John Adams: Time to retire UT football honorary criteria

John Adams

Dave Hart doesn't have to look hard for challenges in his first year as Tennessee's athletic director. All he has to do is check the SEC standings in most men's sports.

But while Hart oversees UT's attempted ascent in numerous sports, credit him with not losing sight of what came before. He's reviewing the criteria the school has established for retiring the jersey numbers of its most accomplished student-athletes.

Before 2005, UT had retired the numbers of only four football players, all of whom were killed in World War II. No one would question their selection.

Nor should they question that three other players — Peyton Manning, Reggie White and Doug Atkins — were later honored by the retirement of their numbers. All three excelled with the Vols before gaining more fame at the NFL level. Atkins and White already are enshrined in the NFL Hall of Fame. It's just a matter of time before Manning joins them.

But based on the current bizarre criteria, UT's Retired Jersey Club won't lose its exclusivity anytime soon.

Never mind what someone did as a Vol. He could become the school's first Heisman Trophy winner and still not have his number honored forever more, because the requirements for admission are based as much on what you did in the NFL as for what heroics you performed at Neyland Stadium. You must meet three of the following criteria: hold a major season or statistical record, make five Pro Bowls, be honored as an NFL offensive or defensive player of the year, make the NFL Hall of Fame.

Obvious question: What does a pro career have to do with UT? Another obvious question: Why the discrepancy between football and men's basketball?

You must meet two of the following criteria to have your number retired in basketball: first-team All-American, SEC player

of the year, Olympic basketball team, NBA all-star. That would enable a player to have his number retired without playing beyond college.

No wonder that, if you discount the football players who were killed in World War II, UT has retired the numbers of as many basketball players as football players. And men's basketball hasn't made it to the Final Four, much less won a national championship.

Nothing extraordinary would be required to improve the standards for honoring UT's best players. Common sense would suffice. Measurable accomplishments should serve as guidelines, not as ultimate determinants.

Former UT linebacker Al Wilson certainly deserves consideration. He was a first-team All-American and two-time All-SEC player. He also was the unquestioned leader and star player on UT's 1998 unbeaten, national championship team. Some fans probably believe his number should be retired solely for the devastation he wreaked on Florida's vaunted offense in UT's 1998 overtime victory.

But the first name that comes to mind when you discuss retired jerseys is still Johnny Majors'. He finished second in the Heisman voting as a player in 1956 and restored the Vols to football prominence in his 16-year run as head coach after leading Pitt to a national championship in 1976. When you weigh all he did for UT football, why would you penalize him for what he didn't do as a pro?

Former UT coach Phillip Fulmer was selected to the college football hall of fame Tuesday. But the Vols don't need an outside source to honor Majors, his predecessor.

This is an inside job. And all it takes is common sense.

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 » 55

troubleinc writes:

Let me beat you to the punch Sammy: Doolaid, Dooleave, watering bamboo ... and all of the other asinine drivel I spout off. This is my 'revenge' Sammy!

troubleinc writes:

And to stay on topic: as much as it pains me to agree with that mule's behind Adams, Majors number should be retired.

civilianvol_formerly_marinevol writes:

I don't know why anything you do as a professional athlete should be any factor in consideration for a college honor. Some players did not start in college, but were big stars in the NFL. So let the NFL honor them. I think your college performance should be the only consideration for having your college number retired.

Rich_Is_Re-born writes:

Good read. And YES, Majors should be amongst...if not the first # retired.

WetumpkaThumpa writes:

I agree 100%!! Bobby Majors was a pretty special player as well, 2011 SEC Football Legends Class.

http://www.utsports.com/sports/m-foot...

tovolny writes:

For Adams this is all about Johnny Majors and UT not yet retiring his number. I think we will soon retire the number.

