Mike Strange: Johnny Majors is deserving winner in UT do-over

MICHAEL PATRICK/NEWS SENTINEL
Former Tennessee football player Johnny Majors walks to the field with Chancellor Jimmy Cheek before the start of Saturday's game against Florida at Neyland Stadium. Majors' jersey was retired in a pregame ceremony.

Photo by Michael Patrick, copyright © 2012

MICHAEL PATRICK/NEWS SENTINEL Former Tennessee football player Johnny Majors walks to the field with Chancellor Jimmy Cheek before the start of Saturday's game against Florida at Neyland Stadium. Majors' jersey was retired in a pregame ceremony.

Dave Hart is entirely tuned in to the fact that the mood on Mondays in East Tennessee is the result of what happens in Neyland Stadium on Saturdays.

This particular gray, wet, gloomy morning?

"Very fitting,'' Hart said Monday.

That's because of the final, decisive 20 minutes in which Florida put away a 37-20 victory over the Vols.

Up until then, it was a great day on campus.

The good work started early Saturday morning when the UT Athletics Board officially approved the retirement of Johnny Majors' jersey.

Seeing Majors standing at midfield before kickoff with a framed No. 45 jersey was a feel-good moment for the Tennessee fan base.

It was an overdue tribute for a UT icon, a welcome correction of an awkward slight.

"This was the right thing to do and I think it was the right person to recognize,'' Hart said.

"Johnny did everything you could ask of a football player, whether it was in the Fifties or 2012.''

Hart deserves credit for fixing an oversight.

When he settled into the athletic director's chair a year ago, assessing how to showcase UT's tradition was one of his priorities.

The ball started rolling a few months ago during a staff retreat. A general discussion led to a specific initiative to review UT's jersey-retirement standards.

The criteria UT came up with in 2005 led to the retirement of the numbers worn by Peyton Manning, Reggie White and Doug Atkins. All were deserving. No debate.

But the inclusion of a pro-football component was wrongheaded. It practically seemed designed to exclude Majors, who never played a down in the NFL.

Why? Remember that in 2005 Majors was still on the outs with the head coach.

Fortunately, it no longer matters what Candidate X does on behalf of the Miami Dolphins.

All that counts is what happened in the orange Tennessee jersey.

The new criteria is more or less the old criteria, minus the pro addendum.

A candidate must have achieved three of five possible honors: SEC player of the year; consensus All-America; College Football Hall of Fame; Heisman Trophy; one of the other national player honors, such as the Maxwell Award or a position-specific award such as Butkus, Lombardy, Thorpe, etc.

Since no Vol has ever won the Heisman, it's really a three-out-of-four proposition.

To get the deal done, Hart credited staff members Chris Fuller and Condredge Holloway, Chancellor Jimmy Cheek, faculty rep Don Bruce and Chris Wampler, president of the Letterman's Club.

Eliminating the pro-football component means there are a handful of viable candidates. Majors, the 1956 Heisman runner-up and two-time SEC player of the year, was first in line and considered solely as a player. Saturday had nothing to do with his 116 coaching wins at UT.

But don't look for a run on retired numbers.

"This has to be a really exclusive club,'' Hart said. "There are a lot of other ways people can be recognized for their contributions.''

For Majors, this was the proper way. If Tennessee football has an exclusive club, he belongs in it.

Mike Strange may be reached at strangem@knoxnews.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/strangemike44 and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/strange.

New Criteria

(Recommendation) committee consists of chancellor, athletic director, faculty athletics representative, president of the letterman’s club and other designees nominated by athletics director and approved by Athletics Board.

Candidates may be nominated. Above committee will determine whether to formally recommend candidate for approval by Athletics Board. Recommendations must be unanimous committee vote.

Candidates must be recognized as good citizens who brought distinction on and off the field.

Minimum of four years must pass after end of football career.

Candidate must achieve three of following five collegiate honors:

A, Induction into National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame.

B, SEC player of the year.

C, Consensus All-America.

D, Heisman Trophy winner.

E, Won one of general awards, such as Sullivan Award or SEC Athlete of the Year, or won position-specific award, such as Outland, Butkus, etc.

Candidates enshrined in both the College Football Hall of Fame and NFL Hall of Fame will receive strong consideration.

