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.

Take last season for example. Alabama faced six different opponents who were coming off a bye week before facing the Crimson Tide.

So, I decided to take a look at the history of the bye week for the Vols.

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I needed that week off.

During the earliest years of Tennessee Vols history, there was no consistency in schedules. Starting in 1891, games were played in a rather haphazard, irregular fashion. It wasn’t until 1908 that games were regularly played on a weekly basis, and on a Saturday. Before 1908, games might come once every couple of weeks or so, and then there might be two played within two or three days.

So, I decided not to define “bye weeks” during the earliest years of 1891-1907.

From 1908 through 1914, the Vols played every week from start to finish.

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Then in 1915, the bye week appeared. On 6 Nov 1915, the week after losing to Vandy 35-0, Tennessee had the week off before playing Mississippi State, and losing 14-0. Then, the next week ushered in a very long tradition: a bye week before playing Kentucky on Thanksgiving Day.

From 1915 through 1939, with the exception of only four years (1919, 1923, and there was no team during 1917-18), the Vols were idle on the Saturday before facing the arch rival Wildcats on Thanksgiving.

Then the bye week went out of fashion until the 1960s. From 1940 through 1962, no bye weeks were implemented except for 1941 and 1944-45 (no team was fielded in ’43).

Finally, the bye week became a fixture in the Vol schedule. With the exception of 1966, the bye week has been an annual affair between 1963 and the present.

Why things changed forever beginning in 1963, I don’t know. That year was James Allen McDonald’s only season as the Vols Head Coach, during which the Vols took a November Saturday off in between beating Chattanooga in Knoxville and traveling to New Orleans to defeat Tulane.

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So, here are some factoids regarding bye weeks during the modern history of Vol football – the last 49 seasons beginning with 1963.

  • 1966 was the only season during this span with no bye week.
  • 18 seasons (including 2011) had only one bye week. Five out of the last six seasons saw only a single bye week.
  • Four seasons saw three bye weeks: 1989, 1990, 1996, and 1997.
  • 26 seasons saw 2 bye weeks.
  • That’s a grand total of 82 bye weeks between 1963 and 2011.
  • In 2001, the Vols were idle two consecutive weeks. But that was caused by the 9-11 attacks, which resulted in the Florida game at Gainesville being moved from September to 1 December (the Vols won 34-32).
  • In 11 seasons, a bye week followed the season opener. Four of those openers were against UCLA.
  • The week following the bye week, the Vols have a record of 55-23-3. The first loss was not until 1972 against Alabama, 17-10.
  • The Vols lost both games on either side of the bye week only 9 times out of the 82 bye weeks (weeks during 1973, 1979, 1984, 1986, 1988, 1992, 2002, 2005, and 2010).
  • The Vols won both games on either side of the bye week 31 times of the 82 bye weeks.
  • The first bye week between two SEC conference games was 1969 (wins over Alabama and Georgia, both on the road). That sandwiching of the bye week by two SEC opponents happened 28 times since.
  • The game following the bye week was on the road 28 out of the 82 weeks.
  • Only one game following a bye week was not on a Saturday – Tennessee defeated Ole Miss 41-3 in 1996 on a Thursday.
  • Only two games preceding the bye week were not on a Saturday. The Vols traveled to UCLA in 2008 to play on a Monday night. Tennessee played UNLV in 2004 on a Sunday night.
  • The largest margin of victory in the game after the bye week was the Vols’ 55-3 win over South Carolina in 1993.
  • The Vols scored a shutout after the bye week on three occasions – twice over Kentucky and once over Ole Miss.
  • The month with the most bye weeks has been October (42), followed by September (25) and November (15).
  • In years with multiple bye weeks, a game after a bye week was immediately followed by another bye week 6 times (1967, 1990, 1992, 1994, 1996, and 1997).
  • The team that the Vols have played the most following a bye week is Alabama (16), followed by Florida (12), Memphis (9), Auburn (7), South Carolina (6), and Georgia Tech and Ole Miss (5 each).

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Well, I’ve had enough of bye weeks.

I’m ready for the next game.

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