Posts Tagged ‘Knoxville News Sentinel’

Goodbye, Charlie Brown… (Lawvol’s Thoughts on Coach Fulmer’s Departure)

No Pass Out Checks | Gate21

If you have read any of my posts over the last year, you will quickly learn that I have made it my habit to refer to Tennessee Volunteers’ head coach Phillip Fulmer as “the Great Punkin.”  To some, this may seem an insult—some thinly veiled comment on Coach Fulmer’s girth.  This simply is not the case.  Yes, the “Punkin” part does owe to the fact that Fulmer favors wearing Tennessee orange, beyond that, however, the name takes on a more personal (and probably less self-evident) character.  The “Great Punkin” nickname was always—and for me will always—be a term of endearment.

To me, Phillip Fulmer will always be like Charlie Brown…

Charlie Brown is the quintessential nice guy.  Everybody likes Charlie Brown and Charlie Brown likes everybody. He is the proverbial “fuddy-duddy” who has a bit of a pessimistic outlook on life, but at the end of the day believes in the hope of the future—he always keeps trying to kick that football, no matter how many times Lucy pulls it out from underneath him.  For the same reason, he is always a hard worker.  Charlie Brown is forever loyal to his friends (again, despite Lucy constantly pushing his buttons).  These are apt descriptors for Phillip Fulmer.

More importantly, Charlie Brown represents innocence and a healthy amount of naivete'characteristics which have always been present in the world of Tennessee football, but which now are forever gone…

One of the things that first brought me into the fold as a fan of the Volunteers was the sense of community, the sense of family.  Tennessee football began, for me, as an experience of camaraderie, belonging, competition, and unified purpose.  What amazed me that first time I ever set foot inside Neyland Stadium in 1991, the first time I ever walked through the old Gate 21, was the fact that this massive throng of people—then 95,000 strong—could be so united behind a single purpose.  The fans I saw in the stadium that Fall day came from all walks of life, all sorts of backgrounds, all sorts of situations—yet, they were united.  For those few hours, they were a great big (and loud) family.  I have personally gathered together with that family, and attended Tennessee games, 110 times since 1991.  Phillip Fulmer has been the head coach walking the sidelines for 109 of those games.

In my mind, since 1992, Phillip Fulmer was the head of that family…

I had the chance during the 2002 season to have season tickets which were directly behind the visitors’ bench on about the 10th row.  That year, I sat beside a gentleman who had been sitting in the same seats since the 1960s.  He told me that, prior to Tennessee moving the home bench to west sideline, it was not uncommon for the coaching staff to come over and chat with fans before, after, and even during games.  That is the sort of relationship-based existence that has been associated with Tennessee football throughout its history.  It has always been “ours”—something belonging to the family of Big Orange fans.  Thus, it was always fitting that “this thing of ours” should be led by one of our own—a lifelong member of the family who can be traced back to the first: General Neyland.

Phillip Fulmer has always been a member of that family…

Now make no mistake, this family can be difficult, unruly, and fickle.  This family can get into fights and can band together in factions.  Still, the leader of the family is responsible for gently chiding the wayward children, righting the ship, and keeping “our thing” going.  Once Johnny Majors left, that thing began to take on different look, as Tennessee began trying to be more “polished” for the national media.  The program became more “corporatized” and began to value money more than it had in the past.  Throughout the Fulmer years, money became a larger and larger part of the decision-making process, took over as the primary driving force, and grew into the engine that drove the program.  Still, no matter how much the financial side of the program grew in its importance, I always felt that Fulmer still managed to keep some semblance of the family feeling in the program.  He was always accessible, always fan focused, and never shirked a reasonable autograph or picture request.

In his own way, the Great Punkin was watching over us all…

Now, I am not naive enough to ignore the fact that Fulmer made millions of dollars as head coach, that the business of football was always king at Tennessee, and that—even if the fans hated it—a change which was going to increase earning for the program was a change that was going to happen.  I understand that it is a numbers game: numbers of fans, numbers of recruits, numbers of wins, numbers in the bank account.  I know all of this.  Still, despite this reality, I always felt that Fulmer was sincere in his service to the university, the fans, the alumni, and the State of Tennessee.  Sure, Phillip Fulmer wanted a multi-million dollar paycheck at the end of the year, but it always seemed to me that he would have still been the coach at Tennessee even if the pay was much less grand.

I remember the first time I met him.  Fulmer came by to give a “thank you” speech to the Pride of the Southland at 6:30 am prior to day three of our pre-season camp in August of 1994.  I was an in-coming freshman.  The only people on campus at that point were the football team and the marching band.  Now, I realize that he was probably—in some limited sense—obligated to show up and thank the band geeks for doing their thing in opening the “T” and playing Rocky Top ad nausem.  I say that because the day before the Big Dickey had come by to give his speech which was … well … less than inspiring (and, no, “Big Dickey” is not a term of endearment).  Fulmer’s speech, was far more sincere than I ever imagined it could be.  Fulmer told us how important the traditions of the Pride were to the team and to the University of Tennessee.  Whether he actually meant it or not, he made me believe that he felt our hard work was important to him.  I can honestly say that I was inspired.  After his speech, he hung around and chatted with members, signed some autographs, and then just hung-out at the side of the field for a while—leaning against the fence—watching us practice.  There were no cameras there.  There were no big-money donors to be seen.  There were no PR events on that early morning.  It was just a bunch of band kids, graduate assistants, directors, and the Great Punkin, checking in on how things were going.

