Tennessee Traditions

The Power T

The Power T is the official logo of the University of Tennessee athletics department.

The first appearance of the “T” came in 1964, when Doug Dickey replaced the familiar numbers on the side of the Volunteers’ football helmets with a block T for the first time.

Three years later, the logo that would go on to become the worldwide symbol for the Tennessee Volunteers would appear for the first time on the helmets. The Power T would get a slight makeover in 1977, with a bolder script under first-year head coach and legendary Tennessee player John Majors.

The Power T was updated in 2015, when it also became the primary mark for the University of Tennessee Knoxville campus.

The Nickname

As the land grand university for the state of Tennessee, UT adopted the state’s moniker of “The Volunteer State” for its athletic teams.

The history of the “The Volunteer State” began with the War of 1812 when Gen. Andrew Jackson led more than 1,500 soldiers from his home state to fight for the United States at the Battle of New Orleans.

The name truly took hold during the Mexican-American war when President James K. Polk, another native son, made an appeal for 2,600 nationwide volunteers at the beginning of the conflict that resulted in more than 30,000 soldiers from his home state alone.

As long as teams have represented UT on the field, they have carried on the name and tradition of the original Tennessee Volunteers.

Upon formation of the Women’s Intercollegiate Athletics Department in 1976, the female athletes were known at the Lady Volunteers. This tradition lives on to present day with the eight-time national champion women’s basketball team still proudly carrying the Lady Volunteers name and logo.

Tennessee will honor the history of the Lady Volunteers with a patch on the uniforms of all women’s teams in the 2016-17 school year.

The Orange and White

Tennessee Fans

Orange and white have been Tennessee's official colors since 1891.

Tennessee's orange and white colors were selected by Charles Moore, a member of the university’s first football team in 1891. They were later approved by a student body vote.

The colors were those of the common American daisy, a flower that grew prominently on The Hill, the area of campus that surrounds iconic Ayres Hall and overlooks Neyland Stadium.

Tennessee football players did not wear orange jerseys until the season-opening game in 1922. Coach M.B. Banks' Vols christened the orange jerseys on Sept. 23, 1922 with a 50-0 victory over Emory and Henry.

Smokey

The Pep Club held a contest in 1953 to select a coonhound, a native breed of the state, as the school's live mascot. Announcements of the contest in local newspapers read, "This can't be an ordinary hound. He must be a 'Houn' Dog' in the best sense of the word."

Smokey X

Smokey X began his reign in 2013.

The Pep Club held a contest in 1953 to select a coonhound, a native breed of the state, as the school's live mascot. Announcements of the contest in local newspapers read, "This can't be an ordinary hound. He must be a 'Houn' Dog' in the best sense of the word."

The late Rev. Bill Brooks entered his prize-winning blue tick coon hound, "Brooks' Blue Smokey," in the contest. At halftime of the Mississippi State game that season, the dogs were lined up on the old cheerleaders' ramp at Shields-Watkins Field. Each dog was introduced over the loudspeaker and the student body cheered for their favorite, with "Blue Smokey" being the last hound introduced. When his name was called, he barked. The students cheered and Smokey threw his head back and barked again. This kept going until the stadium was in an uproar and UT had found its mascot.

Rev. Brooks supplied UT with the line of canines until his death in 1986 when his wife, Mildred, took over the caretaking role. She did so until 1994, when her brother and sister-in-law, Earl and Martha Hudson of Knoxville, took over responsibility for Smokey VII and eventually Smokey VIII, Smokey IX and now Smokey X carrying on the banner of the Smokey lineage.

One of the most beloved figures in the state, Smokey is famous for leading the Vols out of the giant 'T' prior to each home game.

Smokey II was dognapped by Kentucky students in 1955 and later survived a confrontation with the Baylor Bear at the 1957 Sugar Bowl. Smokey VI, who suffered heat exhaustion in the 140-degree temperatures at the 1991 UCLA game, was listed on the Vols injury report until he returned later in the season. Smokey III compiled a 105-39-5 record and two SEC championships. Smokey VI, who passed away in 1991, was on the sidelines for three SEC championships. Smokey VIII is the winningest Smokey, having compiled a record of 91-22 (.805), with two SEC titles and the 1998 national championship.

