These are the dog days. The weather is overbearing in a way that makes us simply want to wave the white flag.
But, college football doesn’t allow for that. It doesn’t allow us to give int. College football offers hope at the end of this hot, desolate wasteland that we know as the “offseason.”
As the calendar flipped to August, I was reminded of one of my favorite football movies, “The Best of Times,” starring the late Robin Williams. You should put this on your list if only for the poetic diatribes and quotable lines. When describing the anticipation of the annual rebirth of football, Williams encapsulates the anticipation, the hope of a new season.
“It’s that time of year again…when the first leaf of autumn falls forlornly to the barren ground below.”
The hope he speaks of is found in an ideal unique to college football.
Tradition. A three-syllable word that defines the phenomena that is the sport we love. It’s more than just what happens between the lines. Coaches and players come and go, and the sport encompasses more than Xs and Os.
It is tradition.
It’s the Vol Navy sterngating in the shadows of Rocky Top. It’s the Sea of Red releasing balloons when their Huskers score for the first time. It’s Army and Navy desperately trying to “sing second.” It’s doing the Hokey Pokey at halftime in Blacksburg. It’s dotting the ‘i’, screaming “Bear Down,” “Boiler Up,” and striking the Heisman pose.
It’s the sight of beloved mascots like Ralphie, Tusk, Cam the Ram and Mike the Tiger. It’s the smells filling the State Fair on Oklahoma-Texas weekend, permeating from Dreamland on Friday afternoon, and wafting across The Grove on Saturday morning. It’s the deafening cheers in The Swamp, The Horseshoe, The Doak, “between the hedges” and down on The Farm. It’s the driving melodies of Texas Fight, Fight Tiger, Tiger Rag and Ragtime Cowboy Joe.
The autumn spectacle makes this sport special. It has survived world wars, financial recessions, and national tragedies.
The passion and traditions are cultural – inherited at a young age, carried through tenure as a co-ed, embraced as a seasoned alum, and then taught to the next generation.
No other sport offers the color and pageantry quite like college football. Lucky for us, it’s that time of year again…
PSA: If you are a Notre Dame fan over the age of 35, you probably will not like what you are about to read.
“Tradition:” A word more synonymous with Notre Dame Football than “winning” at this point. In an age of big players, big bucks, and big scandals, Notre Dame has managed to preserve a certain throwback quality to the way it operates. And besides a vintage love affair with Knute Rockne, Irish Football’s most evergreen trademark is its non-conference schedule.
For years the Irish brutally clashed with football juggernauts and bitter rivals under the holy name of Independent. The Irish have never been bound to crush conference cellar-dwellers on the path to a National Title. Now, the College Football Playoff has ushered in a new era of college football. An era in which, quite frankly, the Independent method just doesn’t fit. It’s time to face the music, pronto.
This system—or rather, this refusal to adapt to a system—has rankled the rest of the college football world, with naysayers claiming it gives the Irish an unfair advantage. On paper, this logic seems valid. Notre Dame can schedule whomever it chooses while other programs are shackled to schedules assigned from on high.
Notre Dame can theoretically rake in TV revenue for primetime road match-ups and its home contract with NBC. When Notre Dame plays on the road against a 2-7 Boston College team, it goes on ESPN at 8:00. When any other team plays at Boston College it’s a 12:00 game that might blackout on WatchESPN. This unfair advantage in the ways of scheduling and television coverage gives the Irish freedom and exposure that other teams just don’t have.
But the reality of the last two decades tells a different story. Notre Dame hasn’t won a national championship in 28 years, and only twice since then has it come close to contention. Perhaps the way to Make Notre Dame Great Again is to loosen the grip on tradition, starting with its logistical relationship to the wider college football galaxy.
Yet, the Irish stay independent. Before their half-assed deal with the ACC, each year the Irish faced the same core group of teams: Michigan, Michigan State, USC, Stanford, Navy, Boston College, and Pittsburgh. This was essentially Notre Dame’s “conference” schedule and each year it would attempt to buff its schedule with a couple of strong teams, essentially like a non-conference slate.