Oh, and he followed that speech up with ongoing efforts to make sure the athletic bands had the financial resources to get us to away games comfortably, by urging the Big Dickey to fund the Pride of the Southland’s efforts (as a reference point, it cost nearly $300,000 to send the entire Pride of the Southland to the Georgia game in 1994).  Once, on one of the many occasions when Dickey didn’t particularly think the Band was worth the cost, Fulmer just told him “You need to give ‘em the money they need, because we need them…

Yeah, I am a fan of the big guy…

Now, however, the Great Punkin will be stepping aside at season’s end, and someone else will be taking over the leadership of the program.  When that happens, there will be no more Charlie Brown.  When that happens, it will be all business.

Make no mistake, I support Mike Hamilton, just like I support Phillip Fulmer.  I don’t particularly like Hamilton’s decision but I do agree with his decision.  Unfortunately, there are times when we all have to do things we don’t like.  As my manifesto from earlier in the season made clear, whether I liked it or not, I had concluded that it was time for Fulmer to step aside—not necessarily because I didn’t think he was capable of winning as a coach, but because the fanbase was simply too divided.

Irrespective of whether Fulmer should have been asked to resign, he has.  Thus, we look to the future.  I also agree with the general consensus that the next coach should come from outside the Tennessee bloodline.  Considering the fact that I have spent far too long discussing the merits of the family at Tennessee, this might seem odd.

One of the things that made life so difficult for Phillip Fulmer over the last six years, was the fact that he—as both a “business” coach and a “family” leader—often was forced to serve competing interests which pulled him in opposite directions.  That dilemma was ultimately part of his undoing.  Fulmer to the last day, has never attacked his own—yet he has been the brunt of a thousand assaults.  He embraced the media and the national audience in an effort to propel Tennessee to the forefront, yet he tried to balance that against the Charlie Brown loyalty he had for his program, his alma mater, his fellow alumni, and his state.  He wanted to win more than anything—and worked tirelessly to make that happen.  Yet, winning at all costs simply wasn’t an option—given the deep ties he had to the institution and its people.  In a sense, he was in the proverbial catch-22.

The next coach should not and cannot be asked to fill that role.  The next coach should and will be resolute in assuming the role as the dispassionate and detached CEO of the football fortunes at Tennessee…

That change will—in my estimation—lead to greater success for Tennessee.  By the same token, it will forever snuff out the last little light of that Great Punkin innocence that had managed to hang on within the program into the 21st Century.  The next leader will simply be “Coach”—nothing more, nothing less.  Oh, I am sure that I will give him a nickname—mainly because I give everyone a nickname—but it will be more sterile, more professional.

As for the Great Punkin, well, I hope he realizes how appreciative that I am for what he did for Tennessee throughout his career.  I hope he understands that though it is time for a change, it doesn’t mean he has been forsaken.  I hope he still thinks of Tennessee as “home” because—as former UT Chancellor and professor Jack Reese once told me “Home is the place where they have to take you in, even when they don’t want to.”  I hope Coach Fulmer realizes that he will always be a Tennessee legend.

Even more, I hope that the fans—the family—show him that they feel that way by sending him off with the fanfare, respect, and honor he has earned—that he deserves.

I realize that this has been a terribly sentimental, naive, emotional, and even childlike discussion of Coach Fulmer’s retirement.  At the end of the day, it is little more than a change in a single position at the University of Tennessee.  I realize this will probably leave me labeled forever as a homer.  There have been more than enough analytical glimpses at Fulmer’s resignation—I’d just be piling on.  Thus, I’m just sort of shooting from the hip here.  I realize it’s a bit sappy, but, it’s what I wanted to say.

I didn’t write this because Mike Hamilton wants everyone to honor Coach Fulmer and send him out in a manner befitting his service.  With all due respect to Mike Hamilton, I have donated enough money to the athletic department at Tennessee that I really could care less what he wants me to do.

I didn’t write this because I felt obligated, or because I felt I owed it to Tennessee or Coach Fulmer.

I wrote this because it is what I sincerely believe—what I feel.

This is a turning point for Tennessee.  I believe that it is one which will lead to great things—there is so much hope for the future.  I also have faith that Mike Hamilton will find the best coach for the job and that Tennessee will be back on top soon.  I have no fears about the future.

Still, I will miss the Great Punkin side of Tennessee football.  I will miss the last vestige of the old-school style of team pride, collective will, camaraderie, and devotion to alma mater.

