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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.