But, what do you think about this:
Instead of "retiring" the number '45' honor the whole Majors clan by making numbers 45 and 44 a "Major Number"...and allowing the Majors family exclusive rights on who can wear the numbers. This would honor, Johnny, Bill, and Bobby. My idea would create an interesting slant and would, I believe, be something the fans would like. Let's say a 5 star recruit is in high school in a Tennessee city and the Majors's offer him a 'Major Number' if he goes to UT. Or, a particular player is playing above and beyond all expectations, and a 'Major Number' is available and awarded to him. I feel like by keeping the number on the field would be just as great as retiring it. WHAT DO YOU THINK?

Bigger_Al writes:

Remember that Adams hated and gigged Johnny constantly when Majors coached the Vols. Comical hearing him try to stir up the Majorettes right after Fulmer gets HOF.

rockypop writes:

in response to civilianvol_formerly_marinevol:

I don't know why anything you do as a professional athlete should be any factor in consideration for a college honor. Some players did not start in college, but were big stars in the NFL. So let the NFL honor them. I think your college performance should be the only consideration for having your college number retired.

Amen.

troubleinc writes:

in response to tovolny:

For Adams this is all about Johnny Majors and UT not yet retiring his number. I think we will soon retire the number.

But, what do you think about this:
Instead of "retiring" the number '45' honor the whole Majors clan by making numbers 45 and 44 a "Major Number"...and allowing the Majors family exclusive rights on who can wear the numbers. This would honor, Johnny, Bill, and Bobby. My idea would create an interesting slant and would, I believe, be something the fans would like. Let's say a 5 star recruit is in high school in a Tennessee city and the Majors's offer him a 'Major Number' if he goes to UT. Or, a particular player is playing above and beyond all expectations, and a 'Major Number' is available and awarded to him. I feel like by keeping the number on the field would be just as great as retiring it. WHAT DO YOU THINK?

I love the idea tovolny. Would also love to see Peyton Manning or Reggie White's family do that with their numbers. What a huge deal for a high school QB to be told in the recruiting process that Peyton Manning would be honored for you to come to UT and wear his #16, or a DE to be told that Reggie White's family would love to see you in an orange #92 (same for Adkins #91). The four numbers for the players that died in WWII should remain permanently retired.

CoverOrange writes:

With only 99 numbers available to a team, 85 on scholarship, add in walk-ons, it is obvious that making it too easy to retire numbers is a bad idea. You could retire half the numbers for basketball and not even notice. As for Johnny, he did a lot for the school on and off the field, should be a candidate.

troubleinc writes:

Sorry for the typo, meant 'Atkins'. (UT made the same error when they first put his name up in the stadium)

10seVol85_Part_Deux writes:

in response to CoverOrange:

With only 99 numbers available to a team, 85 on scholarship, add in walk-ons, it is obvious that making it too easy to retire numbers is a bad idea. You could retire half the numbers for basketball and not even notice. As for Johnny, he did a lot for the school on and off the field, should be a candidate.

I was going to point out the same thing. Whether I agree with the way the school does it or not, you only need about 15 numbers to dress your whole basketball team (usually, not quite that many), while there are more than 100 players on the football roster (already not enough numbers for them all without sharing). It's logical that it takes more to get a football player's number retired.

I can also see, sort of, why NFL accomplishments are considered, though I don't think they should be a requirement. Player like Manning, continue to be a source of great pride for UT fans, and continue to bring attention, honor, recruiting power, etc to the program long after they leave school.

I think they just need to have more ways to honor players than just retiring jerseys.

RoadTrip writes:

Who wrote this for Adams, and where has he gone?

This retire the number thing is bogus anyway. The name of former players and coaches that meet a predetermined criteria, that may or may not have the NFL attached, should be added to the ring in Neyland. Then have the players compete to see who deserves the honor of wearing the number of one of the greats. Anything but the current system. At some point you run out of numbers and have to un-retire some.

Snapshot writes:

in response to tovolny:

For Adams this is all about Johnny Majors and UT not yet retiring his number. I think we will soon retire the number.

