Author Archives: Tom Mattingly

About Tom Mattingly

Tom Mattingly writes on Vol history. Contact him via email.

“14 Seconds”

Listened to one of the Vol Network CDs while on the road the other day. There were no commercials, and the time passed quickly.

Heard Gary Moore’s 98-yard kickoff return against Auburn from the 1979 game. According to what John said, the whole deal took 14 seconds.

14 seconds.

Haven’t timed them, but the “Stoerner Stumble” or Jeff Powell’s run against Miami probably took half that time.

Most of the great plays in Tennessee football history have probably occurred in less time than that.

These type plays happen quickly, but their impact lasts a lifetime, tempus fugit and all that.

Saturday, Dec. 31, 2016

“Where’s Dartmouth?”

Today’s win over Nebraska narrowed the list of teams the Vols had never defeated over the years.

That leaves Baylor (0-1), Colorado (0-0-1), Kansas State (0-1), Oregon (0-2), Pittsburgh (0-2), Purdue (0-1), Southern Cal (0-4), and VMI (0-1) with accounts that need to be settled.

Then there’s the 0-1 mark against Dartmouth dating to 1921 that will likely never be settled.

That’s for sure dIsappointing, but we’ve survived this deficit for 95 years and no solution has appeared on the horizon.


Sad… but true.

Friday, Dec. 30, 2016

“This Day, A Long time Ago”

What would be the final game of the Doug Dickey Era at Tennessee took place today in 1969 at the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville. It was SEC champ Tennessee against Florida, in a game with all kinds of angles. We were all a great deal younger back then.

Dickey was a Florida alum, coaching against a Florida team led by Tennessee alum Ray Graves, captain of the 1941 team.

Tennessee lost to the Gators 14-13, in a game in which the Vols missed an inordinate number of scoring opportunities, but the real story came of the field, before and after the game.

Graves was retiring after the season, and rumors abounded that Dickey was the heir apparent. Within a week, those rumors proved to be true.

Perhaps the most cogent comment from fans in the stands came from one Vol partisan.

“It’s hard to win,” he said, “when one team had both coaches.”

That stung a bit, but about a week later, Dickey was off to Florida, and Bill Battle was in the big chair in Knoxville.

That’s the way things appeared 47 years ago today. No one could have guessed what was in the offing.

Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2016


There are certain Knoxville media members who remember the Vol HIstorian as “Spuds McKenzie.” That nickname came from the Boston College football trip in the fall of 1987 (BC 20, Tennessee 18).

A bunch of us were on the town not knowing exactly when we might get back to the team hotel.

There was a noon kickoff the next day.

That led to leaving the festivities around 10 p.m., knowing that it was getting late early. Had to be ready for the bus to the stadium, you know.

Remember telling Jeff Jacoby that it was time to get back. His response was vintage. He said the “party animal” was leaving and some, maybe Jeff, maybe someone else, said “See you, Spuds,” referencing the so-called “party animal,” Spuds McKenzie,” who was exceptionally popular in televised beer commercials in those days.

From that point on, the soon-to-be “Vol HIstorian,” was either “Spuds” or “Spuds-ro”

It was a nickname that “stuck.” It was something special.

On another front, Jeff, like many of the rest of us, had the unique ability to recall John Ward play-by-play calls.

From memory.

Remember challenging him one night.

Here came Ward’s words from the intro to a long-ago game.

“Tennessee fans here and throughout the country listening to this broadcast have begun to experience the feeling of excitement as the University of Tennessee Pride of the Southland Marching Band marches from the formation facing the south end zone, where the national anthem has just been played and sung, into the traditional T stretching from the east stands, the corridor leading from the Vol dressing room to the west sidelines. The band is there . . . there are thousands of balloons as well. And now, as Tennessee comes onto the field, ‘It’s Football Time in Tennessee.’ College football at its finest . . . 60 seconds for our stations as we say, “This is the Vol Network. Get ready for the kickoff!”

Checked it out later. And he had Ward’s call.

RIght on the nose.

These are but two memories of a man’s life that helped create memories… memories for all time.

Jeff now belongs to the ages, but as long as Vol fans celebrate the magic moments of a great tradition, his influence and his voice, will be right there among the celebrants.