If Notre Dame is really to explode from the history books of college football back to the top, it is pivotal that it joins a conference.
Notre Dame must put tradition aside for the sake of the program. For years the Irish have maintained that they are different from the rest of college football. That Notre Dame is Notre Dame and everyone else isn’t, thus it supersedes the conference system.
That is wrong. All of the beautiful tradition that surrounds Notre Dame Football does not have to be eliminated, but it’s time for that tradition to stop blinding Notre Dame fans and management from realizing that to win, things have to change.
I don’t mean the termination of all the beloved Notre Dame rivalries, I just mean that some games cannot be annual.
USC is a staple game, and it can easily be worked into a schedule the way it stands now. That leaves two non-conference games each season, with which the Irish can schedule Michigan, Michigan State, Stanford, or any other team for that matter.
The most important part is that Notre Dame will finally have a rigid conference system to support it. All of a sudden, a two-loss Notre Dame team that wins the ACC Championship game has a chance to make the playoff.
Notre Dame can become the powerhouse it once was, conquering college football in the name of Touchdown Jesus. This can only be achieved if it aligns with the rest of the College Football world.
It has come: the time of the year when the football world starts to get boring. The college football season is over. The bowl season is over. The NFL season is over. The Super Bowl has been won. The high school recruits have made their decisions. The NFL combine has showcased our athletes. In the football world, this is the time of the year when we do a lot of waiting. And the more I think about it, the harder it gets for me to patiently await the start of the 2016 season for SEC football teams. I can think of countless reasons I am anxiously awaiting SEC football returning to my screen and to my college town, but I have decided to only subject you to ten of those reasons.
The tailgating: I know, tailgating is a common practice for football fans everywhere. But a tailgate in SEC country is something that is often imitated but never duplicated. If you have ever lived in an SEC college town, then you know this. Sure, our teams are better so we don’t need to be as drunk to tolerate however they play that weekend, but we all know football and beer go hand-in-hand anyways. Or football and bourbon…that, too.
The match-ups: We also all know by now that there are some obvious perennial powerhouse teams in the SEC (I’m looking at you, Bama). But that fact does not prevent us from watching interesting matchups every single week, especially those deep-seeded rivalries in our conference like the Iron Bowl. Even in a down year, either team can win one of those rivalry games. And that unpredictability is just plain awesome.
The defense: There are rules by now that take out a little bit of the excitement that has come along with defensive hits in college football. But even though they have softened the game up, we still get to witness some pretty amazing defensive plays down here. The defensive talent on SEC football teams is unparalleled. And everybody knows the key to winning, especially in the SEC, is defense.
The anticipation: This one is pretty self-explanatory. We wait all off-season until our team gets to kick off their season. We wake up too early that day and wait until our game starts. Then, before we know it, the game is over. So almost every week, we get an entire week of down time. During that down time we can scout the opponents and our anticipation for the next game grows. And with the teams we play throughout the season down here, that anticipation almost never fades.
The playoffs: The BCS was a flawed system. The playoffs are a flawed system as well. But at least they are a bit less flawed. There are always going to be a number of biased voters involved in choosing the “best” teams. So having the teams that were deemed part of the top four face off at the end of the year is much better than just giving that chance to the supposed top two. Not that it was a problem for SEC football before, but we almost definitely will be represented on a yearly basis now.
The coaches: College football coaches are a special breed. The coaches in the SEC are even more special. Just last week, a couple of the SEC coaches and a couple Big Ten coaches had a little fun on Twitter. But how can we forget Nick Saban’s extremely embarrassing dance moves, Les Miles and his affinity for grass, or Will Muschamp’s very colorful language? Week in and week out in either half of the conference, you are sure to be entertained by the whole cast of coaches.
