed College Football includes interviews with former team head coaches Spurrier and Gene Stallings as well as former SEC Commissioner Roy Kramer, ABC broadcaster for the game Keith Jackson, ESPN The Magazine writer Ryan McGee and a recreation of the play at Legion Field with nine former players including Florida quarterback Shane Matthews and Alabama defensive back Antonio Langham.
ESPN Films launched the "Storied" documentary series in September 2011, presenting fans the opportunity to explore the rich athletic history of the Southeastern Conference. From extraordinary athletes and coaches to defining games and moments, the "Storied" series features films from the SEC's recent and more distant past.
McGee on the SEC's decision to host a conference championship: "The goal was to stand out. I think it was separating themselves from the pack. Immediately, the SEC had something nobody else had."
Spurrier: "Divisions and a championship game? I didn't know that was legal."
Matthews on the 1992 teams: "That Alabama defense in 1992 might be the best assembled defense in college football history."
Kramer: "You had a chance to have a team play for the national championship. Now, all of a sudden if they lose this game, they're gonna lose their shot at a national championship. I was concerned we had shot ourselves in the foot."