I will miss Charlie Brown…

-- Go Figure …Email lawvol

Images Courtesy of: Access North GeorgiaKnoxville News Sentinel / Amy Smotherman-BurgessSnoopy.comSmokey’s-Trail

21 Things … That Make it Great to be a Tennessee Volunteer

That Make it Great to be a Tennessee Volunteer

Now that I am finally done with my trial, I can begin to get back to things that really matter, namely spending endless hours blogging…

Needless to say, this has been a football season which could drive a Tennessee fan to drink, sniff glue, use leeches, beat up little old ladies on the side of the road, or some similar vice.  Between mounting losses, SEC and BCS irrelevance, the controversy over the legacy of the Great Punkin, and bickering among the fans, the battle for the soul of Big Orange fans has never been more feverishly pitched.

That said, I am still convicted—perhaps even more so—that there is no other team I’d ever follow and that it is truly great to be one of the many Tennessee Volunteers.  Thus, I thought I’d offer up a little list—just to remind the doom and gloom crowd that life really isn’t all that bad (and for reasons which should be fairly obvious, “21” is the top of the list).

Thus, here are 21 Things that make it great to be a Tennessee Volunteer:

>> (Lawvol's first attempt at) Flash (which he couldn't get to resize properly) Version <<

Full Version after the Jump...

** Many images, may load slowly on dial-up connections

1. The Great Smoky Mountains

All of nature’s glory for the senses to behold.

2. Fort Sanders

I mean, it’s pretty cool to have your college be right in the middle of a battlefield—and a super cool neighborhood.

3. The Sea of Orange! IMG_0638 SCNCAP064 2008 - 10 - 30, 15_23 SCNCAP066 2008 - 10 - 30, 15_40 SCNCAP070 2008 - 10 - 30, 16_00 arena-checkers_9535

Such a sublime hue, chosen due to the American Daisy which used grow on the Hill.

4. Bobby Denton urging us “to pay these prices, and please pay … NO MORE!

[audio:/Denton-Pay_These_Prices 02.mp3]

I doubt that I would ever intentionally pay more than the advertised price for a watered-down cup of sort-o-Coke-like-substance, but I appreciate the reminder.  Not sure where is came from, but I like it!

5. The Sunsphere 2770993640065729227aINuAl_fs sunsphere - 2

Sure, Bart Simpson said it was a wig shop, but we know better…

6. Painting the Rock 06-MagnoliaJazz 06-flickr(a).com 06-flickr(b).com

The joys of conveying a spirited message, paint fumes, and geology…

7. The Vol Navy 07-1507423471_501a647eef SCNCAP063 2008 - 10 - 30, 15_20

Arrrggh, life on the High Seas of … er… Lake Loudon!

8. Checkerboards

HPIM0781(cx) OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA 08-flickr(a).com 8416176

Can you guess which of these photos inspired the chekerbaord endzones?  Love ‘em, no ifs, ands, or buts.

9. Counting the sides on Hodges Library


I’ve always lost count after about a million or so…

10. Cumberland Avenue 10-rustytanton(2) 10-flickr(a).com

Our ramshackle but welcoming little strip.

11. Rafter Banners Tennessee 072 SCNCAP061 2008 - 10 - 30, 15_16

Don’t they look nice?

12. The Pride of the Southland Band 41265e8964f746ec-d080 474204003tTSklD_fs IMG_0511 103511023_f2f5e69e4f_b

Gotta love those circle drills and that “Pregame tradition unrivaled in college football” which leads to the opening of the “T”!

13. “Vic 303533931ZbiyHl_fs Vic Davis Plaque torcher

Also known as “the Torchbearer,” he and I go way back, thus I call him by name (after all, the statue was fashioned in the likeness of Tennessee’s own Victor Davis).

14. Ayres Hall & The Hill 1_Img20 aerial

Ahh, the traditions of the Hill and Ayres Hall, not least of which would include me barely passing Calculus…

15. Smokey

happelsmokey smokey-mascot--ix runin_t2 smokeyix14f8659mn3 super_smokey front_on 444541799GWlxPD_fs smy_davey 1125smokey6e_e 1125smokey001_e

Such a cute pooch, unless you’re an Alabama player, that is…

16. Bruce Almighty

BruceAlmighty-Poster BrucePearl pearl Pearl-Painted bruce_pearl 87553

In Bruce we Trust!

17. The Wizard of Knoxville

si022598 BL_Pat Summit 954469 SCNCAP062 2008 - 10 - 30, 15_17 SCNCAP059 2008 - 10 - 30, 15_15

Best in the World—no contest, no discussion, no argument.

18. Rocky Top


Don’t you just love the fact that our “unofficial” fight song is about moonshine … and that opposing fans hate it so much?  Despite having played Rocky Top over 4000 times while in the Pride of the Southland at Tennessee (yes, we did keep track with the hallowed “clicker”), I still never grow tired of hearing it.

