Tennessee Traditions

Smokey IX
Smokey IX

The official mascot is Smokey, a rather pleasant blue tick coonhound that has been on the job since 1953. After a student poll revealed a desire to select a live mascot for the University of Tennessee, the UT Pep Club held a contest in 1953 to select a coon hound, a native breed of the state.

Announcements of the contest in local newspapers read, "This can't be an ordinary hound. He must be a 'Houn' Dawg' in the best sense of the word." The late Rev. W.C. Brooks entered his prize-winning blue tick coon hound, Smokey, in the contest. At halftime of the Mississippi State game, the dogs were lined up on the old cheerleaders' ramp at Neyland Stadium. Each dog was introduced and the student body cheered for their favorite. Smokey was the last hound introduced. When his name was called out, he barked.

The students cheered and Smokey threw his head back and howled again. This kept going and soon the whole stadium was in a roar and UT had found its mascot. The dog is a native breed of Tennessee and a line of dog used for hunting raccoons. The present Smokey is the nineth in a line of such canines and is appropriately called Smokey IX.

Rev. Brooks supplied UT with the line of canines until his death in 1986 when his wife, Mildred, took over the caretaking role. She did so until 1994, when her brother and sister-in-law, Earl and Martha Hudson of Knoxville, took over responsibility for Smokey VII and eventually Smokey VIII. Mrs. Brooks died in July 1997.

The dogs have led exciting lives. Smokey II was dognapped by Kentucky students in 1955 and later survived a confrontation with the Baylor Bear at the 1957 Sugar Bowl. Smokey III compiled a 105-39-5 record and two SEC championships. Smokey VI, who suffered heat exhaustion in the 140 degree temperatures at the 1991 UCLA game, was listed on the Vol injury report until he returned later in the season. Smokey VI, who passed away in 1991, was on the sidelines for three SEC championships.

Smokey IX is accused of biting Alabama player in 2006 at Neyland Stadium. Crimson Tide receiver Mike McCoy fell on the 3-year-old dog during pregame warmups after jumping out of bounds for a pass near where Smokey was standing with the cheerleaders. What the dog did next is up for some debate. Alabama coach Mike Shula says Smokey bit the player. Smokey's owner says he didn't. As for Smokey, he only howls.

"It was over his head and he couldn't catch it, but he came down right on top of Smokey," Hudson explained. "Now what dog worth his salt wouldn't defend himself? "Smokey did not bite him. The article in the paper said he bit the player. He got a little of his uniform, didn't break the skin I was told, but Alabama made a big deal out of it I understand," Hudson said. Smokey IX was the winner in that game 2006, Vols won 16-13 over Alabama. One of the most beloved figures in the state, Smokey is famous for leading the Vols out of the giant "T" prior to each home game.

Smokey's Reigns
Smokey 1953-1954
Smokey II 1955-1964
Smokey III 1965-1977
Smokey IV 1978-1979
Smokey V 1980-1983
Smokey VI 1984-1991
Smokey VII 1992-1994
Smokey VIII 1995-2003
Smokey IX 2004-Present

Smokey VIII was the winningest Smokey having two SEC titles and the 1998 national championship. For more info on Smokey thru the years click on 56 years image above right.

Tennessee Vols No. 1

Smokey has won the 2000 mascot national championship sponsored by the Universal Cheerleaders Association and Disney.
FULL STORY>> 2000 Mascot National Championship
FULL STORY>> Smokey The Top Dog


The University of Tennessee acquired the nickname Volunteers from the early 19th century when Andrew Jackson assembled large armies from his home state to fight Indians and later the British at the Battle of New Orleans and Tennessee became known as "The Volunteer State". The name became even more prestigious when Gov. Aaron V. Brown issued a call for 2,800 men to battle Santa Ana and about 30,000 volunteered. The Volunteers is usually shortened to "Vols"

I will give my all for Tennessee today!

The Tennessee Motto!

Just before the Vols go out to the tunnel, and run thru the T, they touch the Vols sign that says: I will give my all for Tennessee today! The sign is just over the doorway in the dressing room at Neyland Stadium.

Running Thru The "T"

2004 Photo By Becky Price

From the time of coach Bob Neyland through the 1963 season, the Vols had their team bench on the east side of the field, close to their dressing room which entered the field on the 50 yardline. When Doug Dickey became the Vol coach in 1964, he changed all that. He moved his team's bench to the west side, allowing the Vols to enter the field just before the opening kickoff through a giant "T" formed by the "Pride of Southland" Marching Band.

