UT becomes just eighth NCAA D-1 program with 800 wins
Tennessee’s Marlin Lane (15) outruns Austin Peay’s Corey Teague (40) in route to a touchdown during the first quarter on Saturday in Knoxville.
KNOXVILLE — Former New York Jets coach Herm Edwards once said “You play to win the game,” and for the Tennessee Volunteers, winning is something they have done for more than a century.
Saturday’s 45-0 win over Austin Peay marked the 800th win in the history of the Tennessee program. The Vols are now the eighth winningest program in NCAA FBS history as Tennessee now trails Michigan (903), Texas (866), Notre Dame (865), Nebraska (856), Ohio State (837), Oklahoma (831) and Alabama (827).
Tennessee’s first win came on October 15, 1892 when they defeated Maryville 25-0 and for more than a century, the Volunteers have staked their claim to being one of the nation’s elite programs. While those 800 wins show Tennessee’s success rate over the long haul, recent years have been much leaner.
The Vols won their 750th game in 2005 when they defeated Ole Miss 27-10. That 2005 season was when things turned south for the Vols as they finished 5-6 and are 52-48 overall in games played since the beginning of that season. That includes four five-win seasons and three straight losing seasons.
It took the Volunteers eight seasons to move from win 750 to 800, but by comparison, it took only five between wins 700 and 750. Tennessee won at least 10 games in three of those five seasons and played in the SEC title game twice in that span. Needless to say, recent history has been hard on the Tennessee faithful.
But for the first time in a long time, there is hope of a brighter future. New coach Butch Jones has injected new life into the program and even though most expect a rough year this year, the fan base is optimistic about what lies ahead.
One thing that Jones has preached to his team is to give full effort every day and on every play.
“I told them no longer would we hear the terms flat or lethargic in our football program,” Jones said. “You work exceptionally hard, you lift all the weight, do all the 6 a.m. standard periods, you are up here all summer and all of that is a means to be playing football. You get 12 opportunities to work at getting to 13 or 14 so take advantage of it. Playing with this fan base and the student body, it is special.”
Tennessee fans are hungry to a return to national prominence and 10-win seasons and Jones has been effective in not only exciting the fan base but potential recruits who may wear the Orange and White in years to come. He said that the traditions of the UT program, forged over decades of football excellence, are a big selling point.
“Our fans are outstanding. That Vol Walk is incredible,” Jones said of the pre-game festivities last Saturday. “Again, that’s a difference maker. If you’re a student-athlete, where else would you want to play football but at the University of Tennessee, to represent this state, to have the opportunity to play in front of the greatest fan base in the country? We’re going to get it. We’re going to get it right, but it’s going to take some work. This is truly a special place.”
The players are buying into what Jones is selling in Knoxville.
“I am not going to lie, it is exciting,” UT running back Rajion Neal said of his new head coach’s personality. “I like to see how energized he gets on the sidelines. It gives you a giant boost. You don’t see too many coaches come in and be jacked up as much as he is.”
-By Marlin Curnutt, Tribune Correspondent