The Saturdays: To be completely honest, I am not really sure what to do with myself on most Saturdays. But once the football season starts, I know what I will be doing for hours on end every single Saturday. Even on my team’s bye weekends I know I will be able to find another good conference game to watch. Ahh, the joys of the SEC!
The tradition: If you have ever been to an SEC football game, then you will understand how incredible the tradition is. Tennessee fans will be drunkenly singing Rocky Top, Bama fans obnoxiously yelling “Roll Tide,” Auburn fans constantly saying “War Eagle,” and Ole Miss fans adding their “Hotty Toddy” (whatever that means) to the mix. Any true SEC fan can agree that being a part of their team’s tradition is an experience like no other. That tradition forms an immediate bond between every single fan in the stadium and even fans across the country.
The emotions: An SEC fan can experience the full range of emotions in just a matter of minutes. The perfect example: last year, Tennessee visited Florida. The Vols took a convincing lead over the Gators. My dad was a little smug and definitely very happy. Meanwhile I was visibly upset. Then Florida mounted a crazy comeback and won the game. I was in a state of disbelief; I could barely even form a sentence. Meanwhile my dad could barely stomach a single bite of food. That game caused both my dad and me to experience more emotion than we would have watching an Oscar-nominated drama. And SEC football does that for the rest of the fans on a regular basis too.
The pride: Last but not least, here in SEC Country there are two kinds of pride that many of us can understand. There is the obvious pride that goes along with your favorite team winning a game or having a good season. Then there is the SEC pride that comes from the realization that your team is a part of the best conference in college football. I prefer Gator pride any day, but my SEC pride will do when my Gators are not able to deliver.
I am a woman of my word. I said that I would only subject you to ten of my reasons, and that is what I did. But if you want some more SEC love you can interact with me on Twitter, @OGKristenB! Or even if you are just as bored as I am waiting for football to come back into your life then you can find me on Twitter to empathize. After all, misery loves company.
Tradition. It’s something that many college football fans hold onto with their teams. Every school has some sort of tradition that the team does prior to a game and even after the game is over. The traditions for each school happen regardless of winning or losing, so it is something that is firmly entrenched in the history of the school. There are some schools in college football that have great tradition(s) that many fans outside the program recognize and even admire from afar. Being a West Coast guy and football fan, finding tradition can be a tough thing because we don’t have the tradition of many East Coast and Southern teams. There is a team out here that has a fairly large amount of tradition. The University of Southern California Trojans is that team.
The Trojans have a tradition that everybody identifies with. Traveler, USC’s mascot is one the most recognizable mascots and traditions in college football. When the Trojans are on t.v. there is probably not a moment lost on showing Traveler and his Trojan warrior on the USC sideline. To understand this tradition and what it means to the Trojan fans, school, and alumni you have to understand the history.
Traveler 1 first appeared on the Trojan field and sidelines in 1961 after being spotted walking in the Rose Bowl Parade. USC then persuaded the man who was riding Traveler, Richard Saukko, to bring his horse to the L.A. Coliseum and ride it on the sideline as the mascot of USC, so now whenever the Trojan band plays “Conquest”, Traveler gallops around the Coliseum. There have been seven different Travelers. They are currently on Traveler VII (7). The breed of horse has changed over the years. The horse has been an Arabian/Tennessee Walker mix to a pure-bred Tennessee Walker to a pure-bred Arabian to a Andalusian. The one thing that has remained constant is the color. The horse has always been a pure white color.
One of things that make this tradition at USC special is that it is one of the constants in the Pac 12 Conference. When I see the L.A. Coliseum during college football season, one of the first things that come to my mind is “where is the Trojan horse?” Having gone to some Trojan games in the past, it’s one of those traditions that just make college football in the Pac 12 what it is. It’s like seeing the Florida State Seminole and his fire spear, Ohio State dotting the “I”, or the tradition of the Army/Navy game. When Traveler and his rider appear, you know game time is nearing and for most Trojan fans that is something to look forward to.