19. The Tommy Bowl

knoxville_boling1 SCNCAP057 2008 - 10 - 30, 15_14 2124296708_9cf53121c1_b DSC_0606-750033 Thompson Boling SCNCAP060 2008 - 10 - 30, 15_15 SCNCAP065 2008 - 10 - 30, 15_26

It used to be simply “the Big Brown Box,”  but thanks to Bruce and the Barbarians, it’s got a whole new name.

20. Neyland Stadium

20-flickr(a).com 20-flickr(b).com 15012192_587316b57b_b 293506883_9599d53b2e_o

How could you not stand in awe of the fort known as “Neyland” along the banks of the Tennessee?

21. The awe inspiring beauty of Gate 21 (Yeah, I’m biased)

HPIM0746 Gate 21(Real) (3) HPIM0744 HPIM0742 Gate 21(Real) (5) HPIM0743

Just look at it, makes you want to cry, doesn’t it?

Anyway, now that you’ve had a chance to look at my little list, maybe some of the folks out there will realize that things really aren’t all that bad, and will smile a bit.

Oh and, yes, you guessed correctly—I hope for this to become a new feature here at the Gate.

Now, it’s time to get ready for the ThunderChickens…

-- Go Figure …Email lawvol

Images Courtesy of: (Flickr)  CessVassMajor VolsJoelk75ladyvols1’sdeanna515MagnoliaJazzMerelymereabthompsonDr. Reelgood & Co.Michael Wenderasm.photoJW Photout9099MikkiAllen29Grant.HarleyCesarito85DavidCFosterCliff MichaelsRusty Tanton
(Other) Nial in AmericaSECSportsFan.comChotoMarinepBaseThinkLia.comDynamic Art PhotographyFriends of the FortEncyclopedia APSports IllustratedReeves MapsSabir 265f8 and be thereWorlds Fair Photos.comThe University of TennesseePhillipFulmer.comTheLinkery.comThe BruceBall •  Replay PhotosLegions of the MiserableFulmer's of the Southland Marching BandGo Vols XtraKnoxville News
Audio Courtesy of: The University of Tennessee / Vol Network / IMGUniversity of Tennessee / Pride of the Southland Marching Band / House of Bryant Publishing
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Headlines, Links & Lies: Post-Georgia Rundown

Headlines, Links & Lies | Gate 21

Since my life is currently dominated by my “real-life” job at the present, and find myself completely swamped as I get ready for trial—leaving my spare time ground into dust and flung into the wind—I have limited time to post my thoughts on the Tennessee Volunteers’ loss to the Georgia Bulldogs this past weekend.  Thus, I’ll sum it up as succinctly as I can:

Better but worse.  Some nice new things along with depressingly more of the same.  It’s turning out to be a very long season…

Since I have almost nothing substantive to offer at the moment, here's what everyone elase is saying about the Vols' Loss to the Georgia Bulldogs this past weekend in Athens.

Final Statistics:  Tennessee 14 • Georgia 26

Post-Game QuotesNotes PDF Document

Even Smokey is Getting Taunted

From the Good Guys (Vol Bloggers):

Along these same lines, here’s the Blazer Chronicles with VolzRChamps' take on the Georgia Game:

The Blazer Chronicles: Episode 8 -- Tennessee v. Georgia Postgame

From the Meanies (Georgia Bloggers):

From the Mercenaries (Mainstream Media):

Given the fact that I will be in trial for multiple weeks starting tomorrow, I will not be around much and will be posting even less until I get done.  Bearing that in mind, be sure to check out HSH’s posts in my absence.

SEC Power Poll Ballot to come later in the day, and then I’m into figuring out exactly what I’m going to ask on cross-examination ...

-- Go Figure …Email lawvol Sam & Andy's Forever

Lead Image Courtesy of: Go Vols Xtra / Amy Smotherman-BurgessAudio Courtesy of: Paul Finebaum Show

Wait! It’s Still Football Season!

The View From the Hill | Gate 21

Oh Yeah, Basketball

With lawvol swamped, I have been given the steering wheel here at Gate 21. How do I respond?? With a basketball-related post - in the second week of October. That's what 2-3 and little hope does, but I'll have more on that plus the newly-revived Big Orange Roundtable AND the usual "On Remote" college football preview.

The joys of Fall Break and some extra time...

Anyways, the inspiration for this post, you ask? On my way back to my apartment just now, I of course see freshman Renaldo Woolridge walking down by Pratt/TBA. Not thirty seconds later, who do I see? Emmanuel Negedu. My first Negedu sighting.

Now Woolridge just had a story about his rap talent in this morning's Knoxville News-Sentinel, where I currently work. I got a chance to listen to it for a moment this morning and I gotta say if his basketball skills are near his rap skills, Tennessee got a great player - I think they already did anyways...


Now compare this to this summer's hit, Bobby "Big-Money" Maze's "I Put on for Tennessee," which was on YouTube...


These of course have little to do with Tennessee basketball, other than the incredible rise in the program's street cred. Honestly, you could assume and guess that stuff like this helps recruiting, especially if Bruce Pearl has nothing to really say about it (I'm not sure I've seen his comments on any of it either...). It certainly can't hurt, right?

