Nov. 28, 2008
by Adam Hardebeck
Special to UTSports.com
This Saturday marks the final game in head coach Phillip Fulmer's memorable career here at UT. He and his Volunteer squad aren't the only ones playing for pride, though. While they don't actually put on the pads, football student trainers and managers get in on their own sort of rivalry. Thanksgiving Day means more than turkey and dressing for the two groups: it also means that there's a Hemo Bowl to be played.
The game is a flag football matchup between the two squads, both of whom contribute greatly to the football program by assisting in field setup, equipment and medical supply logistics, as well as pitching in whenever anything needs to get done around the complex. Both groups typically work together throughout the season during practice and road games, but this one day is a little different.
"We take the game pretty seriously," said Andrew Simmons, a senior student trainer. "Most of the time, all of us get along but on Thanksgiving things heat up a little bit."
The trainers and managers, who are used to working the sidelines of games and practices, get their chance to get onto the field for once, at least for a little while. The game is played on the indoor turf field and spans from the 45 yard line to the nearest end zone. Usually, the game takes place during the football team's pre-practice meetings. Some years, the film students even provide color commentary and video coverage.
Although the game is always intense and competitive, historically the managers have the final say. Since the game's beginning in 1989, the trainers have yet to win a game, but have nearly pulled the upset on quite a few occasions. Most notably, last season's game called for a comeback by the managers, who clawed back from a 14-7 halftime deficit. With a 19-0 record coming into this year's matchup, it's not hard to find optimism in the equipment room over at Neyland-Thompson Sports Center.
"We start looking forward to the game early on in the year, but we're usually not too worried about the outcome," said Chris Cutcliffe, head student manager. "There's been a history of trainers that try to bend the rules in their favor, but they still can't win one."
While none of the current trainers had any recollection of bending the rules by anyone but the mangers, both sides have been known to point fingers when things don't go their way. In the trainers' defense, the equipment managers rely on athletic ability to get through a season of running drills at football practices. The managers also have their own flag football team and are able to build chemistry (and a playbook) during their intramural season.
On the other side, the trainers typically field a team of guys and girls who spend less time scheming and preparing for the game and more time doing treatments and setting up the practice field. This explains the mismatch and makes the 19-0 record a bit misleading.
"The mangers want to play this game as soon as the season starts and we anticipate it 365 days out of the year," said manager Doug Overton. "The trainers admit that the game really isn't as big of a deal to them."
So every year the trainers hope to finally end the streak, but each time their plans are foiled by a last second trick play or a dubious call by the referees. Each season refreshes the rivalry that student managers and trainers have always had, and the Hemo Bowl always lets the two groups settle it on the field to see who gets the last laugh.
This year's game was finished up this morning and yet again the managers used the referees' questionable calls and a valiant second half effort to pull it out 33-20.
"We gave a good effort," said Simmons. "We're just not a second half team."