What makes a tradition a tradition is when the public buys into it and sees it as part of their identity as a community or their identity as a school. The University of Southern California has done that with Traveler. One of the aspects of this tradition that endears itself to the USC family and fans and the L.A. community is that Traveler is just not seen on Saturday afternoon’s during the football season. He is seen in the community at different events. He is seen at other Trojan events, at grade schools and high schools, the past 45 Rose Parades, and charity events.
Tradition causes people (fans) to believe that their tradition has something to do with their team winning or losing. USC is no different than any other football fan base. Talk to any Trojan fan and they will tell you that Traveler plays a part in their teams success.
“John Mckay didn’t want to admit that the horse had anything to do with his success,” said Saukko, “but he would always give me a wink when he saw me waiting in the Coliseum tunnel.”
Former USC All-American defensive back and assistant coach Nate Shaw adds “The horse is one of the greatest inspirational devices USC has. It definitely got the adrenaline going when I was playing and I think it still has an effect on the players. When I was coaching against USC (at Oregon State), we hated to see that horse come down the tunnel because it got USC a little more pumped up.”
Once again, tradition is something that gives the school its identity and provides inspiration for the team and its fans. To me, Traveler is one of the top traditions in all of college football. Would I change anything about how the school uses the horse? I know it’s a cost thing, but bringing the horse on the road a little more than they do would be something that I would look into. If they are staying on the West Coast or just in the state of California for a game, bring Traveler. It would add to ambience of the game for the fans. There would be fans that would hate to see the horse at “their” stadium, but there would also be fans that appreciate what the horse means in the bigger scheme of things in college football. I’m not saying that Traveler is the best tradition in the college game, but he certainly should be recognized as may be a top five tradition and at worst, a top 10 tradition. For a Pac 12 fan, he brings fun and excitement to any USC Trojan game and to the Pac 12 Conference in general.
With the exception of the final stages in the playoffs, this is the most exciting hockey fans get to see. The last day of the regular season will commence on April 11, 2015 in a day that will feature all thirty NHL teams play.
This time of year breeds a strange tradition that one will never witness during any other time in the regular season, fans cheering for other teams. Given the point system and the polarity expressed in today’s NHL, there are still teams competing for a playoff spot this close to the end of the season.
The incongruity of cheering for other teams is that on any other given day of the schedule every other team is a form a competition. The very definition of competition is trying to win something that someone else is trying to win.
Points are distributed as so during the regular season: two points for a regulation win and overtime/shootout wins (ROW); one point is given for a tie at the end of regulation and a overtime/shootout loss (OTL); and no points are given if a team loses during regulation.
The one-goal games play a large part on the structure of regular season standings and playoff picture. For example, the defending Stanley Cup Champions, Los Angeles Kings, have been eliminated from a playoff spot and have lost over eighty percent (3-15) of the decisions that have gone into overtime or a shootout. Stressing the point that every point is important.
Back to the tradition, there are regular season games between divisional and conference opponents that are critical for teams to obtain points from. There is also the reliance on other teams level of play against those same divisional and conference opponents. This is a codependent relationship that limits self-control and self-assurance in a fan’s team and possibly seeps into the mentality of professional sports teams themselves.
NHL players admit to scoreboard watching during the stretch. If fans are aware of the stands constantly, there is no doubt that the members of an organization that relies on playoffs for a lot of revenue and success would be paying that close attention as well.
Fans swallow their pride and will hope for other teams (they would otherwise despise) to win. For example, the New York Islanders clinched a playoff spot tonight. This was determinant on two factors, the Boston Bruins lost against the Florida Panthers (which they did) or if the New York Rangers had defeated the Ottawa Senators. There had to be a percentage of Islanders fans that were hoping the hated Rangers would defeat the Senators before the start time of each game. Luckily for them, the Bruins lost and Islanders fans never have to admit that fact.