But, what do you think about this:
Instead of "retiring" the number '45' honor the whole Majors clan by making numbers 45 and 44 a "Major Number"...and allowing the Majors family exclusive rights on who can wear the numbers. This would honor, Johnny, Bill, and Bobby. My idea would create an interesting slant and would, I believe, be something the fans would like. Let's say a 5 star recruit is in high school in a Tennessee city and the Majors's offer him a 'Major Number' if he goes to UT. Or, a particular player is playing above and beyond all expectations, and a 'Major Number' is available and awarded to him. I feel like by keeping the number on the field would be just as great as retiring it. WHAT DO YOU THINK?

I think it is a great idea. Also they need to get away from retiring numbers, and just retire the jersey. You already have a bunch of players sharing the same number as it is now.

VolFanInTheBoro (Inactive) writes:

in response to Sammy_Burklows_Revenge:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Packer, how many times are you going to post the same identical statement?

10seVol85_Part_Deux writes:

in response to Sammy_Burklows_Revenge:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Wow! Almost got through an entire post without a completely off-topic cheap shot on Coach Dooley.

I was worried there for a second.

chuckfromwoodberry writes:

The Great Pumpkin engineered the criteria for this honor because of his obsessive fear of the Legend he betrayed to get his job. Maybe we should add the stipulation that you have had to have had at least a sniff at more than one university head coaching job. That should keep out the riff raff.

spacehistorian writes:

I like the idea of a "Ring of Honor" where you can immortalize the player without having to retire the jersey number. Many schools and pro teams have the Ring of Honor and I think it would be easy to implement and permanently end the retiring of a number.

snafu14u#241639 writes:

The rethinking of this issue is long over due and never made sense to me. Not only Majors, but others who never made the pro's. Never understood the logic behind the current requirements. BonzaiVol

voloffaith writes:

I mean man its all in the numbers......

Tennesseee does recognize greats from the past at UT home at 2/game......

volndawgville writes:

A few comments..... I like the idea of an honorary number, but not sure of the selection criteria suggested. I might suggest using Inky Johnson's number, as it "literally left it on the field" and after his recovery remained involved with the program.

I never liked retiring the 3 numbers beyond the 4 WWII players. Retiring their numbers just fit perfectly with to team's name- Volunteers, and they left it all on the field, just a different field..... the battle field.

I think their needs to be a distinction between those 4 and Peyton, Doug, and Reggie. Possibly a designation similar to "Vols for Life" and place statues or busts outside Neyland- maybe at Gate 21 (I think). We could have our own monument park like the NY Yankees. We could move the letterman's wall and the Neyland statue there- or not.

I have to snicker a little with the FB criteria... what if Sims really catches fire in the NFL- would he make it? Or more realistically Arien Foster? Fine ballplayer at UT, but not one I consider for this special distinction.

CrankE writes:

in response to Bigger_Al:

Remember that Adams hated and gigged Johnny constantly when Majors coached the Vols. Comical hearing him try to stir up the Majorettes right after Fulmer gets HOF.

ding ding ding ding ding ding!!! We have a winner.

CrankE writes:

I personally thought that nobody outside of The Four should have their number retired. Period.

No criteria. No committee. No confusion. No controversy. Joining The Four should require the same price of admission that they paid.

By the way; FIRE JOHN ADAMS!

Vol43 writes:

in response to tovolny:

For Adams this is all about Johnny Majors and UT not yet retiring his number. I think we will soon retire the number.

But, what do you think about this:
Instead of "retiring" the number '45' honor the whole Majors clan by making numbers 45 and 44 a "Major Number"...and allowing the Majors family exclusive rights on who can wear the numbers. This would honor, Johnny, Bill, and Bobby. My idea would create an interesting slant and would, I believe, be something the fans would like. Let's say a 5 star recruit is in high school in a Tennessee city and the Majors's offer him a 'Major Number' if he goes to UT. Or, a particular player is playing above and beyond all expectations, and a 'Major Number' is available and awarded to him. I feel like by keeping the number on the field would be just as great as retiring it. WHAT DO YOU THINK?

