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The Dreaded Snowman

Kentucky Wildcats vs. Tennessee Volunteers
Saturday 24 November 2012 | 12:21pm EST
Neyland Stadium (102,455) | Knoxville, TN | SEC Network


If you are a golfer, you know what I’m talking about.

If you are a Tennessee Vols fan, you should know what I’m referring to.

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Rebuilding and Recovery In Knoxville

The public response to the Vols’ loss in Starkville last Saturday at Mississippi State was swift. It was also predictable since that game, before kickoff, was christened a crucial game in the career of head coach Derek Dooley.

I’ve stayed out of the Dooley-Must-Go vs. Dooley-Must-Stay debate, because I think it premature for a number of reasons. Highly entertaining, but premature.

This week, I’ve had the opportunity to take some long drives (for work) accompanied by broadcasts of various talk shows on the two major sports radio stations in Knoxville. A lot of hysteria. Some reasoned discussion. Mostly food for further consideration.

It all made me think about the time that the Tennessee Volunteer football program underwent a full-fledged rebuilding program, how the dark days of the last 2+ years are part of a genuine rebuilding phase requiring more than simply a ‘reloading’ effort, and most importantly how hiring even the best coach in the land to stem the tide of decline is not a sure recipe for a quick recovery.

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20 Years Ago in Vols Football

1992 was the season in Tennessee Volunteers history when one legend replaced another.

It is hardly possible to believe that a season ending with a 9–3 record would go down as one of the most tumultuous campaigns of Tennessee Volunteer football. But that is an apt description of what happened 20 years ago.

It was a season that was ushered in with the untimely death of the head athletic trainer and a heart bypass operation performed on the head coach. These preludes led to the main act featuring stars in the making at quarterback and running back, an improbable run up the national ranking to number four under unproven leadership, and an agonizing four weeks during which the team lost its only three games of the season, doing so under the recuperating head coach who had returned from the operating table at a timetable to per­haps save his job.

The finale gave us the transfer of power from one Tennessee legend to another.

William Shakespeare did not write this tale. It was more like a modern-day reality television show. But it really happened.

So, if you think 2008 was the most gut-wrenching sea­son possible, take a trip back 20 years to when Phillip Fulmer began his Tennessee head coaching career, and when another Tennessee legend ended his.

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Bob Woodruff, Joe Paterno, and the lights at Neyland

Former Tennessee Athletic Director Bob Woodruff was a crafty old dude. I had the privilege to interview him in his office during my undergraduate years at UT as part of a journalism project. I was researching the plans (that were never fulfilled) to retrofit the south end of Neyland Stadium so that the Vols basketball team could play a few selected home games there. This was the mid-1970s when Bernard King, Ernie Grunfeld and Co. were lighting up men’s hoops like a bonfire. The old Stokely Athletic Center was not big enough to hold the excitement of those days. All-night lines for student tickets were becoming commonplace, especially for the big games like Kentucky (that 103-98 war remains the best basketball game at any level I’ve ever witnessed in person).

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Where have all the Bobs gone?

There used to be some great football players named Bob. There was Bob Griese, former great quarterback at Purdue and for the Miami Dolphins. There was “Bullet” Bob Hayes, the Olympic sprinter who later starred as a wide receiver for the Dallas Cowboys. And our own Bob Johnson, a center that was so good at the University of Tennessee, and later for the Cincinnati Bengals, that he is enshrined in both the hall of fames for college football and pro football.

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A reason to schedule a game at Hawaii

I keep track of upcoming schedules for college football as they are announced. Recently, I noticed an oddity. UNLV added a game to its 2012 schedule this week, booking a home contest for September 8 against Northern Arizona. It will round out a 13-game schedule for the Rebels. Allowed? Here is what I found out, which jogged my memory a bit. It isn’t just about creating an opportunity to take program officials, coaches, players, and fans to paradise for a week.

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Remembering Reggie White

It was the day after Christmas seven years ago that Reginald Howard White died. Had he lived, he would have been only 50 years old today.

A study of more than 300 NFL players cited in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2003 found a sleep apnea rate of 14 percent, which is five times higher than males of similar ages. The rate among linemen was alarmingly higher — 34 percent. That rate was even worse with retired linemen. Reggie White was a retired lineman when he passed away from cardiac arrhythmia, enabled by the cardiac and pulmonary scardosis that he lived with for years. It was sleep apnea that likely triggered a fatal chain of events. The tragedy of it is that it was easily preventable.

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The Last Time Kentucky Beat Tennessee…

On November 24, 1984, Kentucky defeated Tennessee, 17-12, in Knoxville, to wrap up a 9-year span (1976-1984) during which the the Battle for the Beer Barrel was competitive — Tennessee won five games and Kentucky won four during that stretch.

If you are searching for something to be thankful for on this Thaksgiving Day, consider this — your team, your school, has defeated one of your arch-rivals 26 consecutive years. It is the longest current winning streak by one team over another in NCAA football.

Yes, that game in 1984 was the last time the Wildcats defeated the Vols in football.

The last time Kentucky beat Tennessee…

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VIDEO: The 1971 GOTC between Nebraska and OU

Earlier this week, I posted a review of four Games of the Century (GOTC). Included was the famous 1971 clash in Norman, Oklahoma.

Thanks to Stewart Mandel ( and Dennis Dodd (CBS), here is the game in its entirety.

The famous Johnny Rogers punt return is at the 13:00 mark.

The video quality reminds me of the TV I watched it on.

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Game of the Century? Some Historical Perspective

Every now and then, two behemoths get together on the gridiron and focus the attention of the college football world. That’s what will happen this Saturday night in Tuscaloosa as No. 1 LSU visits No. 2 Alabama.

The hype-fueled world of today creates a lot of things out of nothing. Seemingly more often than not, the hyped matchups fall flat to our expectations. Anytime Number One faces Number Two, the moniker “Game of the Century” (GOTC) gets dragged out of the closet, dusted off and shined up.

The BCS has made a No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup a yearly event. But before the 1998 season, such matchups were pretty rare occurrences, especially before the bowl season.

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Tony La Russa Has Knoxville Roots

The first sports news I heard Monday morning was that Tony La Russa decided to retire. I thought going out on top was the perfect way for Tony to exit.

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George Mooney’s Spirit Will Fill Neyland Stadium This Saturday

The original ‘Voice of the Vols’ died Thursday night.

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The Bye Week in Tennessee Vol History

This was probably a good spot for a bye week.

Regardless of your preference, the bye week phenomenon has always been a source of interest. And controversy.

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USAF photo by Denise Gould.

A Very Brief History of Cincinnati Baehr-Cats Football

The University of Cincinnati “Bearcats” were born on October 31, 1914 during a football game with Kentucky.

Kentucky was the fifth game of a nine-game schedule in 1914. No one had scored against Cincinnati in the first four games. Kentucky was the first quality team the Red and Black would face that season.

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