Welcome to the final regular season installment of the Game of the Week Game Day Guide which features a GameDay experience at the home venue for the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl Game of the Week. We have visited alternating ACC and SEC schools each week of the regular season and will end this series with the Kentucky vs. Tennessee match-up as the Game of the Week and visit Knoxville, Tenn. for the final GameDay guide of the 2010 college football regular season.
Tennessee athletes wear the “Vol” name with pride. This nickname (The Volunteers) was adopted because Tennessee is known as the “Volunteer” state. Throughout American history, Tennesseans have stepped up during times of war answering the call of duty beginning with the War of 1812 when President Andrew Jackson solicited 1,500 soldiers from his home state to fight at the Battle of New Orleans. This Volunteer reputation was reaffirmed in 1846 during the Mexican War when Aaron Brown, the governor at the time, asked for 2,800 men to volunteer for military service to battle Santa Ana and 30,000 Tennesseans volunteered. The soldiers from Tennessee wore a dragon uniform that is still adorned by the color guard at UT games.
The Orange and white colors were chosen during the inaugural football season of 1891 by the right guard, Charles Moore. These color choices were inspired by the large amount of orange and white American daisies that covered the Hill on UT’s campus. In 1892 the student body endorsed these colors by a vote. The first football game played in the orange and white jerseys took place at the 1922 season opener against Emory and Henry where the Vols won 50-0.
With the coonhound being a native breed to Tennessee, it is only fitting that this hound dog be selected to represent the University as the mascot. In 1953, Tennessee’s Pep Club held a contest during halftime of the Mississippi State game to select a coonhound. Dogs entered into the contest were lined up and announced over the loudspeaker and the students cheered for their favorite. “Smokey,” a bluetick coonhound, was entered by his owner, the late Rev. Bill Brooks. When “Smokey” was called over the loudspeaker, the dog barked. The students cheered and Smokey then threw his head back and barked again. The Stadium erupted and Tennessee found its mascot. Since 1953, Tennessee has had 9 “Smokey” mascots and each lived adventurous lives. Smokey II was dognapped by Kentucky students in 1955 and in 1957 he survived a confrontation with the Baylor Bear at the Sugar Bowl. Smokey VI was listed on the Tennessee Vols injury report after suffering from heat exhaustion in 1991 at the UCLA game. Smokey VIII has the best record (91-22, with two SEC titles and one national championship.) The current Smokey, Smokey IX, began at the 2004 Peach Bowl. Every home game, Smokey is one of the fan photo favorites. He leads the Vols out of the T before each game.
Knoxville traffic is notoriously bad on game days. People are often looking for a route to avoid all the extra congestion. In 1962, former Vol broadcaster George Mooney found that route in the form of the Tennessee River. Mooney traveled down the Tennessee River on boat to the stadium and started the tradition know as the “Vol Navy.” Now nearly 200 boats make this trip each game day for what is often referred to as Tennessee’s floating tailgate party. The University of Tennessee and Washington are the only universities in the country whose stadiums are next to bodies of water.
The Vol Walk is the newest tradition and a fan favorite. The Vol Walk began the 1990 season. It gives fans a chance to see the players up close and give them best wishes as the team makes their walk from Gibbs Hall, down Peyton Manning Pass and to the stadium. Players have stated that the biggest surprise during the Vol Walk is the amount of fans that give coaching advice during the brief walk. The Vol walk begins 2 hours and 15 minutes prior to kickoff.
1964 brought two distinct changes to Tennessee football with the arrival of Coach Doug Dickey: the checkerboard end zone and running through the T. These traditions are now trademarks to program. The checkerboard end zone only lasted until 1968 when artificial turf was placed on the field but made a return in the 1989 season with the return of grass. Several years ago, a poll was conducted in Des Moines, Iowa to identify the most recognizable sports venues in America. Neyland Stadium with the checkerboard end zone highlighted the top ten next to Wrigley Field, Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park.
Running through the T emphasizes the power T as the Tennessee logo which also found its way on the players’ helmets in 1964. When the Tennessee bench was relocated from the east to the west side of the stadium, Coach Dickey ran his team through a giant “T” formed by the Pride of the Southland Marching Band. This electrifying entrance to the stadium happens just before kick-off.
These traditions are significant because of the support and value given to them by the fans. Each tradition holds a special memory for Vol fans and is reserved for those one-of-a-kind GameDays in Knoxville.