I guess I just had basketball on my mind (and not Georgia...get it?!) this afternoon. Weird and all since it's Georgia week, but you'll get my thoughts and understand why a little later this week...

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="218" caption="Reason #15,653 to love Bruce Pearl: the Vols now have two rappers..."][/caption]

Flashback: The Great Games — The All-Time Top 10

Flashback | Gate 21

Well, as Joel pointed out, the News Sentinel’s Dave Hooker recently came out with his Top 10 games in Tennessee football history. It is an interesting list, but (like Joel) I’m not so certain I agree with all of the games on Hooker's list.

Given the fact that I am still making my way through my "Great Games" series, it seems appropriate for me to chime in with my thoughts on this. At the risk of rendering some of my future posts in this series futile (not that they aren’t already), here is my top 10 games in Tennessee football history (with comparison to Dave Hooker’s ranking):

The Great Games |

Gate 21’s Top 10 All-Time


Tennessee Football Games

No. 10: 1989 - Tennessee vs. UCLA

The Rose Bowl | Dave Hooker Rank: Unranked

I know that some will question this one, but this game still stands out to me as one of the best. I toyed with ranking the 1985 Auburn win at No. 10, but I have to go with the Vols 1989 trip to Pasadena to take on the Bruins. This game was early in the season, and at that point UCLA was highly touted. Tennessee had been beaten in both their prior trips to the Rose Bowl to play the Bruins (1975 and 1967), and many thought they would repeat that trend as the Vols came off of their worst season in recent memory, and a close call in their season-opener versus Colorado State. The Vols, however, stepped-up to the challenge and proved that their 5 and 6 record for 1988 was only a bump in the road as they came out gunning for the No. 6-ranked Bruins. The Vols completely shutdown the UCLA offense with their own brand of SEC defense, en route to a 24 - 6 victory. That game set the stage for the rest of the season -- one which included 10 more wins and only a single loss. The Vols would go on to win an SEC Championship, beat Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl that year, and end with a No 5 ranking.

Still, by my mind, it all started in California...

No. 9: 1999 Fiesta Bowl - Florida State vs. Tennessee

Sun Devil Stadium | Dave Hooker Rank: No. 1

Dave Hooker had this game as No. 1, but I cannot in good conscience give it that distinction. While the 1999 Fiesta Bowl did give Tennessee its first Consensus National Championship since 1951, the game itself was not nearly as spectacular as others that season.

First of all, both Tennessee and Florida State played very sloppily throughout the game as a result of the more than 4-week layoff leading up to the contest. Second -- in fairness to Florida State -- they were playing with a back-up quarterback, Marcus Outzen, who (to my knowledge) never started another game after the championship, due to the injury to Chris Weinke.

Finally, the game was exciting, but probably only if you were a Tennessee or Florida State fan. The reason for this is that the two teams were extremely closely matched at most positions. All of that said, I have such amazing memories of this game and of finally seeing another championship for the Big Orange, that I have to include it in the Top 10, regardless of its flaws.

After all, a championship is a very special thing...

No. 8: 1939 - Alabama vs. Tennessee

Shields-Watkins Field | Dave Hooker Rank: Unranked

Obviously, I did not attend or watch this game. Still, the legendary status of this game lingers even today -- as does pretty much everything about the 1939 squad. I know this is hard to imagine in the modern era, but the 1939 squad not only went undefeated, but they also completed the entire regular season without being scored upon. Think about it this way, from the third game of the 1938 season until the conclusion of the 1939 season, Tennessee played 71 consecutive quarters without allowing a single point -- a record which stands to this day. The 1939 game against Alabama was but one of the legendary battles of this era between, then, Col. Robert Neyland’s (he would be promoted to the rank of Brigadier General during World War II) Vols and the Crimson Tide. In the minds of some, however, this is the game that truly cemented the rivalry and led to the designation "The Third Saturday in October."

Led by Johnny Butler and George Cafego, Neyland’s Vols managed to out-run, out-block, and out-wit the Tide in a 21-0 victory. The "feather in the cap" for the day came on Johnny Butler’s 56-yard run to the endzone in the 2nd-quarter. This was the last Tennessee-Alabama game that Neyland would coach until his return from military service in 1947.

Johnny Butler's Run

Click to view a RealMedia clip of Johnny Butler’s Run versus Alabama Courtesy of the VIB
An Oldie, but a Goodie...

No. 8: 1992 - Florida vs. Tennessee

Neyland Stadium | Dave Hooker Rank: Unranked

For all the reasons I described in my post on this game, I really feel this was an extremely important game in the history of the program. Ignoring all of the side issues surrounding this contest -- the Faxgate affair, Johnny Majors' heart problems, the deluge of water that fell during the game, etc., I really feel this was a watershed game (no pun intended). First of all, it was the first of real battles between Tennessee and Florida during the Steve Spurrier era. Second, it was the first conference home game ever coached by Phillip Fulmer.

