History Will Not Make the Vols Great Again

Marky Billson
4 min readAug 21, 2019

They did it before! They can do it again! Unless . . .

There is a school of thought the Tennessee Volunteers’ football program will eventually become elite again because they used to be elite.

Memo to Big Orange Country; history will not make Tennessee elite again.

Since it’s the 150th anniversary of college football with Rutgers beating Princeton 6–4, we’re seeing a lot of historical rankings in college football. Best program histories, greatest coaches, greatest players, etc.

And since Tennessee hadn’t lost so many as eight games in a season until 2017 the Volunteers are usually enjoying a historical ranking as a program in the Top 15, if not higher, by the people judging history.

But you’ll also see programs like Army, Duke, Georgia Tech, Miami, Ole Miss, Nebraska, Pitt, Tulane, and Yale on those lists.

Do you think those programs will be elite again?

So how does what happened in 1998 influence what will happen this year or in 2020 and beyond?

This being said, it could be argued Tennessee has certain advantages most of the programs above do not. The Volunteers do not figure to actively de-emphasize their program, as so many of the schools above did, intentionally or not.

But then how have the Vols de-emphasized their program to the point 43 of the 63 programs playing Power Five Conference football have won conference championships since Tennessee?

It’s not so much an active emphasis on books over ball, as Tulane preached in the 1950s, or something stupid like pulling out of a conference, as Georgia Tech did.

The legendary Bobby Dodd lost only one game as Tennessee’s quarterback from 1928–30 and took Georgia Tech to seven New Years Day Bowls as their head coach. But a somewhat hasty decision to pull the Yellow Jackets out of the SEC in 1963 has not served them well.

It’s not staying up with the times, as what happened to Ole Miss when they became the last program in the Southeastern Conference to integrate.

At one time Tennessee could spread its wealth and superior facilities and reap the benefits. But the SEC Network now gives everyone enough money to even the field and even Vanderbilt has an indoor practice facility.

So the Vols now have what exactly? An odd number of extra square feet in the weight room and empty nose bleed seats?

Marky Billson

Innovative sports media personality.