College football analysts who dared to share their political opinions during election week were met with a familiar refrain: “Stick to sports!”
In an effort to stay in the political realm while appeasing the masses, we offer this: A list of several connections between the SEC and the White House that you may or may not know about.
1. Bill Clinton is a lifelong Arkansas fan. The former Arkansas governor and Hope, Ark., native has proudly displayed his Razorbacks fandom since becoming a public figure in the mid-1970s. Sports Illustrated’s 1994 college basketball preview featured Clinton in a Razorbacks jacket and the subhead “President Clinton is high on his Hogs.” The athletic department honored Clinton with a No. 42 jersey (he was the 42nd president of the United States and the 40th/42nd governor of Arkansas) at a ceremony in 2014, during which he “called the Hogs.”
2. Both Bill and Hillary Clinton began their careers at the University of Arkansas, where they were professors in the law school. Hillary founded the school’s first legal clinic in 1975 “to give students hands-on skills training by representing real clients in real-life legal situations under the close supervision of a full-time faculty member,” per law.uark.edu.
3. Texas A&M is home to the George H. W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum. The university landed the prestigious honor with some good old-fashioned recruiting; one of Bush’s close friends was an oil businessman who graduated from A&M in 1930, per MyAggieNation.com. The school also renamed Jersey Street to George Bush Drive in 1989 as part of its successful effort to woo the 41st president of the United States.
4. George W. Bush gave the commencement address at Texas A&M in 2008. With his mother and father in the audience, he provided a rousing finish: “Some of you will leave A&M with a degree that carries this good man’s name, George Bush. I have been blessed and honored to have carried it for 62 years.”
5. Missouri’s mascot, Truman, is named after “true son” Harry S. Truman, who shifted from the vice presidency to the presidency following the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1945. Truman famously won the 1948 election despite a Chicago Tribune headline that read “DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN” in the hours after his victory. The university also named its school of public affairs after Truman in 2001.
6. One of Jimmy Carter’s final acts as president was to attend Georgia’s Sugar Bowl win in January 1981. The Plains, Ga., native saw Herschel Walker overcome a dislocated shoulder to rush for 150 yards and 2 touchdowns in a 17-10 triumph over Notre Dame.
7. Richard Nixon declared Texas the 1969 national champion after watching the Longhorns defeat Arkansas in the “Game of the Century.” Nixon’s declaration peeved 11-0 Penn State and Nittany Lions coach Joe Paterno, who later said, “I’ve wondered how President Nixon could know so little about Watergate in 1973 and so much about college football in 1969.” (per mcall.com).
8. The 1934 Georgia Tech football team finished last in the SEC with a conference record of 0-6. The Yellow Jackets’ lone win in nonconference play was against Michigan, which featured senior center and “Team MVP” winner Gerald Ford.
9. Warren Harding appointed one of Vanderbilt’s earliest star athletes as United States Commissioner of Education in 1921. John J. Tigert was a standout halfback at Vandy who also coached football and basketball at Kentucky between 1913 and 1917. He later served as the University of Florida president for two decades, and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1970.
10. John F. Kennedy is an honorary football letterman at Alabama. He made a splash in 1963 when he watched the Orange Bowl from a suite, puffing cigars and drinking coffee while the Crimson Tide tore through the Miami Hurricanes for a 17-0 win. From the Miami News (via AL.com): “At one point, when (Lee Roy) Jordan hit an Oklahoma player so hard the concussion could practically be felt in the stands, the President tapped (friend and Miami alum Grant) Stockdale on the shoulder and asked him: ‘Grant, when you played for the University of Miami, were you ever tackled that hard?'”
11. Alabama may not have favored Barack Obama in 2008 or 2012, but his two terms have coincided with four Crimson Tide national championships. It’s to the point where Obama has joked about his responsibility for the Tide’s success. “Clearly, I’ve brought you some good luck,” he said earlier this year. “Might as well call me ‘O-Bama.’”
What did we miss? Let us know in the comments below.