The playoffs will bring-to-surface a whole new set of traditions as well. For example, the tossing of the octopus in Detroit if they make the playoffs. The playoffs will also feature some of the other favored traditions such as playoff beards and the handshakes at the conclusion of each playoff series. But, those traditions will need to wait as Detroit still needs to clinch a playoff spot (for the twenty-fourth consecutive time) and there are still some things of to be determined in this short amount of exciting hockey.
Maryland will host the 12th ranked Spartans of Michigan State this Saturday at Byrd Stadium, in what will be the newest installment of the traditional “blackout” game. Maryland was one of the first schools to introduce the idea, and the concept has become well-known throughout college football over the last decade. The athletic department promotes one game a year, usually a game of particular importance or one against a nationally ranked opponent, as a “blackout” game. The football team dons all-black uniforms, the crowd is encouraged to wear black and the game is typically played at night.
I decided to take a look back at the tradition and how the Terps fared in each contest. Unfortunately, history is not in Maryland’s favor for this Saturday’s matchup with one of the Big Ten’s elite. In nine blackout games since 2005, the Terps have come away victorious just once, the lone win coming against an injury-plagued Florida State team in 2006.
While it’s probably best to ignore the 1-8 record, it was still quite interesting remembering a decade of Terps football and recalling special performances and players for both the Terps and their opponents. Without further ado, here is a look back at the history of blackout games at Byrd Stadium:
The 2005 season presented the first blackout game in College Park. Student groups actively pushed the idea to have everyone in attendance for the matchup against No. 3 Virginia Tech to wear all black for the Thursday night primetime game. The concept was not entirely accepted with open arms by students and alum alike, but the idea generated enough support to eventually come to fruition. The Terps, led by quarterback Sam Hollenbach, kept the game close for the first two quarters as they trailed just 7-3 heading into the half. But Virginia Tech and quarterback Marcus Vick, younger brother of Michael, found their stride in the second half. Final score: Hokies 28, Terps 9.
Terps: Sam Hollenbach (158 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT)
VA Tech: Marcus Vick (211 yards, 3 INT)
Terps: Lance Ball (15 carries, 75 yards)
VA Tech: Marcus Vick (16 carries, 133 yards, 1 TD); Mike Imoh (18 carries, 86 yards, 2 TD)
Terps: Derrick Fenner (3 rec, 63 yards, 1 TD); Vernon Davis (4 rec, 48 yards)
VA Tech: David Clowney (3 rec, 76 yards); Josh Morgan (3 rec, 63 yards); Eddie Royal (3 rec, 33 yards)
Maryland’s second annual “Blackout Byrd” game was nothing short of one for the ages. The Terps faced the Seminoles of Florida State and pulled out a win despite accumulating a mere 37 total yards in the entire second half. Terrapin quarterback Sam Hollenbach tossed three touchdowns and Maryland blocked a Florida State field goal attempt with under a minute to go that could have tied the game. FSU starting QB Drew Weatherford missed the game due to an ankle injury but his replacement, Xavier Lee, performed well. FSU leading receiver De’Cody Fagg also missed the game with an ankle injury. Maryland students rushed the field as the final seconds ticked off the clock of a 27-24 Terps victory.
After purchasing the naming rights to Maryland’s Byrd Stadium in 2006, Chevy Chase Bank worked with the university’s athletic department to provide free black t-shirts to the first 5,000 students attending the Terps’ home matchup with No. 4 West Virginia. Unfortunately, the Terps’ run defense couldn’t contain the talented Mountaineer rushing attack led by Steve Slaton and Noel Devine. Slaton finished the game with three touchdowns and 137 rushing yards, and Devine added 136 yards on just five carries. Maryland’s offense couldn’t get much going either, and the Mountaineers defeated the Terps by a final score of 31-14.
