“Special Moments”

There was a time Thanksgiving morning meant a trip to football practice on Haslam Field in preparation for the next Saturday’s game against either Kentucky or Vanderbilt in either Lexington, Nashville, or in Knoxville.

In many cases, there was a ceremony called the “Last Tackle,” with the seniors being introduced by John Majors or Phillip Fulmer. They ran the gauntlet through their teammates and hit a practice dummy dressed out in either black and gold or blue and white.

That was always an inspirational moment, especially when linebacker Robert Peace, now married to Fulmer’s daughter, Courtney, went through the line to his teammates cheering him on. “Son-in-law! Son-in-Law! Went the refrain.

There is the memory of asking Majors who the team’s permanent captains were. In 1990, Majors revealed that tailback Tony Thompson was the team’s captain and fullback Roland Poles was the alternate captain.

That was certainly a magic moment for Tony, who had been way down the depth chart for most of his career. Tony led the SEC in rushing in 1990 and created a number of magic moments with the football under his arm. That was, indeed, a special moment.

These were always such special moments, not soon to be forgotten.

Thursday, Nov. 24, 2016

“Items to Worry About?”

Here are a couple of things to wonder about, if you’re so inclined.

Why do the powers-that-be schedule basketball games on the same night, this year with the Vols at home and the Lady Vols on the road? That seems to be counter-productive, a clear departure from that oft-used theme, “One Tennessee.” That forces a choice in the fan base that doesn’t have to be made.

Maybe those in the upper administrative levels don’t understand that concept as much as they might think.

Secondly, should a non-senior be allowed to run through the “T” before the home finale this coming Saturday, a subject broached by Tony Basilio, Beano, and Butch Jones over the past few days.

There re compelling points of view on each side of the question.

We’ll see what happens Saturday afternoon.

Historic Perspective: At the 1977 basketball season finale against Vanderbilt at Stokely Center, seniors Ernie Grunfeld, Mike Jackson, and David Moss were part of a special introduction before the game.

Bernard King was in the tunnel and was introduced a few moments later as part of the starting lineup.

Could that really have happened?

Should non-seniors who are leaving the program have their moment in the sun if they are playing their last home game?

The floor is open for debate.

What say you fan base?

Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2016

“The Even-Up Call”

For us old guys, Nov. 15 brings back some not-so-pleasant memories.

November 15 was a Saturday, with Tennessee in Jackson, Miss., to play Ole Miss.

The Vols were ranked No. 3, the Rebels No. 18.

What everybody remembers is that Ole Miss really laid the wood to the Vols, jumping to a 24-0 halftime lead and never looking back. The final score was 38-0. No one in Knoxville and across the state was happy.

Archie Manning was the toast of Mississippi that night and thereafter.

No one who remembers that game would have ever thought that, 25 years later, Archie’s son, Peyton, would be on his way to being the toast of Big Orange Country.

They say time heals all wounds, and that’s exactly what happened here.

In this case, the even-up call took 25 years to manifest itself.

A son of Archie Manning leading the Vols seemed impossible that day, but it did years later. It took a while, but good things are worth the wait.

That was definitely the case with the Vols, the Rebels, and Archie and Peyton Manning.

Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016

“The Future Is Now”

Doug Dickey’s first University of Tennessee football team in 1964 came into this day’s contest against Ole Miss with a 4-2-1 record, one that had to have surprised Vol fans of that day, who didn’t expect it from that year’s aggregation.

The Vols were coming off three games in which Tennessee lost a tough one to NO. 3 Alabama, tied No. 7 LSU and upset No. 7 Georgia Tech.

What happened was that Tennessee suddenly crashed and burned, losing to the Rebels 30-0, Kentucky 12-7, and Vanderbilt 7-0, finishing the season 4-5-1. Better times would be ahead, but it was a frustrating end to the season, despite Steve DeLong winning that season’s Outland Trophy.

The Vols would compile an 8-1-2 record the next season, and from that point on, the sky was the limit for the Vols. That was of little consolation to Vol fans back then, who firmly believed that, where Tennessee football was concerned, the future was indeed now, not next week, next year or even the year after that.

Patience was not one of their virtues, then… or now.

Monday, Nov. 14, 2016

“Big Happenings in the Bluff City”

 

In 1992, Nov. 13 was on a Friday.

The Vols were slated to play Memphis State the next day at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium. Events happening tonight, 24 years ago, however, still overshadow the game, final score Tennessee 26, Memphis State 21.

The venue was the Wilson World Hotel in the Bluff City.

John Majors resigned as Tennessee’s head football coach that night, saying, in part, “Since I have not been given the opportunity by the UT administration to remain as head football coach, I am, effective Dec. 31, 1992, relinquishing my duties connected to the University of Tennessee.”

Fans outside the hotel, and at the game the next day, appeared to be shocked at what was transpiring, gathering with saddened faces, some fighting back tears, most not believing what was happening.

Looking back, it had been a year of travail, one of the strangest in Vol history. Emotions ran high. Everyone seemed to have an opinion. That’s the way it is when a native son, a program hero, steps down, deserving, as Russ Bebb wrote, a “far nobler farewell.”

For the record, here are a couple of certainties, regardless of the position Tennessee fans might have taken then, or might take even now. There is a cogent argument to be made that choosing up sides, then or now, helps no one, and things are tough enough in the SEC without internal strife in the program.

For John Majors, there were the great moments of his playing career that led to his 1987 induction as a player into the College Football Hall of Fame.

There were the magic times, the magic moments, of a coaching career during which Majors paid his dues as an assistant and then was successful in building programs at three schools.

