As I alluded to in today's TDF, it's not hyperbole to say that we're currently living in one of the golden ages of the SEC - and perhaps the greatest golden age of them all - which is saying quite a bit when you consider the storied history and rich traditions of this league.
One shining monument to this fact is that the SEC currently holds the national championship trophies for the three primary collegiate sports: football (Alabama), basketball (Kentucky) and baseball (South Carolina) - call it a trifecta of excellence. As USC fans, we can be proud that our Gamecocks have played their part for the greater glory of the SEC.
Does this count as a true "triple crown" or "grand slam," however? The answer, unfortunately, is no. Kentucky's championship belongs to 2012, while Bama's and USC's championships go into the record books for their 2011 football and baseball seasons, respectively. Sure, the Tide and Cocks are defending title-holders and there is ample reason to be proud that we hold the three crowns for the time-being. However, the 2012 football season starts in August, and the 2012 baseball campaign is ongoing. Thus, the SEC will have to produce another CWS winner in June, not to mention another BCS Champion next January, for there to be a true Triple Crown.
This begs the question of whether there has ever been a "true" triple crown/grand slam before - i.e., where one conference was the home of the reigning football, basketball and baseball national champions in the same season.
Since football overlaps basketball, and basketball overlaps baseball, I decided to use Wikipedia for the source, and to count the football champion for the fall in which the regular season was played (even if the champion is crowned the following January) and the basketball champion for the winter/spring (even if the season starts the preceding November). Fair enough?
Using this criteria, the answer is yes - the NCAA Triple Crown has happened twice before.
The first was the old Pac-8 in 1972 when Southern Cal won both the football and baseball crowns, while John Wooden's UCLA Bruins were basketball champions.
The second was the SEC in 1996, when Florida was football champion, Kentucky was the basketball champ, and LSU won the College World Series. (The Tennessee Lady Vols basketball team also won the NCAA Women's Tournament that season - making it a Quadruple Crown).
With UK's hoops championship in our back pocket, can the SEC pull of the third NCAA grand slam in 2012? Not to jinx it, but the odds look good. First comes the CWS - where the Florida Gators are already the consensus favorite to win it all in Omaha, and no one would be the least bit surprised if USC, UK, LSU, or Arkansas made the trip to T.D. Ameritrade Park either.
Turning to football, some analysts already have five SEC 2012 football squads in their preseason top 10 or top 11 - Alabama, LSU, Georgia, South Carolina and Arkansas. Barring an epic melt-down, or a surprise newcomer on the order of Cam Newton, it is likely one of those five will win the SEC next season and play for the right to be the league's sixth national champion in the past six years,
Update # 1: Over at Team Speed Kills, cocknfire makes a good point: "[W]e recognize that the only team that those trophies say anything about are the ones who won them. But it's still pretty impressive for any conference to have its teams holding three separate championships at the same time. And there's nothing wrong with our taking a little pride in that." It nevertheless bears repeating that John Pennington of MrSEC.com has also made an excellent point - of the 21 combined titles awarded since 2006 in football, basketball and baseball, the SEC has garnered twelve of them, and no other conference has won more than two. If that's not "sports dominance" then nothing is.
Check out the 2nd Update (Academic Year Triple Crown v. Calendar Year Triple Crown) after The Jump.
Notes: The CWS was not instituted until 1947 so I have not looked back earlier than that year. With respect to the confusion in the football world, I only counted pre-BCS gridiron squads that were champions in either of the two main polls - AP (writers) or UPI (i.e., the old coaches poll which is now the USA Today/ESPN poll).
In 1967, Southern Cal (football), UCLA (basketball) and Arizona State (baseball) were champions - but ASU would not become a member of the Pac-10 until 1978.
Likewise, the Miami Hurricanes won both the football and baseball crowns in 2001 - the same season Duke was the hoops national champion - but the "U" would not be a member of the ACC until 2004.
If you're curious, the SEC has held two of the three major championships nine times since the institution of the CWS in '47:
1951 Tennessee (AP Football) and Kentucky (Basketball)
1958 LSU (AP, UPI Football) and Kentucky (Basketball)
1970 Alabama (AP Football) and Kentucky (Basketball)
1998 Tennessee (Football) and Kentucky (Basketball)
2006 Florida (Football) and Florida (Basketball)
2007 LSU (Football) and Florida (Basketball)
2009 Alabama (Football) and LSU (Baseball)
2010 Auburn (Football) and South Carolina (Baseball)
2011 Alabama (Football) and South Carolina (Baseball)
Update # 2
In the comments, Anchor of Gold editor KingJamesIV argues that the triple crown should not be calculated based on the calendar year, but on an academic year - so that if an SEC team were to capture the CWS this coming June, that would meet the test of a Triple Crown.
I can see how KJIV has a point - after all, universities run on academic years, not calendar years per se. While I still am not willing to concede the matter fully, however, if we re-calculate Triple Crowns on an academic year model (and my other criteria holding steady), then on that basis there have been two NCAA Triple Crowns - both won by the Pac-8:
1967-1968 Southern Cal (AP, UPI Football); UCLA (Basketball) and Southern Cal (Baseball).
1972-1973 Southern Cal (AP, UPI Football); UCLA (Basketball) and Southern Cal (Baseball).
The SEC's 1996 calendar year grand slam would not translate to a 1996-1997 triple crown because 'Zona beat UK in the '97 NCAA Basketball Tournament championship game.
Recalculating the times the SEC held two of the three major crowns on an academic-year premise, the league was able to boast that distinction eight times rather than nine on the calendar-year system (above).
1957-1958 Auburn (AP Football) and Kentucky (Basketball)
1992-1993 Alabama (Football) and LSU (Baseball)
1996-1997 Florida (Football) and LSU (Baseball)
2006-2007 Florida (Football) and Florida (Basketball)
2008-2009 Florida (Football) and LSU (Baseball)
2009-2010 Alabama (Football) and South Carolina (Baseball)
2010-2011 Auburn (Football) and South Carolina (Baseball)
2011-2012 Alabama (Football) and Kentucky (Basketball)
The fact that the SEC has doubled-up championships in five of the six academic years since 2006 is staggering - and even further "proof" of the "sports domination" that has made this era so special in the history of the SEC.