After the retirement of Smokey IX following the 2012 season, the newest Smokey returned the lineage of the mascot to the state of Tennessee. Born in Shelbyville, Smokey X made his debut in the fall of 2013.

Running Through the T

Running Through the T

Since the 1964 season, Tennessee has entered the field at Neyland Stadium through a 'T' formed by the Pride of the Southland Band.

It is routinely listed as one of the greatest entrances in all of sports. This great tradition was born from the minds of two of the greatest innovators that the University of Tennessee has ever had on campus. And every time the Tennessee Volunteers burst through the "T" made up of 300+ members of the Pride of the Southland Marching Band, the aura of excitement can be felt in the fall air.

In 1965, the two innovators, head coach Doug Dickey and band director Dr. W. J. Julian came together to create a unique entrance for the Volunteers.

In the four years since he had taken over the marching band program in 1961, Julian had also made sweeping changes to the program, including moving its oversight from the ROTC program to the College of Education. The band had grown to over 140 members and had taken on a less militaristic look in the uniforms, but the marching precision that was originally born under the ROTC tradition remained. Julian introduced the legendary "Circle Drill" routine, one of the most difficult and unique marching band routines in the country.

For the 1965 season, Dickey moved the Volunteers from the east sideline, next to the home locker room in East Stadium Hall, to the west side, which allowed the team to enter the field through the giant "T" formation that he and Julian had drawn up. To say the formation caught on would be an understatement.

The route of the "T" shifted 90 degrees when the lower bowl was enclosed in 1980 and the team dressing room moved to the new addition in the north end zone, where the "T" began to originate. The team made the right-hand turn to the west sideline until the early 1990s, when an SEC rule change moved the home bench to the east sideline in front of the Tennessee student section. An adjustment to student seating was made in 2010, moving the Volunteers back to the west sideline for that season, and changing the route back to its current right turn.

Now, fans are sure to arrive in their seats early to catch the Pride's pre-game performance, capped by the moment that they have waited days, weeks, months or even years to see in person once again. And when the magic moment arrives and the Vols enter the field, the feeling extends all over the Vol Nation. From Neyland Stadium around the world, It's Football Time in Tennessee.

Rocky Top

Though not the official fight song of the University of Tennessee, Rocky Top has become as big of a part of Tennessee sports as the orange and white of the uniforms.

The song, written by Felice and Boudleaux Bryant at the Gatlinburg Inn in 1967, became a worldwide hit after being recorded by bluegrass legends the Osborne Brothers and later as a country hit for Lynn Anderson.

The song was first performed by the Pride of the Southland Marching Band as part of a tribute to country music in the band’s halftime show at the Alabama game on Oct. 21, 1972. To say it caught on with fans would be a vast understatement. Longtime band director Dr. W. J. Julian made it a regular fixture at games and said later that if Rocky Top was ever not played, then there would be a mutiny among Vol fans.

Rocky Top was named an official song of the state of Tennessee in 1982, the fifth song at the time to receive the designation.

The official fight song, played as the team runs through the T and after scoring plays, is Down the Field

Here's to old Tennessee
Never we'll sever
We pledge our loyalty
Forever and ever
Backing our football team
Faltering never
Cheer and fight with all of your might
For Tennessee!

Orange and White Checkerboards

Checkerboard End Zones

Tennessee's signature orange and white checkerboard end zones first appeared in 1964.

The connection between the University of Tennessee and the now-familiar checkerboard pattern dates back to 1921 and the completion of the iconic Ayers Hall on the UT campus. The building’s clock tower, visible from field level at Neyland Stadium until the enclosure of the upper deck of the north end in 1996, is topped by the pattern in brick.

When he took over as head coach in 1964, Doug Dickey introduced an orange and white checkerboard end zone design to the surface of Shields-Watkins Field. Many programs, Tennessee included, had used checkerboard patterns to decorate end zones dating to at least the 1930s, but the addition of the orange color was a new and unique tradition for Tennessee.

The checkerboard end zones remained until artificial turf was installed at the stadium in 1968, when technology could not produce the proper color for the orange. When Dickey returned as director of athletics in 1985, he looked for a way to restore the checkerboards and did just that when a new artificial surface was installed prior to the 1989 season.

Natural grass returned to Neyland Stadium for the 1994 season and the Tennessee trademark remained. Since then, the pattern has become a Volunteer icon, appearing on the court at Thompson-Boling Arena and on uniforms and facilities all over campus.