When the Vols moved to the new dressing room quarters under the north stands in 1983, the "T" remained, forming from north to south instead of east to west. The "T" has occasionally been formed on the road, most notably at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium in Memphis, at Vanderbilt Stadium in Nashville and at the 1986 and 1991 Sugar Bowls in New Orleans.

School Colors

The colors Orange and White were selected by Charles Moore, a 150-pound right guard on Tennessee's inaugural first football team in 1891, and were later approved by a vote of the student body. The colors were those of the common American daisy which grew in great numbers on The Hill. Tennessee players did not appear in the now-famous Orange & White jerseys until the season-opening game in 1922. Coach M.B. Banks' Vols won that game over Emory and Henry by a score of 50-0.

The official UT Vols Orange
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UT Orange
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Letter Heads

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Before coach Doug Dickey placed the orange capital T on the Vols' white helmets in 1964, they had been plain white, save for an orange stripe running down the middle, for much of the program's history. Two years before Dickey's arrival, coach Bowden Wyatt had placed orange numerals on the sides of the helmets. In 1963, Wyatt's unsuccessful successor, Jim McDonald (he lasted one season), changed the color of the numerals to a funereal black.

The Rock

2008 Photo By Claire Binhammer

"For generations, the Rock has been an unofficial message board for our campus," Chancellor Jimmy G. Cheek said in a statement. "It's a UT Knoxville icon. Knowing that, we've worked hard to come up with a plan that allows us to preserve tradition as we expand our campus facilities."

Bill Dunne, professor of earth and planetary science and associate dean of the College of Engineering, took a small sample of the Rock in December 2007 for analysis and determined it is Knox dolomite, a common local rock that's 500 million years old, UT said.

The Rock was moved by bulldozer to its current location in 1966 after workers discovered it near where the old Calvary Baptist Church stood, the area now known as Fiji Island, according to Betsey Creekmore, associate vice chancellor for space and facilities. Students did not begin painting the Rock until the 1970s, UT estimates.

Checkerboard End Zones

North Checkerboard Endzone

A Tennessee trademark from the mid-1960s was reinstated in 1989 with the installation of the orange and white checkerboard end zones on Shields-Watkins Field and continued with the return of grass. The checkerboard end zones were the brainstorm of former Tennessee coach and athletic director Doug Dickey. When Dickey took over as coach in 1964, he had the end zones painted with the checkerboards. The colorful and popular end zones were a part of Tennessee football until 1968 when the natural sod was dug out and artificial turf was put in its place. Workers installed the orange and white end zones and the interlocking UT at the 50-yard line in the summer of 1989. They were both completely inlaid with contrasting colored turf rather than painted turf.

Bob Campbell, the University of Tennessee's director of sports surface management, said he never realized the distinctiveness of the checkerboard end zones until a several years ago. That's when a friend who works at Iowa State told him someone conducted a poll in Des Moines of the most recognizable sports venues in the country. "There was Yankee Stadium on the list," Campbell said. "And Fenway Park and Wrigley Field. And you guessed it, our checkerboard end zones were in the top 10!"

The Vol Walk Down Peyton Manning Pass

Vol Fans Greeting Players

Vol Fans Greeting Players - Sept. 12, 2009

Smokey The Mascot

Smokey High Five Fans As The UT Vols Cheerleaders Follow - 09/12/09

Johnny Majors & Eric Berry

Former UT Coach Johnny Majors & Eric Berry Greeting Fans - 09/12/09
All Photos By Gabe Correa - Smokey's Trail

Tennessee 101: Vol Walk

The first official Vol Walk took place against Alabama on Oct. 20, 1990. The walk down Yale Ave was rename to Peyton Manning Pass in December of 1997, to honor Peyton's achievements. The walk allows fans to get up close and personal with the team as they walk from Gibbs Hall to the stadium, two hours prior to the game. It has become a fan favorite.