The Terps didn’t fare quite as well against Florida State for this home blackout game as they did in 2006. No. 25 Maryland was crushed by the unranked Seminoles for the Terps’ first home loss of the year (previously 6-0 at home). Maryland didn’t get on the board until the third quarter, when Obi Egekeze kicked a 34-yard field goal for the Terps’ lone score of the night. Maryland committed four turnovers, and the Seminoles came away with an easy 37-3 win.
Terps: Chris Turner (149 yards, 2 INT)
FSU: Christian Ponder (143 yards, 1 TD)
Terps: Da’Rel Scott (12 carries, 82 yards)
FSU: Christian Ponder (14 carries, 81 yards, 1 TD); Antone Smith (13 carries, 45 yards, 1 TD)
Terps: Dan Gronkowski (4 rec, 46 yards)
FSU: Preston Parker (8 rec, 67 yards, 1 TD)
The 2009 blackout game at Byrd Stadium marked the first time that the game was not played at night under the lights. The 21st ranked Hokies picked apart the Maryland defense en route to a 36-9 victory. Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor, now in his fourth year as Joe Flacco’s backup for the Baltimore Ravens, had a career day. VT racked up 289 yards in the first half and 484 by the final whistle. The Terps donned black, camouflage-patterned uniforms as a tribute to Army veterans and the Wounded Warrior Project. The loss was the Terps’ eighth in a woeful 2-10 season.
Terps: Jamarr Robinson (104 yards)
VA Tech: Tyrod Taylor (268 yards, 3 TD)
Terps: Jamarr Robinson (24 carries, 129 yards)
VA Tech: Ryan Williams (23 carries, 126 yards, 1 TD)
Terps: Torrey Smith (4 rec, 55 yards)
VA Tech: Jarrett Boykin (3 rec, 118 yards, 1 TD)
Maryland hosted Florida State for their 2010 blackout game, marking the third time in six years the athletic department chose the Terps’ matchup with the Seminoles for the annual blackout game. Maryland, 7-3 at the time, found themselves down 23-16 with less than a minute to go in the game. But a pass from freshman quarterback Danny O’Brien in the red zone was intercepted by the Seminoles and returned 90 yards to seal the victory for FSU. Maryland had committed just eight turnovers through ten games, but three fourth-quarter turnovers doomed the Terps in this one. Final score: FSU 30, Terps 16.
Terps: Torrey Smith (7 rec, 69 yards); Will Yeatman (5 rec, 47 yards, 1 TD)
FSU: Bert Reed (6 rec, 93 yards, 1 TD)
In 2011, current head coach Randy Edsall’s first year with the team, the athletic department unveiled new football uniforms. While the team seemed to wear a different, unique combination of red, black, and gold each week, the 2011 season did not include a traditional “blackout game.” In the second game of the season, Maryland faced #18 West Virginia and wore all-black uniforms. The game was not promoted as a blackout game, the crowd was not encouraged to wear black Terps gear, and the game was played during the day. The Mountaineers, led by quarterback Geno Smith and receiver Tavon Austin, held on for a 37-31 win despite a furious Maryland comeback. Although not a traditional blackout game, for the sake of uniformity (no pun intended), here’s some game footage and offensive statistics:
Maryland unveiled a new “Black Ops” uniform for its annual blackout home game against, you guessed it, Florida State. The 2012 season was a particularly memorable one for Terps fans, but certainly not for the right reasons. Quarterback Danny O’Brien transferred before the start of the season, and four Terrapin quarterbacks fell to season-ending injuries over the next several weeks. This paved the way for a freshman linebacker, Shawn Petty, to finish out the season under center. The 10th ranked Seminoles had their way with the quarterbackless Terps en route to a 41-14 win. Florida State quarterback E.J. Manuel contributed 144 yards through the air and two passing touchdowns, and FSU as a team accumulated 237 rushing yards.
In last season’s blackout game, the Terps squared off against Syracuse in College Park and unveiled black “Maryland Pride” uniforms. The Terps needed a sixth win to become bowl eligible, but would have to wait at least one more week. Maryland committed five turnovers in the game, including three on their last three possessions of the first half. The Terrapin offense picked up where it left off on its first possession of the second half, as a fumbled snap from center led to another turnover and a Syracuse field goal. The Orange scored a late touchdown to seal the 20-3 victory in a sloppy, low-scoring affair.