By my mind, this is the game that ushered Tennessee football into the modern era, and set the stage for all of the excitement during the 1990’s.

No. 7: 1996 Comp USA Citrus Bowl - Tennessee vs. Ohio State

Citrus Bowl Stadium | Dave Hooker Rank: Unranked

Some might think this game an odd choice, but as I made clear in my article on this game, it really was one of the best games for Tennessee in the history of the program. Tennessee and Ohio State both came in ranked 4th (albeit in different polls) and both were disappointed that they did not manage to make it to a top-tier bowl. Both teams had a chip on their shoulder as they battled throughout a rain-soaked game. Tennessee held Heisman Trophy winner Eddie George to a season low, and fought to the end to win the day. This win, propelled Tennessee to a No. 3 final ranking -- putting them ahead of the Florida Gators who had given the Vols their only loss of the season.

This game established the momentum of the program for the seasons to follow. In my opinion, this game was a key step toward a national championship.

The Stop

No. 5: 1959 - LSU vs. Tennessee

Shields-Watkins Field | Dave Hooker Rank: No. 6

I agree with Dave Hooker that the win against Billy Cannon and the LSU Tigers ranks among the all-time greatest games. No one thought Tennessee really had a chance in that game, and -- on paper -- they were right. Billy Cannon was the man-beast running back of his day, and was fearsome for his ability to shred defenses. On most days, when the 1959 Tigers played they put on a clinic. The iron wall of orange-clad defenders , however, shut LSU down and did a little teaching of their own. After fumbling the ball on their own 2-yard line, and giving the Tigers an easy six points, the Vol defense found a way to save the game. Their goal-line stop as the Tigers tried for the 2-point conversion probably ranks as one of the all-time greatest defensive plays in Tennessee history (See stop-frame image, right).

Here’s former Voice of the Vols George Mooney with the call.


(click play to hear audio)

When it was all said-and-done, the Vols came out on top in a 14-13 thriller.

No. 4: 1982 - Alabama vs. Tennessee

Neyland Stadium | Dave Hooker Rank: Unranked

bama82ticket[1]This game was the final step in Johnny Majors’ rehabilitation of the Tennessee program from the doldrums of the late 1970’s. Before that win, the Vols had not beaten Alabama in 11 deplorably long years. After more than a decade, Tennessee finally managed to beat the Tide in the 35-28 Victory. The fact that it occurred during the waning days of the 1982 World’s Fair made it all the more special. This also marked then end of the Bear Bryant era, at least as far as Tennessee was concerned, as Bryant would never again coach a game in Neyland Stadium -- passing away in 1983.


This game single-handedly returned Tennessee to its position as a year-in-year-out contender in the SEC, and re-asserted Tennessee’s tradition of winning.

Before this game, Tennessee was a second-tier team in the minds of most, that changed on "The Third Saturday in October," 1982.


No. 3: 1986 Sugar Bowl - Tennessee vs. Miami

Louisiana Superdome | Dave Hooker Rank: No. 5

Ahh, the Sugar Vols. No one thought the 1985-86 Tennessee squad really had a chance against the No. 2 ranked Miami Hurricanes. The Vols, however, decided to make everyone remember them as they pounded Vinny Testaverde and the Hurricanes on both sides of the ball. While this game was played in a neutral venue -- the Superdome -- it really amounted to being played in "Neyland Stadium South" as the Big Orange faithful traveled by the thousands to cheer on their underdog Vols. This game single handedly elevated Tennessee to a "national" status as Tennessee destroyed Miami 35-7, in the Big Easy.

Here’s John Ward calling "yet another" great play by Tennessee -- namely Chris White’s 4th-quarter interception for a touchdown.

[audio:/Sugar Vols 01.mp3]

(click play to hear audio)

ND 1991

No. 2: 1991 - Tennessee vs. Notre Dame

Notre Dame Stadium | Dave Hooker Rank: No. 7

There really isn’t much that needs to be said the game referred to simply as "The Miracle at South Bend." It still stands as the single most significant non-conference regular-season game the Vols ever played. While some would point to the victories over Penn State in 1971 and 1972, those were played in Neyland Stadium, which gave the Vols the huge benefit of a home crowd. In 1991, however, the Vols had to go on the road and play the No. 5 team in the country. The reality is that Tennessee was beaten in this game by the end of the first-half. The fact that the team and the coaching staff never gave up and kept fighting stands as a testament to the 1991 squad’s character. It still stands as the greatest comeback in Tennessee football history, and serves as a monument to Winston Churchill’s adage "Never, Never, Never Give Up!"

Furthermore, the final play of the game as called by John Ward stands as one of the greatest (albeit somewhat botched) calls of his storied career.

[audio:/ND-1991 01.mp3]

(click play to hear audio)
Don't you just love John Ward?

