“Mid-level and Unstable SEC Program”

This was an interesting article, even given the news that Rick Barnes, formerly of Texas, was (apparently) the new head coach at Tennessee. See, for example, this story in the KNS.

It came from Fort Wayne, Ind., on a site called News-Sentinel.com.

INTERESTING POINT: “The perception will be (and perhaps already is) that Butler isn’t truly a high-major program. True, the Bulldogs have had the most successful squads in the state for the last 25 years, but Notre Dame, Purdue and Indiana aren’t regularly losing its coaches to other jobs.

“It’s one thing to see Brad Stevens leave for the Boston Celtics or even Holtmann for Texas; those are acceptable from a public relations standpoint. But to lose Holtmann to a mid-level and unstable SEC program is a dose of humility that will be a challenge to swallow for Bulldog fans.”


And double-wow.

That should play well on the message boards.

Monday, March 30, 2015

“The General”

Gen. Robert Reese Neyland (b. Feb. 17, 1892) died this day, a Wednesday, in 1962 at the Oeschner Clinic in New Orleans.

If you want to measure his career by the numbers, try 173-31-2, his record over three tenures at Tennessee, 76-7-5 from 1926-34, 43-7-3, from 1936-40, and 54-17-4 from 1946-52. Over the course of his career, 112 opponents failed to score.

The football complex on campus is named after Neyland and Knoxville business leader B. Ray Thompson. The Vols play in Neyland Stadium. The four-lane road behind the south end of the stadium is Neyland Drive. There is a scholarship fund for non-athletes named in his memory.

Dean Nathan Washington Dougherty later called the hiring of Capt. Robert Reese Neyland the “best decision I ever made.”

From all accounts, Neyland had a towering, dominating, and even intimidating presence. Taciturn in demeanor and seeking excellence on all fronts, Neyland’s impact was felt across the South, all across the nation.

In a 1969 poll, a panel of 100 “experts” (as reported in a 1970 book on Tennessee football by Tom Siler) named Neyland the second best coach of all time, behind Knute Rockne and ahead of Amos Alonzo Stagg. That came 17 years after Neyland had hung up his whistle and seven years after his death.

If you mention the name “Neyland” to Vol fans and ask about his impact—even today—the answer would likely be the same: “He was the coach who put Tennessee football on the map.”

Neyland “made” Tennessee, to the point he was revered by those who played for him, respected by those who coached against him, and, more than 50 years after his death, honored as his name and legacy live on.

Bowden Wyatt, Neyland’s 1938 captain, got it right about his mentor, in a statement released the day Neyland died.

“Gen. Robert Reese Neyland now becomes a legend,” Wyatt said. “Gen. Neyland the man is gone, but no eulogy and no monuments are needed to mark his passing. His great contributions to our youth, to the university and to his state will endure. I have lost my coach, my friend and my benefactor. The precepts of honesty and integrity that he instilled in the hearts and minds of countless young men who came under his exacting tutelage will live on and on.”

That’s the way things appeared this day in 1962.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

“A Great Deal of Money”

Money is money, but the 1931 Charity Bowl at Yankee Stadium brought home real money.

The Vols brought home $18,583 for relief work in the Knoxville area, estimated at $285,478.40 in 2014.

Here is another salient fact about the game.

Herman Hickman made Grantland Rice’s All-America team off this game.

UT historians James Riley Montgomery Montgomery, Stanley Folmsbee, and Lee Seifert Greene wrote about the other significant impact of the game: “The precision playing and the devastating line work of the Volunteers attracted attention of northern sports writers as the press outside Tennessee began to pay closer attention to events in the state.”

By the way, the Vols defeated NYU, the Violets, 13-0. It was a good trip on all fronts.

There was, however, no estimate on how much the trip cost.

Friday, March 27, 2015

“A Highly Emotional Battle”

Check out the 1983 game between “the U of L” and Kentucky at Stokely Center this day in 1983.

You can find a box score here. The final was 80-68, Louisville, in overtime.

There were some big names in that box score and at least one—Kenny Walker—who was destined to be a “big name.”

It was Joe B. Hall coaching against Denny Crum.

“The Louisville-Kentucky game was a highly emotional battle for the capacity crowd of 12,489 at the University of Tennessee’s Stokely Athletics Center,” wrote Frank Litsky of the New York Times.

“Though the Kentucky and Louisville campuses are only 70 or so miles apart, the teams had not met since 1959 in this tournament and had not met in the regular season since 1922.”

Crum put the game in perspective by saying: “Kentucky shot 56.1 percent and got beat. They were beaten by a good team.”

In the second half, including overtime, the Cardinals made a school-record 22 of 27 shots for 81.5 percent. As Crum said: “I don’t think we ever played any second half or overtime any better than today.”

This all happened today… in 1983… at Stokely Center… in Knoxville, Tenn.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

“Coaching Searches Way Back When”

There were coaching searches way back in the “Dark Ages” of Tennessee football, and as is the case today, the search always seems to be directed at the “best and the brightest,” the search always described as “national.”

