Nov. 12, 2010
Honoring the man most responsible for the growth and development of the proud Volunteer football tradition, the University of Tennessee today dedicated a statue of General Robert R. Neyland outside the stadium that bears his name.
The dedication ceremony was held at the permanent location of the statue, between gates 15A and 17 on the west side of Neyland Stadium. All former Tennessee football lettermen were invited to the event, including Hank Lauricella, who played on the 1951 na- tional championship team and spoke on behalf of all former players. Mike Hamilton, director of athletics at Tennessee, and current Vols head football coach Derek Dooley were also in attendance, as well as several members of the Neyland family, including his son, Bob Neyland, Jr., who spoke at the event.
"This is an exciting opportunity to honor the man who was at the forefront of building the tradition that is Tennessee Football," said Tennessee Athletic Director Mike Hamilton. "Generations to come will enjoy seeing this beautiful statue as they enter the stadium named for this exceptional leader, and its presence adds a greater sense of history and even more character to what is already one of the premier venues in the nation."
The statue, which was commissioned by artist Blair Buswell, is twice life-size. Since Neyland is portrayed in the kneeling position rather than standing, the statue is nine feet tall (a standing statue would have stood 12 feet tall). The statue weighs approximately 1,500 pounds, and the base is 57" by 87" and features the seven Game Maxims engraved into the precast. Buswell is based in Salt Lake City, Utah, and also is responsible for sculpting the busts for the Pro Football Hall of Fame incoming class each year.
"It would be impossible to measure the positive impact that General Neyland had on the lives of players, coaches, servicemen, and others," said Tennessee Head Football Coach Derek Dooley. "He is an icon at the University of Tennessee, in the SEC, and in the coach- ing profession, and this honor is long overdue." The statue dedication ceremony is part of Homecoming weekend at Tennessee, and the events include the game between the Vols and the University of Mississippi at Neyland Stadium, with kickoff scheduled for 12:11 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 13.
"As a family, we are extremely grateful and pleased that this tribute is taking place," stated Bob Neyland, the son of Gen. Neyland. "For many years when attending games in Knoxville, I entered through Gate 18, and they have done a beautiful job with renovations on the West side of the stadium. The location of the statue in that area will always be a pleasant reminder of our attending games and the significance that my father played in not only the growth of the stadium but of the football program as well."
General Robert Reese Neyland served as the head football coach at Tennessee from 1926-1952, including two interruptions for military service (1935, 1941-45). After retiring from the coach ranks, he served as athletic director until he passed away in 1962. He was the guiding force behind additions to the capacity of the stadium that was dedicated in his name on Oct. 20, 1962, and he is the one most responsible for the tradition and success of Tennessee football.
The Vols won four national championships under Neyland (1938, 1940, 1950, 1951) and finished 173-31-12 during his tenure as head coach, including five SEC championships. Neyland, who came to UT as an Army captain and left as a brigadier general, was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1956. His 1939 Volunteer squad was the last in college football to record shutouts against all of its opponents in a single season, and over the course of his career, his teams shut out 112 of their 216 opponents.
"I am delighted that a lasting monument of the General has been created at Neyland Stadium," said longtime UT administrator Gus Manning, who was hired by Gen. Neyland in the early 1950's. "Our stadium is the `House that the General Built', after all."
The inscription on the base of the statue reads as follows:
"College Football Hall of Fame coach General Robert Reese Neyland is cast in his signature pose overseeing the University of Ten- nessee Vols in this twice life-size monument sculpted by Blair Buswell. The history and tradition of Tennessee football began under Neyland's direction and continued over the course of a 21-year career as he led the Vols to four national championships, amassing a record of 173 wins in 216 games.
"Neyland interrupted his tenure as head coach twice to answer the call of his country to serve in time of war. The University of Tennessee summarizes Neyland's contributions on and off the field in this statement: `Neyland, who came to Tennessee as an Army captain and left as a brigadier general, brought one of the most efficient single-wing offenses in the country to go with an unyield- ing defense."