His black jacket, Doug Dickey explained Monday, was because he had to attend a funeral on his way to town.
"I didn't know I was going to be in vogue when I got here,'' he said, getting a big laugh.
Dickey, one of Tennessee's most innovative football coaches and athletic directors, was a voice from the past when he spoke to the Knoxville Quarterback Club.
It's been nearly 40 years since he walked away from the Vols to coach his alma mater, Florida. He retired from his Act Two at Tennessee in 2003 after 18 eventful years as athletic director.
But no one can say Dickey wasn't one smart cookie. Still is. When he recounted UT history, it was in the context of how it sets the table for Lane Kiffin to succeed now and in the immediate future.
"He set the standard for recruiting here,'' said Dickey.
Returning from World War II, Neyland resisted innovation, stuck with his single-wing offense and won a national championship in 1951. How? By assembling a great collection of players, not just from Tennessee but from all over the country.
"Location, location, location,'' Dickey said. "People come here from all over the country and that's never changed.''
Kiffin, Dickey said, benefits from the acclaim Pat Summitt has garnered with her eight national championships. And from the marketing genius of John Ward, who "fanned the flames of whatever success was going on.''
And from Phillip Fulmer, the only football coach Dickey had to hire.
"He said he would take it to another level and so he did,'' Dickey said. "He took it to another level in the volume of quality players that were here and won a national championship.
"Lane Kiffin will benefit from all the things Phillip Fulmer did while he was coach here.''
When someone from the audience asked Dickey to second-guess Kiffin's late-game strategy at Alabama, the old coach wouldn't bite.
"One thing about being retired, I don't have to answer that,'' he said.
"I don't have to worry about third down-and-long. I worry about if my golf game is going to get in the way of my fishing.''
Sources say his golf game is strong. Back in the day, so was his record at UT. He was 46-15-4 and won two SEC titles in his six years (1964-69).
He ushered the Vols into the T-formation era. Integration, too. Several of his innovations are game-day traditions - that help Kiffin impress recruits from all over the country.
Dickey, by the way, thinks Kiffin is off to a good start. He even approved of the black jerseys Saturday night.
"Bob Neyland was an eccentric on the conservative side,'' Dickey said. "Lane Kiffin is probably an eccentric on the other end.
"In today's world, to be a little eccentric, there's nothing wrong with that.''
Today's world, Dickey believes, would benefit from a modest college football playoff: One plays four, two plays three and the winners meet for the title.
"It's easier to separate four and five than it is two and three,'' Dickey said. "In the BCS you've got to separate two and three.''
Now, it's up to Kiffin to get Tennessee involved, whatever the format.
Today is the first anniversary of Fulmer being asked to resign, a task that fell to Dickey's successor, Mike Hamilton. But Dickey had to make his own tough call, asking Johnny Majors, a Tennessee legend, to step aside in 1992.
"That's where we find ourselves at times, as athletic administrators,'' Dickey said. "You make changes and you move on and you hope the next one rises above where you were.
"That's what we hope we do this time.''
Mike Strange may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 865-342-6276.