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Comments » 25

snafu14u#241639 writes:

Good job Mr Hart. I'm not a big fan of Majors as a person, but as a Volunteer he doesn't have many peers. And the 2005 rules were just out of whack. BonzaiVol

atnvol#283282 writes:

So Fulmer was trying to make sure that Majors jersey was not retired with the NFL criteria... John Majors is deserving...time is not going to be so kind to Fulmer as it has been to Majors. This is shameful. The program was in shambles when Majors took it over....he improved upon it greatly and made us winners again. Yes, Fulmer took over a very good program, won a National championship and then steadily run it into the ground which we still have not recovered from...

Congratulations to John Majors.

atnvol#283282 writes:

in response to WaltGoVols:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Go back a re-read the article Walt...the award is for what you do as a PLAYER not coach...get over it!

atnvol#283282 writes:

Walt says "I never could see what the big fuss was over Majors. Maybe it was going 4-7 one year, or losing to Rutgers for homecoming that colors my perception."

Kinda like Fulmer going 5-7 and losing to Wyoming in his last year...huh?

GreeneVol writes:

The article's allusion that Fulmer helped create the rules to block Majors sounds like it could be a bit of a reach, but no doubt there was bad blood.

In the end though, what matters is that it was a good move by the staff to solidify our program's tradition and recognize what should have been UT's first of two Heisman winners.

spencer1989#206886 writes:

It's a miracle!!!! (not really) Walt resurfaces just in time to promote his "perfect" coach once again. I knew this one would bring him back out of the woodwork....lol. BTW Walt you never answered a question I threw out at you a few weeks ago (when you were on here blasting the program and CDD...And promoting your hero coach)

mocsandvolsfan writes:

Hmm I liked Bill Battle. I also liked J. Majors.
Fulmer was great. Kiffin was just shortlived for whatever reasons. Dooley's headed in a good direction. We hope he is. What's all this fuss about? AREN'T we all UT fans? Can't we just get along? Peace. You're all just frustrating yourselves. I mean really.

Sauce writes:

in response to WaltGoVols:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

It is totally bad taste to post these comments when UT is giving such an honor to a former player. Both Majors & Fulmer contributed greatly to their alma mater. The only difference in winning percentage is Majors took over a program that had gone 13-10 the last two years with losses to Duke, North Texas, Ky and Vandy.

oldvol59 writes:

I hated it whoever the coach was that we lost. I was ticked at Doug Dickey leaving (to me as big a shock as Kiffin's departure), same for Battle, Majors, and Fulmer. I don't think a real fan constantly insults the former coaches. When they were coaching I was wishing the best for them, and still do.

voloffaith writes:

in response to atnvol#283282:

Walt says "I never could see what the big fuss was over Majors. Maybe it was going 4-7 one year, or losing to Rutgers for homecoming that colors my perception."

Kinda like Fulmer going 5-7 and losing to Wyoming in his last year...huh?

Yes honey another fan on here throwing that Wyoming thing in there again. Yes honey they did lose to cowboys after the devastating firing of coach prior to the game. Yes honey I believe it delivered a hard hit on the team as well as their beloved coach. Should we have beat them? Normally yes,but the undercutting was too much to overcome....some understand while others state a point without the facts....yes honey life goes on...

BigBadVol writes:

The problem with Majors at the end of his coaching career was that he had become an alcoholic. He was recruiting a kid I knew in the early eighties. When he showed up at the recruit's house, he was so inebriated he fell asleep on his couch in front of his parents. The parent's had a hard time waking him up and then asked him to leave. This info came directly from the parents and the recruit. The parents would not allow their son to play for Majors. It was extremely embarrassing because we all wanted him to be a Vol. Take it for what it's worth. The man had a drinking problem.

usafvol writes:

in response to WaltGoVols:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

You're a real dumbazz walt. The only thing that's a laughing stock are fans like yourself. I doubt you've graduated from anywhere except for maybe high school and that's a maybe. It's easy to see that you're infactuated with Phil Fulmer and will never be happy until he comes back. Walt, HE's NOT COMING BACK; GET OVER IT!

volposter writes:

in response to Sauce:

It is totally bad taste to post these comments when UT is giving such an honor to a former player. Both Majors & Fulmer contributed greatly to their alma mater. The only difference in winning percentage is Majors took over a program that had gone 13-10 the last two years with losses to Duke, North Texas, Ky and Vandy.