I think that's a great idea! It makes a very nice recruiting tool, honors the player and keeps the number in circulation. I vote for this idea. Good job, NY.

kyvol98 writes:

Maybe create a "Walk of Fame" where the path ends at the statue of the General. Special honors to the 4 killed in WWII and the 3 coaches lost in the auto accident.

SouthALVol writes:

in response to CoverOrange:

With only 99 numbers available to a team, 85 on scholarship, add in walk-ons, it is obvious that making it too easy to retire numbers is a bad idea. You could retire half the numbers for basketball and not even notice. As for Johnny, he did a lot for the school on and off the field, should be a candidate.

There are actually 37, I think, numbers available for basketball as most human refs only have 5 fingers on each hand and can flash only numbers 0-5 to the scorer's table to indicate fouls. I know the pros use other numbers, but I think college and high school pretty much adhere to this tradition. I'm assuming you are exaggerating, but with 12 players on the team taking away half the numbers gives you 17-18 from which to choose.

Vol43 writes:

in response to MOUNTAINofOKEMO:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Speaking of 'not thought out well'. That's about as sad a response as I've heard in a LONG time. Sure you aint troll material? Dude, it is all about the history. It is all about the tradition, the pride, the glory. You might want to stop and think about that. Without the aforementioned ideas, what kind of world would this be? I know, a world all about ME, and that's sad.

rtrchatt writes:

in response to Vol43:

Speaking of 'not thought out well'. That's about as sad a response as I've heard in a LONG time. Sure you aint troll material? Dude, it is all about the history. It is all about the tradition, the pride, the glory. You might want to stop and think about that. Without the aforementioned ideas, what kind of world would this be? I know, a world all about ME, and that's sad.

When it comes to Southern college fb, no one has more tradition, history and success than Alabama. Jerseys are not retired there for good reason. Any school can do whatever they wish for their past players, and IMO stipulations from professional careers tied to a college honor are just silly. Do whatever you want my orange friends its your program.

ProfessionalHandicapper writes:

Retiring numbers is a tradition past it's time. Retire the Jersey worn, put their faces on School Hall of Fame walls, but there are too many players each year to retire numbers. Add another 100 years to the tradition, and it's just not possible. Plus many top recruits want their number when they arrive. I'm not a fan of retiring a numbers. It's a tradition with no future in sports.

Jovol642 writes:

I have a better idea. Let's find out Adams # and retire his sorry Butt forever.

allvols4life writes:

in response to rtrchatt:

When it comes to Southern college fb, no one has more tradition, history and success than Alabama. Jerseys are not retired there for good reason. Any school can do whatever they wish for their past players, and IMO stipulations from professional careers tied to a college honor are just silly. Do whatever you want my orange friends its your program.

You are exactly right, it is OUR program!!! So why do you feel the need to spew all this Bama garbage on a UT fan site? We all know, heck, the whole college football world knows, that Alabama is a premiere program. There, you happy! I admitted it. Alabama is a great program, but with fans like you promoting them on other teams sites, it makes them look like, well, Alabama fans!

gc_scvol writes:

in response to allvols4life:

You are exactly right, it is OUR program!!! So why do you feel the need to spew all this Bama garbage on a UT fan site? We all know, heck, the whole college football world knows, that Alabama is a premiere program. There, you happy! I admitted it. Alabama is a great program, but with fans like you promoting them on other teams sites, it makes them look like, well, Alabama fans!

ALABUBBA 'NUFF SAID.

Central_IL_Vol writes:

in response to rtrchatt:

When it comes to Southern college fb, no one has more tradition, history and success than Alabama. Jerseys are not retired there for good reason. Any school can do whatever they wish for their past players, and IMO stipulations from professional careers tied to a college honor are just silly. Do whatever you want my orange friends its your program.

