Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Q & A with Vols in the Fall

A fellow blogger and I traded some "Q&A" regarding the upcoming UT v USC game.  I invite you to visit - Vols in the Fall - as they do a great job of diving into UT sports.

As mentioned, we traded some questions and answers dealing with the upcoming game in Knoxville.  You can view my responses to his questions by going to his site - HERE. 

And below is his responses to my questions, enjoy .........

1. Does the UT fan base miss Philip Fulmer any this season or feel the season would be different with him roaming the sidelines?

Miss him? Yes and no. The majority miss Fulmer because he was born in Tennessee, played for UT, and was a coach for the Vols, assistant and head coach, for nearly 30 years. He was a Vol through and through. He bled orange. He was respected as a gentleman and a valued ambassador for the state, the university, and the football program. We are a sentimental bunch. But those same people came to believe that the game had passed him by. Highly valued recruits were going elsewhere. His assistant coaching staff was of questionable quality. His play calling was frustratingly conservative. And, the final blow, the W-L record was suffering. The loss at home against Wyoming was the last straw. The AD was in real danger of a fan and donator munity.

Would this season be different with Phil at the helm? I think most would say yes, and decidedly for the worse. Land Kiffin has garnered the respect and confidence of the vast majority of the Vol fan base. We may still be adjusting to his “style”, but we have his back. I don’t think there is a Big Orange supporter today that believes we would have performed against Florida, Georgia, and Bama nearly as well as we did under Kiffin. And the biggest piece of evidence is in the conduct and resolve of the Vol players. This group would walk through fire for Kiffin and Company. Last year, many simply quit on Fulmer. Last year was a very distressing time for Vol fans. Today, it feels like somebody opened the doors to let the fresh air blow in. It feels very, very good.

2. Who is seen as UT’s rival – hear a lot when the match-up’s come around like UGa, Bama, UF or Vandy but who is truly seen as “the rival?”

Great question. The best answer I can give is perhaps what I wrote before last week’s clash against Bama :

“For Vol fans, Tennessee-Florida is the rivalry of supremacy for the SEC East Division. Tennessee-Georgia is the newly-christened rivalry of supremecy in the recruiting battleground of Georgia. Tennessee-Kentucky is the age-old state-line rivalry that is called the Border Battle (104 games and counting) – by the way, I miss the Beer Barrel. And, Tennessee-Vanderbilt is that bitter in-state rivalry (103 games and counting).

“But the Tennessee-Alabama rivalry is different. Its commonly referenced name is a date on a calendar: the Third Saturday in October... That is just a historical reference. But it is a reference that elicits a profound pathos. It creates an emotional response, for Tennessee-Alabama is the Rivalry of the Heart.

It is in the heart of every Vol football season’s schedule. It is in the heart of Autumn. And, it is at the heart of every Tennessee Volunteer football supporter. It is the heart of every Vol. It is truly a matter of the heart.”

One thing to keep in mind when asking the question you did is the age of the recipient. If you came of age as a Vol fan since the realignment of the SEC into divisions (early ‘90s), you might reflexively say Florida for obvious reasons. But I graduated from UT in the late ‘70s. Back then, Florida and Georgia were just periodic nuisances. But, Kentucky was a huge game every year. Vanderbilt was as well because back then it was the last game of the season and bowl fortunes were usually at stake, not to mention bragging rights in the state. Alabama, however, was THE rival. The rivalry had the history, the great coaches, the great players, the great teams, the national standing, the conference championships. For decades, more times than not, it was the signature game of the SEC. The funny part about it though is that Auburn, not Tennessee, was and still is Bama’s biggest rival. In that respect, it reminds me of the UNC-Duke-NC State triangle. UNC is State’s biggest rival, but Duke is UNC’s biggest rival.

So, in my mind, Bama is our biggest rival. I can’t imagine it any other way.

3. From a UT fan’s perspective, what are your thoughts on UT’s football team shirtless team photo?

Age plays a role in this answer as well. My bet is that the younger you are, the less of an effect the stunt had on you. At first, I thought it was way over the top and not in line with the University’s image. But like everything else in matters of generation gaps, rational thought brings things into perspective. That photo/video isn’t for me or friends of my generation. It is for recruits.

An Auburn blogger and I discussed this type of thing – he attended the UT-Auburn game earlier in the season. He was asking me about Kiffin and the new culture around the Tennessee program this season. He recounted a fellow War Eagler with whom he attended the game. They noticed how the Vol players during pre-game were getting into the rap music blaring out of the Neyland Stadium sound system. And they commented how the heavy metal music played at Jordan-Hare all of a sudden seemed out of place for them. They realized in their epiphany that the music at Neyland was for the Vol players, whereas the metal was for the middle-aged white dudes sitting in the Jordan-Hare bleachers.

So, I have to keep remembering that the photo is all about the kids – it is all about the players, present and future. As it should be. We all need to loosen up a bit.

4. Will Philip Fulmer Way be renamed in the future?

There are two coaches in the history of UT football to have won the National Championship. Robert Neyland won the first and Philip Fulmer won the second. They named the stadium after the first coach. I think the street name is safe.

5. Predict the final record for UT in 2009.

I’m still sticking with my pre-season prediction of 6-6. If we’re fortunate enough to beat the Gamecocks this Halloween night, then 7-4 is a distinct possibility. But, I’ll stay with the .500 season.

It’s worth commenting that after the big game in Tuscaloosa, there is a lot of talk about how we will definitely run the table and finish 8-4 and go to a New Year’s Day Bowl. I think some people need to get a grip on reality. If it happens, then great. But the chances are about 1 in 10 in my opinion.

***Also our pal over at Garnet & Black Attack, has also reached to 'Vols in the Fall', view it HERE.

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