Rocky Top

It's not the alma mater. It's not even an official school song. But Rocky Top has been the unofficial Volunteers anthem since the UT band first played it, in 1972. Penned in 1967 by Felice and Boudleaux Bryant in a Gatlinburg, Tennessee, hotel room, its familiar chorus is known by every Vols fan:

Click to play Rocky Top
Rocky Top

Verse I
Wish that I was on ol' Rocky Top Down in the Tennessee hills
Aint' no smoggy smoke on Rocky Top Ain't no telephone bills
Once I had a girl on Rocky Top Half bear, other half cat
Wild as a mink, but sweet as soda pop I still dream about that

Rocky Top you'll always be Home sweet home to me
Good ol' Rocky Top
Rocky Top Tennessee, Rocky Top Tennessee

Verse II
Once two strangers climbed ol' Rocky Top Lookin' for a moonshine still
Strangers ain't come down from Rocky Top Reckon they never will
Corn won't grow at all on Rocky Top Dirt's too rocky by far
That's why all the folks on Rocky Top Get their corn from a jar
(Repeat Chorus)

Verse III
I've had years of cramped-up city life Trapped like a duck in a pen
All I know is it's a pity life Can't be simple again
(Repeat Chorus)

"It's a peppy-type deal." says S.I.D. Bud Ford of Knoxville's favorite sing-along tune. "Our band plays it at least 20 times a game, though I'm sure our opponents would put that number close to a hundred."

Peyton Manning appears to have started a new tradition: On Nov. 29, 1997, after leading the Vols to a 17-10 victory over Vanderbilt in his final home game, he climbed a ladder in the end zone and led the band in Rocky Top.

University of Tennessee's Pride of the Southland Band

2007 Photo By TNJN/Thornton, Samantha

The University of Tennessee band was organized immediately after the Civil War when the University reopened. Since then, the enrollment in the band program has grown to more than 300 students (in all bands) from all colleges of the University.

Director of Bands, Dr. Gary Sousa, heads up a program which has maintained a long-standing reputation as one of the nation's finest musical organizations. The band staff includes Dr. Don Ryder, Associate Director of Bands and Drill Designer, along with Ed Powell, Assistant Director. Drum Major for 2000-2001 is Joe Christian, assisted by Brooke Rhea, and Head Majorette is Carrie DeLozier.

The band program is divided into several different units. The most famous of these units is the marching band. The full "Pride of the Southland Band," appears at all home football games and most out-of-town games before more than 850,000 spectators plus millions more on television.

The "Pride of the Southland" has represented the state of Tennessee at the Eisenhower, Johnson, Nixon, Carter, Reagan, Bush and Clinton Presidential Inaugurations and has appeared at the SEC Championship game, Rose Bowl, Astro Bluebonnet Bowl, Citrus Bowl, Gator Bowl, Hall of Fame Bowl, Liberty Bowl, Peach Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, Cotton Bowl, Orange Bowl and the Sugar Bowl. When the Marching Band takes the field, the crowd reaction truly indicates that it is not only the Pride of all Tennesseans, but the "Pride of the Southland."

Click to play Band Music:
Performed by the University of Tennessee Pride of the Southland Band.

Down the Field
Fight! Vols! Fight!
Alma Mater

Alma Mater History of the Alma Mater

The alma mater was selected as a result of a 1928 contest sponsored by Professor L.S. Mayer of the UT men's glee club. All students, faculty members and alumni or members of their families throughout the state were eligible to compete for the $50 prize. The song, both music and words, had to be original and of high standard. The winner was Mrs. John Meek of Chattanooga, formerly Mary Fleming of Knoxville. The decision was announced at the Alumni banquet at the Farragut Hotel October 26, 1928.

Alma Mater

On a Hallowed hill in Tennessee
Like Beacon shining bright
The stately walls of old U.T.
Rise glorious to the sight.

So here's to you old Tennessee,
Our Alma Mater true
We pledge in love and harmony
Our loyalty to you.

What torches kindled at that flame
Have passed from hand to hand
What hearts cemented in that name
Bind land to stranger land.

O, ever as we strive to rise
On life's unresting stream
Dear Alma Mater, may our eyes
Be lifted to that gleam.

Down the Field

Here's to old Tennessee
Never we'll sever
We pledge our loyalty
Forever and ever
Backing our football team
Faltering never
Cheer and fight with all of your might
For Tennessee.

Fight Vols Fight!!

Fight, Vols fight with all your might,
For the Orange and White
Never falter, never yield
As we march on down the field
Keep Marching!
Let the Spirit of the Hill
Every Vol with courage fill
Your loyalty means our victory
So fight, Vols, fight!

The Vol Navy

The Vol Navy

2008 Photo By Michael Patrick, News Sentinel

In 1962 former Vol broadcaster George Mooney found a quicker and more exciting way to get to Neyland Stadium other than fighting the notorious Knoxville traffic. Mooney navigated his little runabout down the Tennessee River to the stadium and spawned what would later become the "Volunteer Navy." Today, approximately 200 boats of all shapes and sizes make up this giant floating tailgate party. Tennessee and the University of Washington are the only institutions with stadiums adjacent to bodies of water.

