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The Southern Conference (SoCon) is a collegiate athletic conference affiliated with the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I. Southern Conference football teams compete in the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly known as Division I-AA). Member institutions are located in the states of Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.
Established in 1921, the Southern Conference ranks as the fifth-oldest major college athletic conference in the United States, and either the third- or fourth-oldest in continuous operation, depending on definitions. Among conferences currently in operation, the Big Ten (1896) and Missouri Valley (1907) are indisputably older. The Pac-12 Conference did not operate under its current charter until 1959, but claims the history of the Pacific Coast Conference, founded in 1915, as its own. The Southwest Conference (SWC) was founded in 1914, but ceased operation in 1996. The Big Eight Conference claimed the same history as the Missouri Valley from 1907 to 1928 during its existence; though it essentially merged with four SWC members to form the Big 12 Conference in 1996, the Big 12 does not claim the Big Eight’s legacy. The Ivy League was formally organized in 1954 with athletic competition starting in 1955, but claims the history of the Eastern Intercollegiate Basketball League, which competed from 1901 to 1955, as its own.
The SoCon was the first conference to use the three-point field goal in basketball in a November 29, 1980 game at Western Carolina against Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU), where Ronnie Carr shot the historic shot from 22 feet (6.7 m) away and the Catamounts won 77–70.
The Southern Conference is considered one of the stronger football conferences in the Football Championship Subdivision and is considered a mid-major conference in basketball. It has also garnered considerable national attention from its recent success in these sports: in particular, former member, three-time Division I NCAA Football champion Appalachian State Mountaineers, who stunned the fifth-ranked Michigan Wolverines 34–32 on September 1, 2007; from the Davidson Wildcats, who reached the Elite Eight in the 2008 NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament by upsetting power programs Gonzaga (a mid-major school which became a power program in the 2000s), Georgetown, and Wisconsin. More recently, the six-time Division I NCAA Football champion Georgia Southern Eagles stunned Southeastern Conference power-house Florida Gators 26–20 in The Swamp on November 23, 2013—the first loss to a lower division opponent in the Florida program’s history. In 2015, Furman defeated UCF 16–15 and The Citadel topped South Carolina 23–22 for their second win over the Gamecocks in the past three meetings. The SoCon also frequently sees multiple teams selected to participate in the NCAA Division I Baseball Championship.