First of all, I am not your friend you dirty Bammer MORON!

Instead of polluting a Vol site with the foul stench of Bammer, don't you have anything better to do? Maybe a trophy to fondle, a tree to poison, another fan to teabag or a rival fan to shoot?

If you are so in love with the dirty, cheating Bammer MORONS, then go to a Bammer Moron site and spout off your useless drivel and stay off the Vol sites you worthless TROLL!

VolzsFan writes:

1. Majors will never and should never be recognized for his coaching, period. He does not meet the criteria to go into the college Hall of Fame as a coach. Player he is there.

2. Take Jackie Sherril and Phil Fulmer out of the mix in terms of being on Majors staff, and his record is a joke. Those two are solely responsible for any success Majors had as a coach.

3. As for retired numbers, Severance is the biggest omission to date and it is not close.

4. Based on criteria to retire a number and applying the Heisman runner-up as the biggest feather, than you will have to put Heath Shuler in as well.

Majors was an average coach and his record proves that. So if he is going to be considered for retirement of his number it has to be on playing alone. There are at least 6 guys ahead of him on that.

So sad that when the most successful coach in school history just becomes a Hall of Famer, they have to bring up Majors. That shows why Tenn is a second tier program. Just because the great Hall of Famer made winning look easy at Tenn, does not mean it is. As Chavis said, what he did will never be duplicated at UT......never. Now put Majors on the scrap heap with all the rest and let's enjoy our tailgates. That is all that is left.

Scuba_Curt writes:

in response to CrankE:

I personally thought that nobody outside of The Four should have their number retired. Period.

No criteria. No committee. No confusion. No controversy. Joining The Four should require the same price of admission that they paid.

By the way; FIRE JOHN ADAMS!

DING, DING,DING, DING,DING, DING,DING, DING. We have a double winner. Atkins, White and Manning were great players but aren't deserving to have their numbers retired. Ring of Honor, yes, but give someone that thinks they deserve the right to try to live up to those numbers a right to earn them.

CarlChilders writes:

I have to admit, 7-4 and 8-3 seasons were the norm under Majors with the exception of a 9-1-2 and an 11-1 season. He was a great player and a decent coach, but the constant grumbling eventually took him out.

tovolny writes:

in response to MOUNTAINofOKEMO:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Well, I complain about you a lot, so I guess I deserve a little critique. However, I only mentioned the Majors, and you go into the rant about Reggie White and Doug Atkins. I was talking about "Majors" and calling it "The Major Numbers"...nothing else. Try getting more sleep...it was just an idea...wow!

ProfessionalHandicapper writes:

Johnny Majors can never be in the Hall of Fame as a coach. He didnt have a.600 winning percentage or better.(thats a requirement) Prior to his good record at UT, he was 45-45-1 at Pitt, and 24-30-1 at Iowa State.
His winning percentage was .574 for his coaching career.
Too bad he didnt win a few more. He did well at UT but only had 5 top 20 teams in 15 years and no National Championship. His best two years were a 4 and 5 ranking. Very good but those numbers are not legendary. His downfall was he had to rebuild programs thus knocking his overall percentage too low.

SevenT writes:

These comments from the tired, old Vol-gasbags are truly hilarious! Let me tell you orange blind geezers something. Tennessee's football program is in the dumper for a long time so get used to it, your school let you down firing Fulmer. Good thing Ya'll have the Glory Days under Majors and Fulmer to talk about because that is all you got. Pathetically sad actually.

rampsneggs writes:

in response to ProfessionalHandicapper:

Johnny Majors can never be in the Hall of Fame as a coach. He didnt have a.600 winning percentage or better.(thats a requirement) Prior to his good record at UT, he was 45-45-1 at Pitt, and 24-30-1 at Iowa State.
His winning percentage was .574 for his coaching career.
Too bad he didnt win a few more. He did well at UT but only had 5 top 20 teams in 15 years and no National Championship. His best two years were a 4 and 5 ranking. Very good but those numbers are not legendary. His downfall was he had to rebuild programs thus knocking his overall percentage too low.

