Tennessee Traditions

16 Aug

I am a fan of the University of Tennessee, and that has been a rough experience in the past few years. While most Tennessee fans follow several sports, the university is considered a “football school”, and the football team has gone through the worst seasons in its history. Coaching changes. Bad losses. Few good wins. To put it bluntly, it has sucked.

Now, there is a new coach, Butch Jones, who is trying to breathe some life back into the program. He has hit the recruiting trail. He has reached out to fans and former players. Every fan I know thinks he has done a fantastic job – until yesterday. That’s when he unveiled a new uniform that the team will wear for a couple of games.Uniform

Immediately, the howls began from fans who said the uniforms were terrible. Reading Twitter and message boards, people typed over and over about how this was destroying Tennessee tradition. The team is Orange and White – not some charcoal gray.

This made me start thinking about some of the Tennessee tradition that they were talking about. My dad started taking me to football games when I was 6 years old. That was in the mid-70s. Since that time, I have been lucky enough to attend almost every game, both home and away. I have experienced the traditions of Tennessee, and they have become a big part of who I am. However, all of those traditions had a beginning. There was a first time that each one happened. I wonder what fans during those times thought about this new things that was being introduced.

Orange Jerseys – The team first wore orange on the field in 1922. Before that, they probably wore some color like gray. Oh, wait. I wonder if some fan sat in the stands and said, “This is a man’s game. Why are they wearing orange? It looks like those flowers over there.”

T on the Helmet – Have a big T on the side of the helmet is a Tennessee tradition. It started in 1964. I don’t know if anyone complained about it. However, Johnny Majors became coach in the 1970s and CHANGED THE T!!! It was blasphemy, I say.

Running Through the T – One of the most exciting times as a Tennessee fan is when the team runs onto the field through a giant T formed by the band. I guarantee that every fan dreams of doing it. The tradition began in 1965. That means Tennessee played football for 70 years before the team ran through the T. I bet some fan said, “Why are they making them run across the field like that? They should save their energy for the game.”Running Through the T

Rocky Top – This is one of Tennessee’s most famous traditions. Throughout a game, the band plays and the fans sing “Rocky Top” dozens of times. Opposing coaches and players have talked about how it drives them crazy. This song has become synonymous with Tennessee football. It was first played at a game in 1972. Before that, fans heard spirited renditions of “Down the Field”, the official fight song. I can hear it now. Some fan says, “We’ve been playing ‘Down the Field’ forever. It’s a tradition. I can’t believe they are playing this hillbilly music.”

Checkerboard Endzones – I saw a poll that said Tennessee’s checkerboard endzones are one of the most famous traditions in college football. They first appeared in the 1960s, then were taken away for a while. This is a tradition that wasn’t even thought enough of to keep around. I bet some fan said, “This ain’t checkers. It’s football, by God.”

The Vol Walk – This is a tradition that a lot of fans love. They line the street as the players walk to the stadium. It’s a long-held tradition that started IN MY LIFETIME! Nevertheless, it is a tradition.

I wrote all of that to say that traditions have to start somewhere and that the traditions of the program have always changed. There is a first time for everything, and, sometimes, that leads to something that people value for years to come. However, without the introduction we never know.

Here’s the bottom line for those who hate the new uniforms. It was not done for the fans. It was done for the current and future players. Guess what, they all love it. One recruit said the uniform was prettier than his girlfriend.

As I wrote at the beginning, the program has gone through hard times. Today’s recruits don’t remember that Tennessee won the first BCS title. They don’t know Heath Shuler, Condredge Holloway, Hank Lauricella or George Cafego. What’s more, they don’t care.

Here’s something else, all of those other traditions were probably started for the players, too. If I remember my Vol history, then the program struggled through the early 1960s. A young coach came in and jazzed things up with the T on the helmet; the checkerboard endzones; and a new way to enter the field. He did it to attract players. That’s what Butch Jones is doing with the new uniforms.

Oh, the color orange was picked by a football player.

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5 Responses to “Tennessee Traditions”

  1. frontrangescribbles August 16, 2013 at 22:19 #

    Fans don’t like change thats for sure especially SEC fans.

    • Rick August 17, 2013 at 15:00 #

      That’s true. People freaked out when the Vols wore black jerseys a few years ago. Heck, that’s the last good win they had.

  2. chuck September 27, 2013 at 04:17 #

    I think wearing an alternate uniform on special occasions like the South Carolina vs. Tenn. Halloween Game when the players come out & warmed up in Solid Orange which I bleed orange always have always will! I’m one that wears my schools gear pretty much everyday because I’m proud of the state I was born & I’m not a bandwagon fan that when things start going downhill they don’t wear there VOLS gear. I’m not biggest fan of Adidas uniforms but have to say they did great with the Smokey Shade of Grey! Its not dogging tradition when you wear alternate uniform for a game. Just look at how Tenn. Come out super pumped up in the Halloween game. young student athletes now a days love getting opportunity to wear alternate uniforms in big games. Its not like we are Oregon Ducks who I doubt wear the same uniform twice in a season. Honestly I hate bashing Oregon but some of the alternate uniforms they wear some look cool but a majority of the times they are on hideous side. Plus I can’t say 100% sure but if I’m remembering right that Halloween night game was VOLS last win over a ranked opponent. I’m curious to see which game the Smokey Grey’s will be worn. I’m assuming its going to be Georgia South Carolina, or BAMA I’m not sure which will be the game to pull them out. I also liked how in the opening game against N.C. State played Tenn. In Georgia Dome for season opener how both teams wore the Home Orange uniforms for Tenn. & N.C.State wore the Solid Red. I liked that look. I would like to see more games especially when both teams main colors are no where near similar. I can understand visiting team wearing white if both teams are orange. Just look at old game tapes between Bama vs. Tenn were each team wore the Home uniforms at least do it as change every so often.I also think the home team should be allowed to pick if they wanted to wear white at home then LSU would have to wear the Purple home jerseys on the road. If I’m not mistaken only time LSU award purple jerseys is during non conference home games. I just like seeing the different teams wear Dark colored home uniforms because its something different. Well its shame football just goes way to fast. its already week 4 & seams like season just got started. Well only few days left until week 5 is under the belt. I really hoping that

    • chuck September 27, 2013 at 04:23 #

      Tennessee can pull of couple of these big upsets in next few weeks. Its sad we haven’t knocked off a ranked opponent since the Halloween game against Spurriers Cocks when we come out playing fast & hard with many hard hits & a defense that Tenn. Should be able to play.

      • Rick September 27, 2013 at 14:06 #

        I agree with everything that you said. I have been going to the games since I was 6 and love all of the traditions. That doesn’t mean that it’s bad to start new traditions. As you said, we wore black jerseys in our last big win. Let’s see what these gray ones can do.

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