It was sometime early in January 1955 that Bowden Wyatt rolled into Knoxville to take the reins of the Tennessee football program. He had had great success at Wyoming and Arkansas, conference championships at both schools, with Vol fans hoping for more of the same in Knoxville.
“It’s been a rough decision for me,” Wyatt said, “but I’m going back to the job I’ve always wanted.”
Wyatt brought Skeeter Bailey, Dick Hitt, George Cafego, and Leroy Pearce with him from Arkansas, added Ralph Chancey and Bunzy O’Neil, and completed the staff with Jim McDonald, a successful high school coach in Springfield, Ohio.
There was a magic moment at the Vol football banquet when Bowden made a presentation to 1955 team captain Jim Beutel. It was a coin he had won as captain of the 11-0 1938 team. He had kept it to give his first captain if he ever became head coach at Tennessee.
So the Wyatt years at Tennessee were off and running.
“With triumphant coaches tenures behind, Bowden Wyatt was now back home,” Russ Bebb wrote. “Ahead lay even greater triumphs and personal glory.”
There was more to it, however.
“And sadness and sorrow, too.”
Saturday, Jan. 7, 2017