John Adams: Two-sport failure rare for Vols

John Adams

Tennessee's comeback victory against Vanderbilt on Saturday isn't the only reason for the team to be encouraged about the rest of the season. A history lesson might be just as uplifting.

History teaches us that when either football or basketball is down at UT, the other one is up. The 1977-78 school year was the rare exception.

In 1977, Johnny Majors returned to his alma mater after leading Pittsburgh to a national championship. His first UT team went 4-7, beating only Vanderbilt in the SEC.

The basketball season was even worse. Legendary coach Ray Mears had to step down because of illness, and the Vols went 11-16 under interim coach Cliff Wettig in 1977-78.

But two-sport failure is a Big Orange aberration. So when UT's football team finished the 2010 season with a 6-7 record, the basketball team had reason to be optimistic that its up-and-down season eventually would take a sharp upward turn. There are decades of evidence to support such optimism.

Way back in 1964, Doug Dickey was hired as UT's football coach. His mandate: win more games than the last guy (Jim McDonald) and modernize the offense.

Dickey did both, but not right away. His first team went 4-5-1 and scored seven points or fewer in five games.

While UT fans were debating whether the new offense was worse than the old one, Mears' basketball team changed the conversation. The Vols beat Kentucky by 19 points in Knoxville, managed a second-place finish in the SEC and a 22-5 record.

UT football teams also suffered through losing seasons in 1980, 1988, 2005 and 2008. Its basketball team qualified for the NCAA tournament all four years.

It has worked the other way, too.

Wade Houston's Vols lost 22 games in 1990-91 and 1993-94. But fans could rally around a football team that won the SEC championship in 1990 and won 10 games in 1993.

Buzz Peterson's worst season was 15-16 in 2001-2002. The football team was fourth nationally in 2001.

Never mind if a bad season turns into a bad era. The other program has responded.

Basketball coach Kevin O'Neill never had a winning season in three years at UT (1994 through 1997). His teams not only lost, they lost in the most unseemly manner. Remember when the Vols put up 35 points on Auburn - in a game, not a half? Or how about that memorable February stretch of 1994-95 when they hit 48 points in three consecutive games?

The football program countered by signing quarterback Peyton Manning. Thanks to him, the football team scored 40 or more points 14 times during the three years that O'Neill's basketball teams scored 49 points or fewer 13 times.

Combine all that history with the misfortune that befell UT in football, and it's reasonable to predict a strong finish for the basketball team.

The Vols didn't just lose in football. They had victories overturned seconds into celebrations, first at LSU and then against North Carolina in the Music City Bowl. Based on the school's track record, the basketball team will be compensated for those cruel outcomes.

Two last-second tournament victories - each abetted by a malfunctioning clock - would be appropriate.

John Adams is a senior columnist. He may be reached at 865-342-6284 or adamsj@knoxnews.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/johnadamskns

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Comments » 23

Laydbakvol writes:

History teaches us that history means squat!

GreerVol22 writes:

thanks for the support John.... butt hole

TennVol01 writes:

So Coach Dooley, who came from a small school with a losing record, had a better first year than Johnny Majors who came from a major school who just won the national championship? Interesting... None of the anti-Dooley groupies ever brought that piece of news up.

rockytopjc22#1360044 writes:

Well at least us UT can always count on one thing being consistent....John Adams ripping us every chance he gets! GO VOLS!!!!! & GO BACK TO LSU ADAMS!!!

hcjournals#206623 writes:

Was it me or was that article a bummer?

PUL4VOLS writes:

Didn't read it but even at that I respond with "Thanks John for a very UNDERwhelming article about UT sports!"

CrankE writes:

Two-sport failure common for Adams.

Megafail.

REGIME CHANGE AT KNS!!!

tomkats3242 writes:

in response to bankofdad3:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Adams should be denied access to all UT games and if the paper he writes for does not fire him soon they will need to find another city to print in. He is terrible at what he pretends to do.

Vol86 writes:

A four star db committed last night. On volquest.

brod writes:

unless something gets turned around, it will be a two sport failure. the team is playing terrible right now.

Futurecoach16 writes:

in response to TennVolAlum:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Can you really say you knew that both football and basketball have had the same bad years only once in the history of the university? I certainly didn't.

Futurecoach16 writes:

in response to TennVolAlum:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

You said his articles do not provide insight that is not already known, meaning the readers do know it. So, you were saying you knew that both teams were bad in the same year only once. I did not, so therefore Adams' column did provide insight that was not known.

bUTchVFL writes:

in response to GreerVol22:

thanks for the support John.... butt hole

Lay off the guy, he's a journalist not some dude that ticked you off in rush hour traffic. Not much to write about until NSD.

theoldbear writes:

in response to hcjournals#206623:

Was it me or was that article a bummer?

It was a bummer, and I don't think it is true. I'm not going to bother looking it up, but I remember some years in the Bowden Wyatt/John Sines era when both football and basketball teams stank to high heaven.

Oh, wait! Basketball at UT began with Ray Mears! Before that, it was just what some football and baseball players did in the winter to keep in shape.

The first UT basketball game I saw, in the Alumni Gym, Doug Atkins started at center. But then Doug Atkins came to UT on a basketball scholarship!

Ayres_Hall writes:

I think the track and swim teams were good in '77-78.

murrayvol writes:

If John Adams needed pallbearers from this group, he'd be in a world of hurt.

Thought the article was interstin'....and I hope history holds serve for our roundballers.

oskie_score writes:

in response to Vol86:

A four star db committed last night. On volquest.

Nice p/u BUT does Tennessee really need another DB??
Of the 21 commits for 2011, 6 are ATH/DB's, to go along with 9 FR DB's & 6 SOPH DB's listed on 2010 Roster, including starters/part-time starters B. Brewer-FR, E. Gordon-FR, J. Jackson-SOPH, M. Teague-SOPH, P. Wagner-SOPH, and R. Wilks-SOPH.
20 DB's equates to approximately 1/4 of the entire current Roster/Team. Maybe CDD is moving T. Meline and R. Wilks back to WR?? Possibly M. Teague to offense?
Nevertheless, 2010 Roster is vert thin at DT---most are DE converts too small for the interior. I thought DL/DT was CDD's & CJW's #1 recruiting priority, am I missing something???
I truly hope the Vols have a minimum of 2-4 talented DT (signing) surprises on NSD.

give_him_6 writes:

The mighty Adams has spoken!

--crickets in background-- smiles

factor writes:

Perhaps the Vols will make history this year and suck in both sports.

BigOrangeSmoker writes:

2 sport failure for vols can and will be fixed.
A reporter that cant do nothing but talk negative....needs replacing hopefully KNS will replace this half azz reporter,your useless adams

Futurecoach16 writes:

in response to BigOrangeSmoker:

2 sport failure for vols can and will be fixed.
A reporter that cant do nothing but talk negative....needs replacing hopefully KNS will replace this half azz reporter,your useless adams

I'll explain yet again. Adams is a columnist, not a journalist/reporter. He's paid to write his thoughts, which is what he's done. If you don't like it, the best way to get rid of him is to not read/comment on the stories. Sheesh.

GreerVol22 writes:

in response to bUTchVFL:

Lay off the guy, he's a journalist not some dude that ticked you off in rush hour traffic. Not much to write about until NSD.

sounds like you have butt hole issues of your own to deal with.

SIMSVOL writes:

Basketball Vols will reach the final four this season.

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