Nov. 2, 2012
By Brian Rice
It begins an hour and 40 minutes before kickoff and, for many fans, it represents the mark where pre-game festivities on campus end and the focus on the game ahead begins in earnest.
The Pride of the Southland Marching Band begins its march to Neyland Stadium from the music building at that 1:40 mark. When the band arrives 300 members strong at the corner of Andy Holt Blvd. and Phillip Fulmer Way, members find thousands of orange-clad fans eagerly waiting their arrival. For decades the Pride has made a stop at this location for the "Salute to the Hill," a three-song melody capped by "Rocky Top."
Due to construction of the new Student Union, the Salute was moved to the corner of Peyton Manning Pass and Philip Fulmer Way for the 2012 season.
The Hill itself is the center of academic life at The University of Tennessee. The school itself, as Blount College, moved to atop The Hill in 1828 and its oldest building, South College, still stands there. UT's signature building, Ayers Hall, sits in its majestic, picturesque glory at the center. Ayers, constructed in 1919 and completely refurbished two years ago, houses the College of Arts and Sciences and the views from its classrooms provide views of campus and the mountains that rival any in town.
Ayers Hall and The Hill provided a backdrop for a live broadcast of NBC's Today Show with Kathie Lee Gifford and Hota Kotb on Oct. 1 this year, giving the whole country a glimpse at the views that Tennessee students enjoy every day. At the top of its immense clock tower, you'll find a familiar pattern. The top of the tower is adorned with bricks in a checkerboard pattern, and the bells in the tower have been known to play "Rocky Top."
Back at the base of The Hill, another Tennessee tradition plays out after the band has completed its processional past. Fans remain seated or standing in the amphitheater outside Gate 21 for the Vol Network's Kickoff Call-In Show, as Bob Kessling and former Vols Tim Priest and Andy Kelly take questions from the crowd and callers with network host John Wilkerson. The show kicks off more than seven hours of non-stop game coverage on "The Statewide Stadium."
As the call-in show continues over the next hour, fans pour down Phillip Fulmer Way and into the 24 gates of Neyland Stadium, ready to give their all for Tennessee. Fans file into the stadium 100,000+ strong, giving the University of Tennessee one of the biggest and loudest home field advantages in all of college sports.