Voice of the Vols

On Sept. 14, 1968, John Ward broadcast his first game on the Volunteer Radio Network, a 17-17 tie with Georgia. Over the next three decades, Ward's voice would become as big a part of UT tradition as the singing of Rocky Top.

The Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 4, 1999 marked the final broadcast for Ward and color commentator Bill Anderson (who started with Ward in 1968), the longest-running broadcast partnership in college football. The announcing team of John Ward and Bill Anderson is so spectacular it has become an Icon among Tennessee football. In 1995 the broadcast level of the press box was named in honor of John Ward.


The Voice of The Vols

Bob Kesling

Bob Kesling, UT's director of broadcasting, begins his fourth year as the voice of Tennessee football, basketball and "Vol Calls." Kesling also serves as the television host of the Vol Network's "The Phillip Fulmer Show" and "The Buzz Peterson Show." He is a three-time recipient of "Sportscaster of the Year" award for the state of Tennessee.

In addition to his broadcasting duties, he represents the University at various events and functions throughout the year and works with UT student-athletes to develop communications and public relations skills.

Bob Kesling became the University of Tennessee's Voice of the Vols in 1999. Prior to assuming that position, Kesling served as the WBIR-TV Channel 10, Knoxville, Tennessee, sports director. Kesling is a 1977 graduate of the University of Tennessee. He anchored WBIR's Action 10 News sportscasts from 1980 to 1999.

In 1995, Bob Kesling was chosen as the Southern League Television Sportscaster of the Year. In 1992 and again in 1995 and 1996, the National Association of Sportscasters and Sportswriters named Kesling Sportscaster of the Year in the State of Tennessee. Kesling's sports reporting have been honored by the Society of Professional Journalism most recently in 1993 and 1994. Also in 1993, the Associated Press awarded Action 10 Sports the Best Sportscast in Tennessee.

Besides his sports anchoring duties, Bob Kesling keeps a very busy play-by-play schedule. Since 1989, Kesling has worked for Jefferson-Pilot Sports as an anchor and play-by-play for SEC football, basketball and baseball. In 1998, Kesling was named lead play-by-play announcer for SEC football telecasts.

In addition, Bob Kesling has also done TV play-by-play for the University of Tennessee football and basketball teams as well as the Nashville Sounds baseball club. In 1993, Kesling called the radio play-by-play of the Women's Final Four College Basketball tournament for the NCAA CBS Radio Network.

Since 1977, Bob Kesling has been the radio and TV voice for the six-time NCAA National Championship University of Tennessee Lady Vols basketball team. Kesling's other radio credits include play-by-play for the Knoxville Cherokee's Hockey Club, the Knoxville Blue Jays Baseball Club and has been a member of the University of Tennessee Vol Radio Network since 1978.

Bob Kesling got his broadcasting start in radio. He was sports director at Knoxville's WIVK radio from 1976-1980. During that time, the Associated Press honored WIVK twice for its outstanding sports coverage in the State of Tennessee.

Born in Dallas, Texas, Bob Kesling and his family later moved to Kettering, Ohio, where he attended Fairmont West High School. Kesling played on the University of Tennessee's freshman football team in 1972. While attending UT, Kesling served as the Assistant General Manager of the Knoxville baseball club.

Bob Kesling currently lives in Knoxville with his wife, Tami, and their daughters, Allison and Melissa.

TIM PRIEST, Football Color Analyst

Tim Priest, a former Vol All-SEC defensive back, will team with Kesling for his fourth year in the broadcast booth as the Network's color analyst. Priest was captain of UT's 11-1 1970 team and he is the Vols all-time career interceptions leader with 18. A three-year letterman from 1968-70, Priest was a starter on the Vols 1969 SEC championship team. An outstanding student, he was a GTE Academic All-American, Academic All-SEC in 1969 and 1970 and a recipient of a NCAA Post-Graduate Scholarship Award. On the broadcasting side, Priest was a longtime co-host of the syndicated Football Finals radio show and a color commentator for Tennessee pay-per-view games.