The name “Majors” is thus written large in Tennessee football history. As Haywood Harris noted when John’s brother Bill was killed in the car-train wreck of October 1965, “It is enough for longtime residents of this community to say he was a Majors.” That’s how strong the Majors name was and is today around Big Orange Country.

One of the dominant (and saddest) recollections of John Elizabeth Bobo Majors that weekend, particularly after the game, was watching her walk up the players tunnel at the south end of the stadium into the afternoon sunlight, by herself, alone with her thoughts and memories after the events of that weekend.

That’s the way things appeared today, Nov. 13, 1992, and into the weekend.

P.S. On this day in 1969, KNS sports editor Tom Siler picked Tennessee to defeat Ole Miss 33-21 two days later at Mississippi Memorial Stadium in Jackson. The final was Ole Miss 38, Tennessee 0. No further comment is necessary.

Sunday, Nov. 13, 2016

“A Note to Vol Fans Everywhere’

Where were the cheerleaders the entirety of the third quarter? Not on the east sidelines in front of the student section, thank you. Maybe they were in witness protection.

NOTE TO VOL FANS EVERYWHERE: When the Vol players celebrate with the student section after a win, it’s not to the strains of the “Alma Mater,” as Verne Lundquist and something called “Tennessee Football Insiders” have steadfastly maintained.  It’s really the “Tennessee Waltz,” authored by Pee Wee King and Redd Stewart.

Just some free information, trying to be helpful.

Saturday, Nov. 12, 2016

“A Skittish Fan Base”

Will the result of tonight’s Tennessee-Chattanooga basketball game have any effect on David Blackburn’s chances of named Tennessee AD? If UTC wins handily (or even narrowly, for that matter), would that impress the powers-that-be enough to swing the momentum his way? Or will the outcome of the game have no impact on the search?

Not so fast.

While most clear thinking folks think David is the man for the job and has paid his dues to get to the big office in Knoxville, there are those who want someone else in the position, maybe looking toward Lexington, Ky., or Manhattan, Kan., or someone else with a “Power 5” background. They seem to be wondering if David has what it takes to lead the Vol program.

Time will tell. This is an important decision, one that requires everyone to be rowing in the same direction.

Can’t imagine that Mitch Barnhart or John Currie getting the nod, as has been suggested by some with a great deal of time on their hands, would dazzle a skittish fan base, but there could be someone already in a “Power 5” job who could likely find his way to Knoxville.

Maybe there is somebody else out there with a Tennessee pedigree or one who understands the culture of the state, campus, and Tennessee athletics.

Maybe not.

By the way, the announced candidates to replace Chancellor Cheek don’t seem to be exceptionally impressive. Each of them do bring more to the table, however, than Dr. Cheek did however long ago that was.

Friday, Nov. 11, 2016

“Provincial?”

At the risk of sounding provincial, questions need to be raised about no Tennesseans (apparently) being qualified for or even applying in hopes of being the school’s next Chancellor.

Were there any grads or even persons connected with the flagship campus who sent in credentials? Is there an inherent bias against those with a Tennessee pedigree?

Is there an FOIA request in the offing to see who actually applied? It doesn’t seem likely, but someone could always try.

Replacing the seemingly hapless Jimmy Cheek doesn’t sound like rocket science, but University of Tennessee search committees have been known to mess up hiring, and given recent presidential and athletic department hires, it’s always a possibility.

Let’s hope that the powers-that-be get it right this time.

Monday, Nov. 7, 2016

“TN or TENN?”

Thought about Haywood Harris a great deal before, during, and after yesterday’s game against Tennessee Tech. There was one aspect that was certainly at the forefront of the ambience of the game. It would have grabbed Haywood’s attention in a big way.

When the home season arrived tickets arrived, there it was, right there in black letters,“TN TECH” listed as the opponent for yesterday’s game, right there between the ducats for Alabama and Kentucky.

At the stadium, a quick look at the east side scoreboard also revealed the words “TN TECH.”

You see, Haywood hated the use of postal abbreviations, e.g. TN, in any other context than in an address, e.g., Knoxville, TN 37919. He might even have had the ability to convince Gov. Haslam that the use of “TN” as a state logo was equally misguided.

He wasn’t a “Grammar Nazi,” by any measure, but was very consistent in his desire for anything written (or spoken) to be grammatically correct. He would have insisted that the scoreboard and ticket to be read “TENN TECH.”

There was a time that an on-screen score graphic listed the Vols as “TN,” not “TENN” or “TENNESSEE.”

Haywood called down to the production truck before the game and very nicely and reasonably explained that it should be “TENN” or “TENNESSEE.” It was very quickly changed, and the game went on.

Haywood was a great man, with a fine appreciation for the King’s English. When he spoke or wrote, thoughtful people pid attention.

Miss you, Haywood.

Sunday, Nov. 6, 2016

“They Came Through Knoxville”

When the Detroit Tigers overcame a 3-1 deficit in the 1968 World Series and eventually won the Fall Classic in seven games, knocking off St. Louis, the team did so with a number of former Knoxville Smokies leading the way.

Numbered among the former Smokies on the Detroit roster were pitchers Mickey Lolich, Pat Dobson, Denny McLain, and Joe Sparma, catcher Bill Freehan, second baseman Dick McAuliffe, shortstop Ray Oyler, relief pitcher John Hiller, and outfielders Gates Brown, Willie Horton, Mickey Stanley, and Jim Northrup.

They were part of the scene at Bill Meyer Stadium in the early 1960s, part of a glorious time in Smokies baseball.

Saturday, Nov. 5, 2016