Monday, October 10, 2016

SEC Honors Graduate Student-Athletes

Over the weekend, many of the SEC football teams made a minor adjustment to their uniforms. What started by one team at the beginning of the season has spread to a handful. Now, it's easier than ever to spot a player that has already completed their degree.

T.J. Davis became one of the first Auburn Tigers to wear the new SEC Graduate patch (photo via Zach Bland)


Arkansas announced right before the season started that they would be honoring their grad student-athletes with this style patch. It took until this past weekend for the entire conference to adopt the modification.

The new patches are simply an addition to the previous SEC-circle patch that has donned conference team jerseys since 2012. The patch has a simple ribbon along the bottom of the circle with "GRADUATE" written across the middle. It's a minor adjustment, but a big honor.

Multiple Auburn Tigers, including WR Marcus Davis, were
seen sporting the new SEC Graduate patch. (photo
via Marcus Davis Instagram)
Auburn, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi State, South Carolina, and Texas A&M each had at least one player spotted wearing the new patch. I was told that Tennessee wasn't wearing them this weekend, but have also heard rumors that they may be adding them in the future. No players for Alabama, Kentucky nor Vanderbilt were spotted wearing the graduate patch this weekend, but it's still possible they can wear them in the coming weeks.

A few weeks ago we took a look at Auburn's history of conference patches. This is the first time, for the Tigers, that a few players will sport different patches. But this isn't the first time SEC teams have honored graduated athletes.

As mentioned earlier, Arkansas started the season using this approach. I thought at the time that it was a fantastic way to honor the athletes that have completed their degree, and I still stand by that. Alabama has previously put mortar board decals on the back of the helmet for their graduated athletes. The other sports would place the mortar board on the jersey in the form of a patch.

SEC teams have honored their undergrad students as well.

The oldest and most visible style of teams honoring their athletes comes from Tennessee. They're sometimes difficult to spot, but the meaning behind them is often more obscure. The "Vol Scholar" patch is reserved for student-athletes that have achieved a 3.0 or higher GPA. The patch has evolved a little over the years, receiving a minor redesign with the change to Nike in 2015. The design evokes the school's torch tradition, where incoming students meet at Circle Park to "pass the torch." The tradition has taken place every year since 1925.

Auburn Football 2016 Alex Kozan SEC Graduate Patch
Alex Kozan was among the few Auburn players to debut the SEC Graduate patch
(photo via Todd Van Emst - Opelika-Auburn News)
Georgia is another school that has historically honored academic successes. Pride stickers, the small decals in special shapes and designs that often appear on the back of a helmet, are nothing new in the world of football. Georgia has used dog bones for many years. Player helmets can be seen donning both white and black bones, each representing their own accomplishments. White bones are saved for on-field successes and the black bones are for academic accomplishments. According to the Georgia athletics site, players can earn a black dog bone for earning an A or B on an assignment - tests, projects, quizzes - that is worth at least 10% of the final grade in the class. Black bones can also be earned by making the Dean's List, and sometimes for community service.

Signs point to every team adopting this method soon. We'll see next week if the teams that were missing the patch (and of course LSU and Florida) will be wearing them in their next games.

2 comments:

  1. Despite what it says at GeorgiaDogs.com, Georgia hasn't worn bones on helmets this season. Richt took the practice to Miami, where he awards hurricanes, but Bulldogs' helmets were bone-free as recently as the UGA/South Carolina game on October 9.

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