Vol Navy

Vol Navy

Hundreds of boaters gather and tailgate in the Tennessee River, making up the Vol Navy.

When former Vol Network radio broadcaster George Mooney first tied up his small runabout across the street from newly re-named Neyland Stadium in 1962, he almost certainly didn't know that he would start what would become one of the most unique traditions in college football.

Mooney, frustrated with the gameday traffic, began to pilot his boat up the Tennessee River during the first season that the stadium bore its new name. Now, five decades later, the Vol Navy is over 200 boats strong each gameday, with many arriving as early as Thursday to kick off a weekend-long tailgate party. When the Vols have back-to-back home games, it's common to see members of the Vol Navy stick around for the entire week.

Boats of all shapes and sizes tie up on docks that stretch from the Tennessee Rowing boathouse directly across from Neyland Stadium all the way through Volunteer Landing Marina, Calhoun's on the River and Bicentennial Park. The Neyland Greenway spans the distance, allowing fans that have come to campus and downtown via more traditional means to view the boats, soak in the atmosphere and even pick up an invitation aboard to join the party.

The port of call of the boats is just as eclectic as the boats themselves. Members of the Navy come from as far downstream as Florida and Louisiana to set up for a weekend and from as close as Concord Marina to join in for the afternoon.

The Vol Walk

Vol Walk

The Tennessee Volunteers walk through a sea of people to enter the stadium before a game.

The Vol Walk first became an official part of game day in Knoxville when Tennessee hosted Alabama on October 20, 1990.

The Vol Walk tradition has evolved over the years with changes in its path and length. When the Tennessee Lettermen's Wall of Fame was erected outside the Neyland-Thompson Football Complex in 2000, Phillip Fulmer had the walk begin with players running their fingers along the wall's marble surface that bears the name of every Tennessee letterwinner in every sport in the program's history.

The route of the Vol Walk was shortened in 2009, when team busses began dropping the players and staff off at the head of Peyton Manning Pass to make the walk through thousands of fans. The route down the street named for the Tennessee legend leads past the Pride of the Southland Pep Band, before turning left on Phillip Fulmer Way to the cheers of more fans and a right hand turn into Gate 21A for a quiet final journey down the ramp to field level.

The Vol Walk gives players a unique experience that they will never forget, but it also represents a connection for fans young and old. It is a route where grandfathers can share the love and spirit of Tennessee with grandchildren, a place where proud parents can greet sons as they head to an SEC battle, a place for fans young and old to meet their heroes, even a place for marriage proposals.

The Pride of the Southland Marching Band

Pride of the Southland Band

The Drumline on the field ready to perform.

The University of Tennessee band was organized immediately after the Civil War when the University reopened. Since then, the enrollment in the band program has grown to more than 400 students from all colleges of the university.

Dr. W. J. Julian took over the marching band program in 1961 and made sweeping changes to the program, including moving its oversight from the ROTC program to the College of Education. The band had grown to over 140 members and had taken on a less militaristic look in the uniforms, but the marching precision that was originally born under the ROTC tradition remained. Julian introduced the legendary "Circle Drill" routine, one of the most difficult and unique marching band routines in the country.

The full “Pride of the Southland Band,” appears at all home football games and most out-of-town games before more than 850,000 spectators and millions more on television. The Pride represented the state of Tennessee at 10 consecutive Presidential Inaugurations, from Dwight D.Eisenhower to George W. Bush.

A new tradition that began in 2014 is the “Circle of Life,” which features a performance from the drum line of the Pride of the Southland Marching Band at the end of onfield warmups. The team circles around the drum line’s own circle before bringing it in one more time as a team prior to returning to the locker room.

Minutes later, the full band takes the field for a pregame tradition unrivaled in college football. As the Pride concludes its show with “Stars and Stripes Forever,” the Volunteers emerge from the locker room and collect in the tunnel in the north end zone. Band members then begin the march into a formation known around the world.

The band forms a human “T” that stretches from the end zone to the 50-yard line, providing an entryway to battle unlike any other. The cue comes from above and the Volunteers take the field, 102,455 cheering with excitement. It’s a moment that brings chills to even neutral observers and brings a tear to the eye of Vol fans everywhere.

 

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