No. 1: 1998 - Florida vs. Tennessee

Neyland Stadium | Dave Hooker Rank: No. 2

Having just written about this game (reliving it in my mind along with the voices in my head) I still come to the conclusion that there has never been a more exhilarating and exciting game played at Neyland Stadium -- at least not in the modern era. This game was an absolute defensive slugfest from start to finish, and after the game was over, I was physically and mentally exhausted -- I cannot imagine what the players felt like. While I do have the 1999 Fiesta Bowl listed in my Top 10 as well (No. 9) in my opinion this game was the high-water mark for the 1998 team. This was the game that defined the team and the season. Winning the game against Florida completely changed the mindset of everyone in Orange Nation -- suddenly we all believed that a championship was possible.

Thus, even though you don’t get a trophy for winning a home game during the regular season, in my opinion, this was the Vols’ finest hour.

Well, there’s my list. Feel free to tell me I’m wrong (as I so often am)...

-- Go Figure …Email lawvol

Images Courtesy of: The VIBKnoxville News Sentinel
Audio Clips Courtesy of: The Vol Network, Host Communications, and the University of Tennessee.
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Flashback: The Great Games — Alabama 1995


The Great Games |

The Third Saturday in October, 1995

(14 October 1995)

Tennessee Football vs. Alabama Football

Tennessee 41 Alabama 14

Legion Field

There are a fair number of people in Orange Nation who -- ignoring the whole "national championship thing" in 1998 -- are of the opinion that the 1995 Tennessee Volunteers may have been the best football team fielded by the Big Orange in the modern era. Regardless of whether they were better than any other team -- the 1995 Vols were pretty darn good, and were a hell of a lot of fun to watch. Thus, a few of the games from that season make my all-time list.

It’s probably not all that hard to figure out the first one (No, I’m not referring to the stinkin’ East Carolina Game)

I don’t know that I necessarily agree or disagree with the folks who think the 1995 team is better than the 1998 team. I think there are strong points that can be made for both squads, but hardly settle the issue. After all, who is "best" is really a matter of opinion. This is the sort of debate which leads Basilio to offer his catch phrase of deepest profundity:

"Hmmm .... Interesting."

Translation: "I really don’t feel like arguing with you about this because I can’t prove you’re wrong, and you can’t prove you’re right." Of course, some folks love trying to prove their opinions are fact or -- at a minimum -- are superior to your opinions ("Oh, but I can prove it! Really, I can -- with a crayon, a note from my Mother, and this bit of string..." ). The type of people who seem to gravitate toward that sort of behavior are usually a little short on knowledge and a little long on ego which, while annoying at times, is forgivable. The rest are just egomaniacal degenerates, politicians, and lawyers (ugh)...

... but I digress (sigh).

By the time 1995 rolled around Tennessee had managed to keep from beating the Alabama Crimson Tide for nine (that’s right, I said "NINE") utterly abominable years. To that point, Tennessee had only beaten Alabama four times in my entire lifetime, which -- from my perspective -- sucked. The Vols came within a hair of beating Alabama in 1993, only to tie (that game was later forfeited to Tennessee due to Bama having offered big piles of cash to their players from 1958 until ... well ... minutes before the sanctions were imposed. Still, a forfeit on paper is hardly a win.). In 1994, my freshman year on the Hill, another freshman -- some Manning kid -- didn’t see an open passing lane to James "Little Man" Stewart who was standing in the endzone, all by himself, and practically sending smoke signals begging for the ball on the final play of the game. Victory to the Tide. Needless to say, I -- along with every other Tennessee fan -- was ready for that streak to end.

The game, like every other Tennessee-Alabama contest played in the state of Alabama from 1932-1999, was played at Legion Field in Birmingham.

If you’ve never been to Legion Field ... skip it.

I always referred to Legion Field as "Gray Lady Down Stadium," because it had a remarkable resemblance to a WWII vintage US battleship sunk into the ground up to its gunwales, with the exception of its hood-ornament. This was shortly after the Mercedes-Benz plant had opened in Alabama and, as a result, the stadium was festooned with an obscenely large Mercedes hood-ornament over the scoreboard in what I think was the South Endzone. It was probably somewhere between 30 and 50 feet high (and according to the New York Times weighed 5600 pounds). Apparently, the locals liked to refer to the stadium as "The Mercedes Benz of College Football" -- I always thought it was more in the class of "The 1977 AMC Eagle with Bondo Fenders and a Cracked Engine Block of College Football," but that was just me.

Mercedes Benz Symbol vs. The AMC of College Football

Mercedes or AMC? You decide.

A few years later, the hood-ornament disappeared from the stadium after Logan Young stole it and had it made into a necklace which he gave to Albert Means in return for Means agreeing to play for the Tide.**

Good Old Logan Young ... Good Times

Many people also think the area around the stadium is also a little rough. I have always felt this is an unfair characterization. In 1995 it wasn’t a little rough -- it was like stepping into Dresden after the Air Force carpet bombed it for several months. Think Baghdad, but without the "local color." I’m not trying to be pissy toward the Bammers, but I have never understood why in the name of God the Tide chose to play at Legion Field when they have a great facility in Bryant-Denny Stadium situated on campus in Tuscaloosa. Fortunately, since 2003 all Alabama home games have been played at Bryant-Denny since Legion Field was declared partially unsafe and the upper deck was demolished.

