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.
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.