Agreed. For those of us around in the 70s the program declined each year under Battle, a nice guy who inherited a first rate program from Dickey but who was in over his head. Even worse the SEC record declined each year, sorta like now, under Battle so that we were fighting Vandy and Ky for the cellar not Ala for the championship at the end. Like Fulmer, he apparently was never offered another major head coaching job. Majors did take over a program in serious decline and it just took longer to rebuild with the SEC becoming more competitive and to get the recruits than we liked. He was forced out by the administration (allegedly with a push from Fulmer) because he disagreed with them on some issues and spoke his mind. His last years as a coach at UT were generally pretty successful. He certainly left Fulmer with an excellent program and with much better players than he had inherited, and Fulmer took advantage of it as long as he was a successful recruiter and had both Chavis and Cutliff to help coach. Anyway, both Majors and Fulmer contributed to UT successes.

However, as clearly stated in the article, Majors was elected as a player not coach and was one of the best players UT ever had. His record there as a single wing tailback on offense, safety on defense and a punter speaks for itself , and those of us who started watching UT in the 50s were privileged to see him play.. Fortunately, the present administration had the courage to finally do the right thing. To slander him as many are doing over this well deserved honor is both disgraceful and an attack on a true Vol.

usafvol writes:

For the record; Phil Fulmer was a great coach. How in the heck do you fire a coach after a bad season when he's won 75% of his games? He was fired because the boosters wanted him out and Hamilton only carried out his orders. We all know that money talks and the boosters have the money so they have, are and always will run the program. It's not CDD's fault that Fulmer got fired so all you so-called Vols fans need to grow up and see things for what they are. At the end of the day, it's not about a coach, it's about a great university and kids out there giving their all for the Big Orange just like real fans should be doing. Either support the team or find another team to support. Real fans don't get caught up in that stuff, we support the team, no matter what!

calvolfromkingsport writes:

Johnny Majors was and is a great Tennessean who loves his state and his alma mater. No doubt a great coach, who like a lot of us, may have a few "demons" in his closet. But, all I know is that on July 2, 1993, he wrote a wonderful letter to my now deceased father and thanked him for his words of encouragement and how wonderful it had been to have the opportunity to coach at UT. He talked about his past memories at Pitt and Iowa State. He states in his letter that he"felt like the decision that pertained to my coaching situation at the University of Tennessee was blatantly unfair, therefore I could not continue to work with an administration whose value systems were different from what I had been taught and practiced during my life. This does not reflect in any way my feelings toward my home state of Tennessee where I was born, raised and educated."
No statement about holding Phil Fulmer responsible. Just holding the "administrating educators" in charge responsible. I cherish this letter and I am looking at it right now as I write this little insignificant post. I believe we need to give CJM his due and forget the gossip mill that always seems to keep rolling due to the many unhappy people out there who need to get a better grip and control of their lives. Go Vols!

cdldoc#211897 writes:

in response to BigBadVol:

The problem with Majors at the end of his coaching career was that he had become an alcoholic. He was recruiting a kid I knew in the early eighties. When he showed up at the recruit's house, he was so inebriated he fell asleep on his couch in front of his parents. The parent's had a hard time waking him up and then asked him to leave. This info came directly from the parents and the recruit. The parents would not allow their son to play for Majors. It was extremely embarrassing because we all wanted him to be a Vol. Take it for what it's worth. The man had a drinking problem.

How can some of the smart mouthed posters on this site not realize that alcohol and his mediocre record were what caused Majors his job. Plus as I remember it, we won while he was sick, then he came back early and lost. It made it look like the team played harder for Fulmer.

Fulmer brought us a National Championship and Majors did not.

But they both need to be men, bury the hatchet and tolerate each other for the good of Tennessee football. Imagine a 5 star recruit getting a visit from both guys at one time. If John was sober the recruit would have to sign on the spot.

