I don't mind it being in here for one game," the unknown groundskeeper quoted Spurrier saying, "but we have recruits coming in January 13, and I want that checkerboard out of there.
Analyst Pat Haden
Throughout the recorded history of Tennessee football, a number of things have happened that make for great conversation whenever Vol fans might get together, in person or on the chat boards.
When Tennessee accepted an invitation to play Virginia Tech in the 1994 Gator Bowl, the stadium in Jacksonville was under construction, so the game was moved . . . to Florida Field/Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville.
It is a tradition of bowl games that each team is honored, one in each end zone. One of the strangest sights of this or any other year was the trademark orange and white checkerboard in the north end zone. As the "home team," Tennessee also used the Gators' dressing room.
As for the checkerboard end zone, analyst Pat Haden noted on the WTBS broadcast that Steve Spurrier had some definite thoughts about the Vol squares being seen on the Florida greensward.
"I was talking to the groundskeeper before this game," Haden said during the telecast.
"I don't mind it being in here for one game," the unknown groundskeeper quoted Spurrier saying, "but we have recruits coming in January 13, and I want that checkerboard out of there."
There is no doubt the checkerboard vanished quickly, maybe mere hours after the game.
When Tennessee and UNLV squared off in the season opener Sunday, Sept. 5, 2004, the Vols wore their "throwback jerseys," the white shirts with the orange collar used for eight road games between 1971-73. For the first time since the 1976 Ole Miss game, the visiting team came out in its home uniforms.
Occasionally, there are times uniforms look too much alike.
When Tennessee and Virginia met on homecoming 1980, you could forgive Vol fans for rubbing their eyes when Tennessee came out in orange shirts and orange pants, and the Cavaliers showed up in white shirts and orange pants. The lack of color contrast didn't seem to bother Virginia. The Cavaliers won 16-13.
The 1969 home finale against Vanderbilt showcased Tennessee wearing orange jerseys and Vanderbilt in their bright gold shirts. It was a sunny November day in Knoxville, and the jerseys looked nearly identical. From the stands, only the helmets, Tennessee in white and Vandy in gold, really differentiated the teams.
Vanderbilt head coach Bill Pace suggested, ever so gently, that Tennessee would wear its white jerseys in 1970 in Nashville. That didn't happen. It was an overcast day. Vandy apparently had darkened its jerseys ever so slightly, and all was well. Tennessee, as was its custom, did wear orange, and did win.
A year later, the Vols started wearing white on the road when called for by SEC, later NCAA, rules.
Speaking of jerseys, LSU wore its purple jerseys in 1989 and 1992 games against Tennessee at Tiger Stadium, again per NCAA rules. It looked a little strange for those of us used to seeing LSU in white at home.
When the Vols went to Baton Rouge in 2000, the rules had changed, with LSU now wearing the traditional white shirts. White shirts or not, LSU pulled out an overtime victory.
In the 1996 Citrus Bowl, Northwestern wore black shirts and purple pants, making a serious sartorial statement unmatched in Tennessee football history. The Vols wore the more conventional white shirts and white pants, winning 48-28, despite blowing a 21-0 lead.
There was a time Vol fans had considered the white shirts a "jinx," citing losses to Texas in the 1953 Cotton Bowl (16-0), Alabama (35-0 in 1963), and Texas again in the 1969 Cotton Bowl (36-13) as "evidence."
The most radical Tennessee uniform came with the "Halloween jerseys" of 1963, orange with black numbers, uniforms that weren't a big hit. They went gently into that good night at the end of the season. A 5-5 season and a new coach in town the next season helped make that happen.
Then there's the weather. In 2001, severe weather at Arkansas sent the teams to the dressing room, first during warm-ups and then again in the first half. Vol wide receiver Kelley Washington, just off a stint in pro baseball, had an astute observation: In baseball, the teams would just go home or to the hotel and play a doubleheader the next day.
With more than 70,000 fans in the stands from all parts of Tennessee and Arkansas, it was just a matter of waiting it out. After the Vols won 13-3, Tennessee's charter flight arrived home around 6 a.m. Sunday.
These unique happenings on the gridiron have contributed to a long and glorious tradition, happening often enough just to catch everybody's attention. You're not likely to see an orange and white checkerboard in either end zone on Florida Field any time soon. Nor should you ever see the "Halloween uniforms," except possibly in another "throw-back" game.
Tom Mattingly is the author of "The Tennessee Football Vault: The Story of the Tennessee Volunteers, 1891-2006" (2006), available in second edition at fine bookstores, and "Tennessee Football: The Peyton Manning Years" (1998). Comments may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. His News Sentinel blog is called "The Vol Historian."