Tennessee Volunteers: A Modest Success
The Tennessee Volunteers football team, also nicknamed “Vols,” represents the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK) in NCAA Division I and is a member of the Southeastern Conference. Their home games are played at Neyland Stadium located in Knoxville, Tennessee. Phillip Fulmer is currently the head coach of the Volunteers and has been for the past 17 years. The 1998 college football season was the Volunteers’ last championship.
The University of Tennessee football team had its first season in 1891. In their second season of playing the game in 1892, the Volunteers earned their first victory, defeating Maryville College with a score of 25-0 in Maryville, Tennessee. . In the first five seasons they competed, they had no official coach. His first head coach was JA Pierce. In subsequent years, the team would have multiple coaches who would remain with the team for a short time until head coach Zora G. Clevenger was hired in 1911 to guide and coach the team. Shields-Watkins Field was built in 1921, named for the field’s financial backers, William S. Shields and his wife Alice Watkins. The Shield-Watkins became the new home of the Vol, where they were able to develop their game and train harder and better. At the time, it had a capacity of 3,200 seats and before being used as a soccer field, it was used to play baseball. In 1922, the Vols began wearing orange jerseys, which would be their team color to this day.
In 1926, Robert Neyland, an Army Captain and ROTC instructor at the University of Tennessee, became Vols’ head coach. Former Vols player Nathan Dougherty, then president of athletics and dean of the University’s engineering program, pressured Neyland to even the score with archrivals Vanderbilt, who at the time dominated soccer in Tennessee. Neylan successfully led the team to overtake the Nashville school. In 1927, under Neyland’s leadership, the Vols won their first Southern Conference title and in 1928 they won a victory over the highly favored Alabama team. The first All-American title on the football program went to Gene McEver. He led the team in scoring 130 points. To this day, his score remains a school record.
After its conference championship, the team lost several of its star players in the NFL, including quarterback Peyton Manning, wide receivers Andy McCullough and Marcus Nash, and linebacker Leonard Little. The Vols also came off a 42-17 Orange Bowl loss to Nebraska and had a five-game losing streak to rivals Florida Gators. But beyond all obstacles, the Vols exceeded all expectations in the 1998 season. The team had new quarterback Tee Martin, Peerless Price and All-American linebacker Al Wilson who led them to win their first national title over Florida State. They finished the season with a 13-0 record and ended a 45-5 streak in four years. Since their National Championship in 1998, the Vols have had moderate success.