CoverOrange writes:

Saying Bill Battle was a better coach than Johnny Majors because of overall win percentage is like booking a trip on the Titanic because it was above water for 99% of its voyage.

koamalina writes:

in response to WaltGoVols:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

SEC Titles:
Majors 3, Fulmer 2

National Titles:
Majors 1, Fulmer 1

SummittsCourt writes:

in response to koamalina:

SEC Titles:
Majors 3, Fulmer 2

National Titles:
Majors 1, Fulmer 1

Majors National title didn't come at Tennessee.

CoverOrange writes:

in response to voloffaith:

Yes honey another fan on here throwing that Wyoming thing in there again. Yes honey they did lose to cowboys after the devastating firing of coach prior to the game. Yes honey I believe it delivered a hard hit on the team as well as their beloved coach. Should we have beat them? Normally yes,but the undercutting was too much to overcome....some understand while others state a point without the facts....yes honey life goes on...

GZS, if you have followed college ball, and not just the foot kind, you will have witnessed many instances of a team rising up and smiting an opponent after their coach was dismissed. That the Vols of that year did not was unusual. Yeah, you could note the 12 days between the firing and the game possibly tilting the psychology past the anger stage to the depression stage, but still unusual. You could also note that the defense showed up as it had all year, the offense regressed further into its shell. Fulmer didn't rouse the team for that game as he could have. One for the gipper and all that, ya know. If you are going to point to the other side of a coin pay attention to all the facets of the stone.

voloffaith writes:

in response to CoverOrange:

GZS, if you have followed college ball, and not just the foot kind, you will have witnessed many instances of a team rising up and smiting an opponent after their coach was dismissed. That the Vols of that year did not was unusual. Yeah, you could note the 12 days between the firing and the game possibly tilting the psychology past the anger stage to the depression stage, but still unusual. You could also note that the defense showed up as it had all year, the offense regressed further into its shell. Fulmer didn't rouse the team for that game as he could have. One for the gipper and all that, ya know. If you are going to point to the other side of a coin pay attention to all the facets of the stone.

Yes honey he has a good poit...the fact is just because I didn't bring out the supposed missed points is that I never considered them....yes honey that was an oversight on his part. Yes honey I had those in my thoughts,but just didn't mention them. Rah Rah c'mon guys win one for me....somehow how men we have to put this behind us, but since I'm in shock it is hard to do for me and probably y'all also since you see how hurt I am....yeah easier said than done.....oh well we agree to disagree...yes honey I think I made myself clear

CoverOrange writes:

in response to voloffaith:

Yes honey he has a good poit...the fact is just because I didn't bring out the supposed missed points is that I never considered them....yes honey that was an oversight on his part. Yes honey I had those in my thoughts,but just didn't mention them. Rah Rah c'mon guys win one for me....somehow how men we have to put this behind us, but since I'm in shock it is hard to do for me and probably y'all also since you see how hurt I am....yeah easier said than done.....oh well we agree to disagree...yes honey I think I made myself clear

Clear? Not really, Mr. Eastwood.

trl_x writes:

in response to usafvol:

For the record; Phil Fulmer was a great coach. How in the heck do you fire a coach after a bad season when he's won 75% of his games? He was fired because the boosters wanted him out and Hamilton only carried out his orders. We all know that money talks and the boosters have the money so they have, are and always will run the program. It's not CDD's fault that Fulmer got fired so all you so-called Vols fans need to grow up and see things for what they are. At the end of the day, it's not about a coach, it's about a great university and kids out there giving their all for the Big Orange just like real fans should be doing. Either support the team or find another team to support. Real fans don't get caught up in that stuff, we support the team, no matter what!

This...

AllforTenn writes:

in response to WaltGoVols:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Well, Fulmer lover, I have been a Vol fan much longer than that, having followed UT since 1950 at 10 years age and having graduated from UT law school in 1964. Those Bowden Wyatt years got really bad.
Majors took over a program on the downturn after the 1977 season and left it in much better shape than Fulmer did. Battle took over a very strong program left by Dickey, but resigned under pressure due to the steady decline. Fulmer took over a much better program than he left. I also saw Majors play tailback and, if you can read, the award is based on his play - not on coaching.
Let up on your criticism of everyone but your beloved Fulmer. It gets old.

AllforTenn writes:

in response to koamalina:

SEC Titles:
Majors 3, Fulmer 2

National Titles:
Majors 1, Fulmer 1

The award has nothing to do with coaching. Get over your obsession with Phat Phil!

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