Roy Kramer, a graduate of Maryville College, coached high school football for nearly a decade. From his very first job as a head football coach, Kramer showed that he is a man who puts his words into action. He was once asked what the word “competitive” meant to him. “Excellence,” he replied. “It means you shoot for the top. I feel strongly that you play to win.”
Beginning in 1958, Kramer coached three different high school teams in Michigan to undefeated records, three years in a row. Certainly, a sign of things to come, he then began coaching on the college level in 1967 at Central Michigan University. Kramer stayed at Central Michigan for eleven seasons, compiling an impressive record of 83-32-2. In 1974, he was named Coach of the Year and his team won the NCAA Division II National Championship.
And yet, with these accomplishments, Kramer’s true impact on college athletics was only just beginning. In 1978, he returned to his home state of Tennessee as Vanderbilt’s Director of Athletics. Not only was he responsible for orchestrating the renovation of the McGugin Center, but he also piloted the construction of Vanderbilt Stadium.
In January 1990, Kramer left Vanderbilt to become sixth commissioner of the Southeastern Conference. During his twelve years as commissioner, the SEC experienced unparalleled growth. In his first year as commissioner, two new members were added (South Carolina and Arkansas). He guided the conference in formulating divisional play and the inaugural Division I-A conference football championship game. In 1998, Kramer was awarded the Distinguished American Award by the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame.
During his time with the SEC, the conference won 81 national championships – the most ever in a decade by the league. He oversaw the distribution of a then-league record $95.7 million to its member institutions for 2001 – 2002. Kramer negotiated multi-sport national television packages with CBS and ESPN, featuring football and men’s and women’s basketball through the 2008 – 2009 season. Because of his influence, the Men’s and Women’s SEC Athlete of the Year Award is presented annually as the Roy F. Kramer Award.