Twelfth-ranked Michigan State is coming off a loss to Ohio State, a game in which the Spartans allowed OSU quarterback J.T. Barrett to have a career night. Barrett threw for 300 yards and three touchdowns, and also rushed for 86 yards and another two scores. The Spartans still boast a 7-2 overall record and are arguably the second-best team in the Big Ten after the loss to the Buckeyes.
Maryland is coming off a bye week, but clinched bowl eligibility the week before by defeating Penn State in a sloppy, but thrilling road victory. The Terps will be without their top offensive performer of 2014, as receiver Stefon Diggs was suspended for his antics stemming from a pregame scuffle and the infamous handshake snub before kickoff of the game in Happy Valley. It has been reported that Diggs will in fact miss the remainder of the regular season with a lacerated kidney, an injury he sustained trying to stretch the ball across the goal line during the Terps’ 20-19 victory over the Nittany Lions.
The Spartans are the highest-ranked opponent Maryland has faced this season. Unfortunately for the Terps, history has a strong chance of repeating itself this Saturday unless the defense can contain Michigan State’s talented duo of quarterback Connor Cook and running back Jeremy Langford. Maryland receivers Deon Long, Marcus Leak and Amba Etta-Tawo will need to somehow fill the void left by Diggs’ absence, and quarterback C.J. Brown must find some semblance of an offensive rhythm for Maryland to stand a chance against one of the better college football teams in the nation.
Long, warm, summer nights under the stars give way to cool, crisp nights under stadium lights. A tale-tell sign that fall, but most importantly college football, has arrived. Year after year, each football team goes on a journey that will hopefully culminate with a National Championship. We, as college football fans, love the rivalries, the traditions, and we embrace change each year in hopes of beating one more team than last year. As readers of our new site, College Football Roundtable, you and I will be going on our own journey with the Tennessee Volunteers during the upcoming season. What better way to start off an expedition than to start at the beginning? What does it mean to be a part of Volnation (Tennessee football)? A program rich with tradition and experience, Tennessee football has more to offer than the average college football program. Butch Jones, about to begin his second year as head coach at UT, has taken a team on the decline, reinvented the Vols, and brought back high standards to Knoxville. Although you can find tradition throughout the nation, no program rivals the University of Tennessee Volunteers’ excitement, tradition, and atmosphere that hypnotizes players, fans, coaches, and alumni on any given Saturday.
At the center of this storied program sits the city of Knoxville, a medium sized city with a college town vibe. Knoxville revolves around football in the fall, where the city even ebbs and flows with the team. If the team has a great season, then Knoxville prospers, however if the team has a rough year, then Knoxville feels desolate and empty. The entire city shuts down on Saturdays and the spotlight is on football.
In order to understand the Vols, you must look beyond the field of play, and consider the intangibles. Vol for Life, VFL for short, is the cornerstone term of the Tennessee Volunteers experience. For those of you less familiar with VFL, it’s pretty self-explanatory, but has pierced the hearts of every Vol. VFL has been implemented not only by the players, but also from fans in diapers all the way to the fans that have never missed a game. I consider myself to be a great example of a Vol for Life. As long as I can remember, I have been mesmerized by the orange & white. It’s a love for Tennessee football like no other. You can’t teach it, most of the time you are born with it, but the only way to describe it is that you gravitate to it. Tennessee fans have a deep passion that has been burning for generations. A great example comes from my own family. My grandfather was an usher at Neyland for 30 years, and my uncle has been an usher for the last 40 years and counting. There’s no escaping it. Not a day that goes by that my father and I don’t talk about Tennessee football. Tennessee football is a family event. Fathers take their sons, and this tradition is passed on to each new generation. The blood in our veins is actually orange.