RIght there where he belongs.

Good man.

Good friend.

And thanks for the memories.

Monday, Dec. 26, 2016

“Close to Christmas”

Tennessee played hoops tonight, albeit 46 years ago, when Oregon State showed up at Stokely Center within mere hours of Christmas.

The Vols won 89-61, sending everybody at the game happy and leaving OSU with a fllght to Corvallis later that evening into Christmas Eve morning.

They don’t play games these days that close to Christmas except in isolated instances, but things had to have been different back in the 1970s.

In many ways, they were.

Way different.

Friday, Dec. 23, 1970

“Another Nail-Biter”

Tonight’s game at ETSU brought back memories of another trip to Johnson City in the 1963-64 season. The Vols won 48-47, and here’s the way Ben Byrd described the scene.

“Mears was back at the helm for the 1963-64 season,” Ben wrote. “It was early in the campaign that the turning point arrived in his career at UT.”

He wrote that the Vols were embroiled in a do-or-die battle with East Tennessee State on the Bucs’ home floor at Johnson City, given that the Vols had already lost at Xavier and Rice.

But Danny Schultz and A. W. Davis came riding to the rescue. The Bucs had led most of the way, but Tennessee’s dynamic duo made the big plays that turned the game Tennessee’s way.

Tennessee ended up 16-8 that season, 9-5 in the SEC, with Schultz averaging 18.3 ppg and Davis averaging 17.3, but the key game had to have been the nail-biter in Washington County.

Thursday, Dec. 22, 2016

“A Time of Great Exuberance”

Vol fans were still smiling today in 1967, almost three weeks after Tennessee put the finishing touches on a 9-1 regular season with a 41-14 win over Vanderbilt, in a campaign that brought home the first SEC title since 1956. Doug Dickey had said the fourth year of his tenure at Tennessee would be special, and he was right.

The Vols lost the season opener at UCLA, yet rolled through the next nine opponents by a combined score of 243-95, settling some old scores in the process. The Vols knocked off Alabama 24-13 on Oct. 21, the first win over the Crimson Tide since 1960, and Ole Miss by 20-7 on Nov. 18, the first win over the Rebels since 1958.

The Alabama game was so inspirational that one exuberant Vol fan posed the ultimate question in a call to the KNS: “Does Coach Dickey intend to come back to Knoxville with the team or will he just walk up the river?”

The season finale against Vanderbilt was the last on Shields-Watkins Field for a number of seniors who helped bring Tennessee back into national prominence, among them Bob Johnson, Dewey Warren, Charlie Fulton, John Boynton, Albert Dorsey, Jimmy Glover, Walter Chadwick, Derrick Weatherford, Elliott Gammage, and Joe Graham.

Dickey called it a team effort all the way.

“I think a lot of players on that ’67 team played better than they were,” Dickey said. “Coach Bryant always told me that your great players have to play great and your average players have to play real good. That’s the secret to being a great coach.”

The Vols finished the regular season No. 2 in the nation, and played Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl. The Vols came off the mat of a 19-0 halftime deficit and had a shot at the victory in the waning seconds, but kicker Karl Kremser’s last-second attempt for the win faded to the right and the final was 26-24, Sooners.

That loss did not diminish the accomplishments of this team in the least.

In Dickey’s second, third and fourth years at Tennessee, the program was definitely on the upswing. The Vols were “back,” and Vol fans were convinced the team could win any time they took the field.

The 1965 team had a two-page picture in Sports Illustrated after the tie with Alabama. The exploits of the 1966, 1967, and 1968 teams were also chronicled therein in later issues.

The Vanderbilt game was the last played on the Shields-Watkins Field grass, so carefully tended by John Deanie Hoskins and Jim Wagner for so many years, until Sept. 17, 1994.

In the middle of 1968, word came that the field would be covered with something called Tartan Turf, a product of 3M, with the grass being pulled out and the artificial stuff put down.

Artificial turf stayed on the field in one form or another until the end of the 1993 season and another victory over Vanderbilt. Then came the ever-so-joyous announcement that grass would also be “back” for the 1994 season.

The 1967 Vols were quite a group. They are on the short list of teams Vol fans bring up as one of their favorites.

Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2016

“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 are 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