Moving right along...

On that particular Third Saturday in October, I sat on about the 10th row of the North Endzone because I was in the Pride of the Southland. I had a friend who had decided that it was unlucky for him to actually watch the game since everytime he watched Tennessee lost. Thus, he resolved that he would sit in the stands facing away from the field. It was funny, until the game started, and after the first play from scrimmage, everyone in my section decided he was absolutely right and forcibly restrained him from turning around for the next 4 quarters.

Tennessee got the ball on the 20 due to the touchback, and the offense came up to the line to get things going, then this happened (Ron Franklin with the call):

I can still remember watching Joey Kent running straight toward me, and thinking that I must be dreaming. When I saw the referee’s arms go up, however, I knew it was for real. Tennessee scored on the opening play, and never let up the entire night.

It was less than 11 seconds into the game and -- truthfully -- it was over ...

Bama never came back, and never really even made it a game. Tennessee went on to rack up 41 points that night, including a touchdown off of Peyton Manning’s beautifully executed bootleg ...

... and another off of a fabulous run by Jay Graham to put the game away.

The 1995 Alabama game was literally a virtual highlight reel as the Vols absolutely pounded the Tide and found themselves back in the saddle again -- finally scratching that 10 year-itch


I can honestly say that the 1995 Tennessee-Alabama game was one of the most electrifying displays that I have ever seen from a Tennessee team. That night was truly memorable.

In my own way, I did my part to let loose on the Crimson Tide that night as well. More accurately, I actually "let loose a Crimson Tide." At halftime, I got hit in the mouth by a cymbal as the Pride of the Southland performed the 1995 iteration of the Circle Drill. I swallowed about 5 inches of my horn (hey now, no comments from the peanut gallery) and managed to bash both of my lips into a bloody pulp. I finished the show (pretending to play as I bled like a stuck pig), but by the time I came off the field, my once white glove and the front of my uniform were covered with blood. I ended up being unable to play for almost 2 weeks after that little crunch, and I still have scars in my mouth from that one...

... but you know what, it was worth it.

-- Go Figure …

** The bit about Logan Young stealing the Mercedes symbol is, of course, complete bullshit, but you believed it for a second, didn't you?
Images Courtesy of: The VIB Cascade Ramblers

Now I Remember Why I Hate the Off-Season

Yeah, I admit it, I'm having a hard time getting inspired to write lately ...

I have never looked forward to the off-season following the end of football and basketball season (especially when it's "Spring" but still cold as whizz in the mornings) but now it has taken on a whole new dimension. This is my first off-season as a blogger, and it pretty much stinks. I have always tried to offer up posts with at least a little bit of substance, or -- at a minimum -- some poorly done graphics. Now, I find myself struggling to come up with articles worth writing. Part of this, I suppose stems from my general lack of interest in the fortunes of Major League Baseball. It's not as if I dislike the sport -- after all, I do coach Little League -- it's just not the sort of thing I have ever been very interested in writing about.

Furthermore, I can write all I want to about spring football practice, but considering I live over 6 1/2 hours from Knoxville, anything I could possibly say has already been said since my thoughts would be based upon what I read on other blogs.

I suppose I could write about politics, but that would require me to take a position on issues which are likely to alienate at least half of the 4 people who regularly read my blog -- in short, I ain't going there (at least not while my little creation is so very new...).

Thus, while I am working on a few new ideas, and creating graphics for a few other sites (my most recent being Uncoached), I am not doing a very good job of delivering much in the way of real content.

I was actually getting a bit discouraged until today when the Knoxville Snooze Slantinel made me feel a lot better by running a story on a lawsuit between the owners of a company trying to sell orange blazers like those worn by Bruce Pearl. The KNS felt this was important sports news.

You know that was awfully nice of John Adams -- after all the ugly things I've said about him -- to try and make me feel better about my ineptitude, by showing that the KNS is as clueless as I am.

Thus, I want to openly decry the ugliness of the off-season. It is a hideous thing which should be abolished.

Oh yeah, I also want to thank the Snooze Slantinel for making me feel better about my inability to say anything meaningful as of late.

So, I guess, now that I have complained about not having anything to complain about and I still can't think of any "real" stories to write I'll just have to return to fabricating stories out of the thinnest and most unreliable rumors (many of which are only rumors among the community of voices living in my head).

In the meantime, if you liked my article on the Voice of College Sports back in February (which is unlikely) then you are likely to enjoy Spencer Hall's article on Larry Munson over at the Sporting News (HT to Joel at RTT for the find). Otherwise, I guess you'll just have to wait for my 8-part investigative piece on how Tennessee is facing allegations of misconduct over the use of doughnuts as a human growth hormone.


-- Go Figure …


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