Volnation: the catch all term for players, coaches, fans, and anyone else involved in the program. The most distinctive part of Volnation has to be the Vol Navy. Because Neyland Stadium sits feet from the Tennessee River, Vol fans from all over the southeast drive their boats up the river to tie up to each other in order to create an orange & white barge made from numerous boats. While the Vol Navy makes its way to the stadium by water, the students, and the rest of the 102,455 flood the streets. 102,455 seems like a fairly large amount of people right? Well it feels more like 500,000 fans once they all get into the stadium. Because the upper deck overhangs so much, it feels like the fans are right on top of you. Watching the Tennessee Vols play in Neyland Stadium at night should be one of the Seven Wonders of the World. It’s unlike any sporting event in this nation.
The single greatest aspect of the Tennessee Vol experience is, without a doubt, the unrivaled tradition. The Vols are a top fifteen all-time winningest program, and have dominated for years until recently. Even more than winning though, it’s the intangible experiences that give this program its diamond like luster. Take Rocky Top for example, the unofficial fight song of the Vols. Rocky Top is played constantly at all Tennessee events, so much so that opposing players probably have it stuck in their heads after the game. I’m sure the song gets annoying to a lot of people, but every Tennessee fan is required to sing obnoxiously loud when it is played. Rocky Top is to Tennessee as Wagon Wheel is to the southeast. Or how about the Vol Walk? Thousands of fans line the road to the stadium while the band, cheerleaders, and players walk down the hill through the sea of orange & white screaming fans to reach Neyland Stadium. Possibly the most well known facet of game day in Knoxville is the tailgating. Hundreds of thousands of fans flock downtown as early as possible to get a spot. Some people even get there 2-3 days ahead of time to find a place. You can’t look in any direction without seeing food, drinks, corn hole, or orange & white in front of you. Not one Vol fan can pass another Vol fan without shouting “Go Vols!” in the most southern accent possible. If Tennessee had a war cry, Go Vols would be it. Before the kickoff of each game, The team runs out onto the field in a vastly different fashion than most others teams. We call it Running Through the T. Running Through the T is my personal favorite tradition at UT, so much so that it sends chills up my spine every time, without fail, and all is right in the world for 30 seconds. The Pride of the Southland marching band makes its way up and down the field as the pre-game clock slowly winds down, and then all of a sudden, the band starts playing Rocky Top. All 102,455 fans stand up as the band marches the final one hundred yards to the Tennessee tunnel. When they reach the tunnel, they split the power T formation, the crowd erupts, and the players charge out ready for battle. Tradition is the foundation of any great football program, and the Tennessee Volunteers hold on dearly to their tradition, which creates one of the best atmospheres in all of college football.
College football wouldn’t have the same meaning to fans without the pride, the rivalries, the tradition, and the atmosphere of a college game. It’s not just wins and losses; college football means more in this country. Whether you gain bragging rights after beating a rival, rush the field after a huge upset, or you are watching the game on TV, fans of each team are united by college football. Now that college football is right around the corner it’s safe to say that IT’S FOOTBALL TIME IN TENNESSEE!
When Jimmy Haslam III was announced as the (soon to be) new owner of the Cleveland Browns the Heavens finally opened up and shone upon Cleveland football.
It had been a decade since our beloved Al Lerner passed, leaving the team to his son, Randy. Randy meant well, I truly believe he did. He just couldn’t get it done. And honestly, without speaking too ill of the dead, the jury is still out on whether Al was going to get the job done too. Two head coaches (Chris Palmer and Butch Davis), the Carmen Policy and Dwight Clark debacles, and a 21-43 record as owner isn’t exactly stellar.
No matter his record, Al Lerner brought football back to Cleveland. And Randy spent countless millions hiring people who he thought would restore the team to its former glory. The Lerners may not have succeeded like we all wished that they would, but they cared. They mattered. And now, Jimmy Haslam III matters.