JEFF FRANCIS, Football Sideline Reporter

Former Vol signal-caller Jeff Francis is in his fourth season as the Vol Network's sideline reporter. Francis ranks as the Vols third all-time passing yardage leader. A three-year starter at quarterback from 1986-88, he threw for 5867 career yards and 31 touchdowns. He finished his career in 1988 as the Vols all-time career passing yardage leader. Francis was named Most Valuable Player for his performance in the 1986 Liberty Bowl versus Minnesota and helped guide Tennessee to a 10-2-1 record and a victory over Indiana in the Peach Bowl as a junior. A four-year letterman, Francis was a backup quarterback on Tennessee's 1985 SEC championship team. He resides in Knoxville and is in the banking business.

Mike Stowell
Mike Stowell

Former Vol Stowell Named Vol Network Sideline Reporter

August 23, 2007

Former Vol standout offensive lineman Mike Stowell has been named as the Vol Radio Network’s new sideline reporter for University of Tennessee football broadcasts. Stowell will team with Bob Kesling and Tim Priest to describe the play-by-play action of Tennessee football over the 70-plus stations that make up the Vol Network. He will also assume duties with the “Phillip Fulmer TV Show” and interview Tennessee student-athletics and assistant coaches after each game.

Stowell has been a member of the Vol Network broadcast team for several years most recently serving as the football analyst during the post game “Final Scoreboard Show” and he was part of the pre game “Kickoff Call-In Show” at Tennessee home games. Stowell, who has done radio and television analyst work in the Knoxville market, last season provided television color during selected replays of Tennessee football games seen on CSS.

“It is a great honor and privilege to join the Vol Network on the sidelines,” said Stowell. “I was honored to be able to wear the orange jersey, and I am just as honored to work with Bob, Tim and the rest of the Vol Network staff in this new role.”

Stowell earned first-team All-SEC honors in 1992. He was a four-year letterman (1989-1992) and a two-year starter (1991, 1992) and displayed versatility by playing both offensive guard and tackle during his career. Tennessee went 38-9-2 during Stowell’s career and he was a member of two SEC Championship teams.

Stowell replaces former Vol quarterback Jeff Francis who relinquished the position to spend more time with his family. Francis served as the Vol Radio Network’s first sideline reporter and worked along side Bob Kesling and Tim Priest for the past eight seasons.

“I would like to thank Bob, Tim and the entire Vol Network family and the University of Tennessee for allowing me to be a part of the radio broadcast team for eight great years,” said Francis. “I considered it a privilege to be on the air to and to be on the sidelines. This is just a place in my life where I need to devote more time to my family.”

Francis will continue to be involved in occasional Vol Network broadcasts when his schedule permits.

New State-Of-The-Art JumboTron Scoreboard

JumboTron was put up and running Sept. 5, 2009 for the first game
The game-day experience for UT football fans has entered into the high definition era. When the Vols kick-off their 2009 season on September 5th against Western Kentucky, Neyland Stadium will feature a brand new, state-of-the-art jumbotron, with a price-tag of four-million dollars. And all indications point to it being money well spent. [Photo by Gabe Correa - Smokey's Trail]

Backside of the JumboTron facing the river [Photo by Gabe Correa - Smokey's Trail]

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) Aug. 7, 2009 -- A proud day for UT Athletic Director Mike Hamilton, who is seeing images on the new JumboTron for the first time. "WOW. You know I've been watching it go up over the last couple of weeks, but to actually have it on now and to see the picture and to kind of remember what it looked like last year, just phenomenal," Hamilton told WVLT.

This is no ordinary electronic scoreboard. It's true high definition, made up of 168, 4 by 5 panels or cabinets. Each weighing 800 pounds. "Obviously a full LED board, we're going to produce it in HD quality, so we just felt like this was the best possible product we could put in the stadium," said Chris Fuller, U-T Associate Athletic Director, Sales and Marketing.

At ten stories high at nearly 46-hundred square feet, football fans here at Neyland Stadium are going to be treated to some pure JumboTron pleasure. "I think if you talk to the industry experts they'll tell you it's hard to find a better product then the one we've installed," said Fuller.

While the new JumboTron can do many things, the Vol Network plans on keeping it simple...For a while. But promises replays and highlights second to none in the SEC. "It's top-of-the-line, you know there are a couple that are bigger in actual square footage but top-of the-line as far as what you can buy out there right now," Hamilton, said.

Aside from being a great addition for the fans, running through the "T" will take on a whole new meaning for the players. "I think it's just another sign of trying to put together the best experience both for our fans and our student athletes," Hamilton said.

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