Everybody has an opinion, much the way it is these days.

That was the case in the waning days of 1925 and into 1926, when Dean Nathan Washington Dougherty had to find a football coach. He had the one he wanted on campus, a fellow named Bob Neyland, but school president Harcourt A. Morgan wanted Dougherty to get “the best coach in the country.”

School presidents always want that, but rarely get it.

Anyway, Neyland was, in fact, Dougherty’s choice.

The local newspapers of that day helped out, “immeasurably,” by staking out positions on who the new coach should be.

Tennessee historians James Riley Montgomery, Stanley J. Folmsbee, and Lee Greene wrote that, “while Dougherty had a single candidate in mind, the papers made it appear there were several.”

History tells us that Neyland got the job, “with significant results for the university.”

There was none of the modern technology extant in those days, so Dougherty could get away with running things out of his shirt pocket. He probably didn’t have a great many media conferences, nor was there a steady procession of media into and out of his office. He might not have needed a guard at his door during the process.

Things were a great deal different back then.

Things must have turned out pretty well for both men. Buildings on campus Dougherty Hall and Neyland Stadium stand in their honor and memory.

Would the Dougherty approach to hiring a coach work today?

It’s doubtful, but we can only hope that whoever makes and gets the call will be remembered and revered in the future years the way Dougherty and Neyland are today.

It’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

“The Great Storytellers”

Willie Morris, the poet laureate of Mississippi, if there is such a term, once wrote the following well-chosen words: “There is a tradition in the South, as in other parts of America, that a story worth telling places a responsibility on the listener to tell it again, in another place.”

Storytellers are fascinating people. Morris is one. Marvin West is another. Lindsey Nelson is another.

Roger Kahn holds a special place in the vernacular of the storytellers, if for only one work, the classic “Boys of Summer.”

That was the story of the early 1950s Brooklyn Dodgers, in their playing days and years later, long after their careers had ended.

Haywood Harris and David Housel marvelously told the stories, artisans of their craft, if you will, with Tennessee and Auburn, respectively, their school’s story with great purpose and verve. These guys could flat turn a phrase, whether with pen, pencil, or on their personal computer.

(There was a time, when our offices were in the bowels of Stokely Center, and that’s putting it mildly, Haywood would yell across the cubicles, that this “gosh-dang machine lost my copy.” That was as exercised as Haywood ever got. A colleague would immediately trot over and hit “edit-undo” and the copy would reappear as if by magic.)

It was Kahn who composed this wonderful statement about the craft of writing, emphasizing that words and the sounds they make mean something: “When you write you must listen for sounds,” Kahn recalled a colleague telling him in one of his early days at the New York Herald Tribune.

“And there is a sound that one word makes and there is the sound that one word makes on another and there is the sound of silences between words.”

Long live the great story tellers, particularly those who write/wrote about the University of Tennessee and its people.

Monday, March 23, 2015


“On to Chattanooga”

Did they really play the Orange & White game in Chattanooga back in 1994?

Does anybody remember?

The answer is “yes.”

To both questions.

Shields-Watkins Field was undergoing the transition from turf to grass, so the Vols, with proper NCAA dispensation (there are very strict rules about spring games, you know), motored down I-75 to Hamilton County and played on the verdant turf at Chamberlain Field, a venue since consigned to history.

There were really no memorable moments, given that this was a spring game, but it is an answer to the question about a spring contest outside the confines of Knox County.

With that, everyone survived the road trip and lived to tell the tale.

Not a bad thing at all, when you think about it.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

“A Long-Time Fan”

If you’re a long-time fan of Tennessee football, you might want to check out this highlight film from the 1951 Cotton Bowl.

UT’s film of this game is apparently consigned to history, so these highlights, done in 1950s newsreel style, will have to suffice.

Hank Lauricella’s 75-yard run to set up first touchdown is the unquestioned high point in the film.

It was Tennessee 20, Texas 14, way back on Jan. 1, 1951.

It was a long time ago, but it’s exciting to watch more than 60 years later.

Sunday, March 22, 2015


“So Close, Yet So Far Away.”

This day in 1983, Vol fans had to deal with the aftermath of Tennessee losing 70-57 to No. 2 Louisville in an NCAA game in Evansville, Ind.

It was a loss that prevented the Vols from playing on their home court the next week. Instead, Louisville advanced to Stokely Center for their now-famous game against Kentucky, a contest Louisville won in overtime.

The Vols, coached by Don DeVoe and featuring the incomparable Dale Ellis (22.6 ppg, ending up No. 6 on the all-time scoring list), were 20-12 for the season, losing five of their final seven regular season games, all losses on the road. There were four 1-point losses, including two at home.

That season was a classic example of the adage, “So close, yet so far away.”

Saturday, March 21, 2015