"His downfall was he had to rebuild programs thus knocking his overall percentage ... low."

So it's understandable that rebuilding means some losses at first. Interesting.

frblalack writes:

Retiring numbers should be a subjective thing...not based on what someone did at the professional level or olympics, etc. Having "rules" for retiring numbers is just plain ridiculous. Waay too much time spent on what should be determined by public sentiment i.e. all things Tennessee. One's contribution to UT in terms of goodwill is hard to quantify. Just my opinion, but yeah....if you're going to retire numbers, maybe "retire" them for 50-100 years...and yes Coach Johnny Majors number should be one of them. He was simply one of the greatest players to ever wear a Vol uniform!

All Vols - All the Time - Vol for Life - Believe!

proudveteran writes:

I do not think we should retire any more Tennessee football players numbers at the moment. Atkins, White and Manning all are well deserved. Granted we have had some great players of which Majors has been mentioned. Somewhere we seemed to have missed #27 Hank Lauricella and the 1951 UT National Championship team. I would rank Lauricella over Majors period. Last, I hope I can live long enough to see John Adams "flushed" from the News Sentinel...that "jerk" is supposed to be in the class of great News Sentinel Sports editors with Tom Siler and Marvin West? Unfortunately what I would have to say on that comparison could not be printed here!!!!!!!

Theo writes:

in response to rtrchatt:

When it comes to Southern college fb, no one has more tradition, history and success than Alabama. Jerseys are not retired there for good reason. Any school can do whatever they wish for their past players, and IMO stipulations from professional careers tied to a college honor are just silly. Do whatever you want my orange friends its your program.

Yes, it is our program...and our board. So why are you always here? No one, I repeat, no one, gives a rat's hiney about what Mullet State does.

AlexAndersonAAradio writes:

If Majors number isn't retired, nobody's should....

jbc writes:

I agree with retiring the jersey, but not the number. They are named around edge of stadium, etc.

illinoisvolfan writes:

in response to kyvol98:

Maybe create a "Walk of Fame" where the path ends at the statue of the General. Special honors to the 4 killed in WWII and the 3 coaches lost in the auto accident.

Good idea. Maybe the Vol Walk could be routed to go along the Walk of Fame. It could help the players further understand the honor it is to play football for the University of Tennessee.

ProfessionalHandicapper writes:

in response to rampsneggs:

"His downfall was he had to rebuild programs thus knocking his overall percentage ... low."

So it's understandable that rebuilding means some losses at first. Interesting.

He rebuilt schools with no current tradition like Iowa State and Pitt, not a SEC school that had a .745 winning percentage with a former coach 1 year removed. Iowa State also was a hard sell. If you somehow wanna say Dooley taking over UT compares to Iowa State 40 years ago, then thats a big stretch. Don't forget Battle had a great winning percentage at .710, better than Majors at UT. I said for two years UT lost too much talent to players quitting on Dooley like Brown,Oku,Lamison, Pope, Douglas, and the list goes on and on. Then 7 coaches quit and bolted. Majors never had those problems. Even Vandy had three coaches in three years and you dont see Franklin crying. He just comes in and wins!

orangecountyvols writes:

Vols,

Rtr-chatterbox and un-professional handicapper, how many more trolls like these will the KNS allow in the back door today?

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

Retire JM's #, NOW!!

Vol43 writes:

in response to rtrchatt:

When it comes to Southern college fb, no one has more tradition, history and success than Alabama. Jerseys are not retired there for good reason. Any school can do whatever they wish for their past players, and IMO stipulations from professional careers tied to a college honor are just silly. Do whatever you want my orange friends its your program.

How ya feeling now DA? You want some more of us? You like showing your butt? Getting your head handed to you? Acting like a typical bammer fool? I think you qualify.

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