The Fall of Sewanee from “Big-Time” College Football

Jim Watkins – Mississippi State University


This article examines the role of presidential leadership in the decision of Alexander Guerry to remove the University of the South, better known as Sewanee, from the Southeastern Conference (SEC) in 1940. Only three institutions have ever left the SEC (Walsh, 2006), and Sewanee is the only former member that no longer competes in Division I (NCAA, n.d.). Historical sources for the paper include Sewanee’s university archives, as well as archival documents from other SEC institutions. The article argues that Sewanee’s chancellor, Alexander Guerry, ceased offering athletic scholarships and withdrew from the SEC because he believed subsidizing the athletic department with university resources to compete in “big-time” college football was incompatible Sewanee’s liberal arts mission.