Any Volunteers fan is more than aware of the tradition surrounding the UT football program from tailgating to the Vol Walk, to the checkerboard end zones, to the Pride of the Southland Marching Band’s pregame pageantry before opening into a giant ‘T’ so the Volunteers can come — in the immortal words of John Ward — “racing onto the field.”
Makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up just thinking about it.
Tennessee has held onto its many storied traditions since before the days of the revered coach General Robert Neyland. Some tweaks to tradition have been noticed over the years such as the addition of “Rocky Top” to the preferred tunes list before, during and after games.
First-year Tennessee coach Butch Jones plans to tweak another Tennessee football tradition beginning with the Aug. 31 home opener against Austin Peay — a tweak that has stirred more ire on UT message boards than Lane Kiffen’s midnight departure. And that is changing up the uniforms.
Hold on. Take a deep breath. The new look doesn’t appear to be all that bad at first glance, or rather first description.
According to one account, Tennessee will stay with the basic orange jersey, white pants theme while at the same time paying homage to the program’s fabled symbols along with some obvious, yet subtle changes.
Jones plans to add outlines of the Volunteer State on the backs of the Volunteers’ jerseys — both home and away. The outline will be between the shoulders above the players’ names.
Also, the road jersey will sport a faint, maybe even hologram-like checkerboard on the numbers, with the state name across the front of the garment.
“It’s all a part of who we are and what we are, and we are Tennessee’s team. We are the state institution, so why would you not have your state on your jersey?,” Jones said in an interview with VolQuest.com.
“Obviously at Tennessee, we have such a long, storied tradition. And there’s a lot of tradition in our uniforms and we want to make sure that we keep that tradition in our uniforms intact,” Jones told VolQuest.com when he was asked about the minor additions. “But there are some things that I think are important, and one of the things is that ‘I Will Give My All For Tennessee Today,’ so to be able to add a patch of the state of Tennessee above the individual’s name is, I think, very big for us.”
Personally, I am looking forward to seeing what the new ‘unis’ look like. So far, Jones has had a tremendous impact on the state of the program before even running through the ‘T’ to lead the Volunteers onto the field for the first time and I trust his tweaks in the traditional game-day garb will only serve to bring more excitement and recognition to the Tennessee brand.
Visiting teams forced to run across the checkerboard to get to the sideline in Neyland Stadium is one thing, having to look at it play after play when the Volunteers are visiting THEIR place could mean something else altogether. Kind of like and on-field version of “Rocky Top” playing through their heads play after play.
“The away uniform, to be able to embrace the tradition of the checkerboard into the number, I think, is big,” Jones explained to VQ. “And then when we go onto the road and adding Tennessee to the front I think was a great addition. Obviously the state (outline) of Tennessee will also be on the back on the away uniform as well.”
Since his arrival in Knoxville, Jones has continued to mark his stamp on the team and the program, particularly in the recruiting arena. Adding even more state recognition to the jerseys of the state team is another way Jones is telling the world, “We are Tennessee!”
Deal with it.
Richard Roberts is Sports Editor for the Cleveland Daily Banner. Write him at email@example.com.