Doug Dickey's task in 1964 similar to Butch Jones' in 2013

Former AD, coach says UT 'lost an edge'

0108dickey2.AS--SPORTS-- UT Athletics Director Doug Dickey speaks to the media about investigations into the Tennessee football program. 
 2003 Amy Smotherman, News-Sentinel staff

Photo by Amy Smotherman

0108dickey2.AS--SPORTS-- UT Athletics Director Doug Dickey speaks to the media about investigations into the Tennessee football program. 2003 Amy Smotherman, News-Sentinel staff

Nearly 50 years ago, the University of Tennessee football program was in a situation not much different from 2013.

The once-proud Vols had been around a .500 ball club five out of six years in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and no signs of a certain turnaround were apparent.

But a young coach, Doug Dickey, soon brought winning back to Knoxville. First, he helped the team overcome mediocrity, then the tragedy of three assistant coaches dying in a car-train collision in 1965, and finally beating rival Alabama for the first time in seven years in 1967.

As a result, his Vols went on to win SEC championships in 1967 and 1969, and he compiled a 46-15-4 record before he left to coach his alma mater, Florida.

He also was known for innovating as much as winning. At least three traditions Dickey started have become defining symbols and images of the program. These include the power T's on the helmets, the checkerboard end zones and the pregame ritual of having the players run through the human "T" formed by the Pride of the Southland Band.

As the now-80-year-old Dickey looked back on his coaching career during a phone interview from his home in Jacksonville, Fla., he admitted that he still follows the Vols closely and is watching the recent hiring of Butch Jones, who replaced former coach Derek Dooley after three seasons, with much interest.

"I hope that Tennessee has made a good decision and that the program becomes more competitive," he said. "They've lost an edge."

As a coach and later athletic director at Tennessee from 1985 to 2002, Dickey was known for not losing his competitive edge.

Born in South Dakota, he grew up in Gainesville, Fla., where his father was a speech professor at the University of Florida. Originally a walk-on with the Gators, he later became a starting quarterback under coach Bob Woodruff.

He had been known as a smart tactician on the field, and Woodruff, who later became athletic director at Tennessee, offered the U.S. Army veteran and Arkansas assistant Dickey the job as head coach after the 5-5 season in 1963 under one-year coach Jim McDonald.

Dickey, who was 31 when he was hired, said he enjoyed trying to resurrect the program.

"Tennessee has a lot of rich tradition," he said. "So it was up to whichever coach it was to try to re-establish the competitive edge in the SEC and nationally."

Besides working on the execution level on the field, Dickey thought the entire Tennessee program — including Neyland Stadium — needed some sprucing up, and this is how the unusual traditions evolved.

"We just needed to dress up the place a little, so we did," Dickey said. "We put a lot more color in place and dressed up the place. For example, we painted orange and white steps on the stadium."

Of course, the orange and white painting most people remember were the checkerboards in the end zones beginning with the 16-14 victory against Boston College on Oct. 10, 1964.

Dickey said that he could not recall exactly what prompted the idea for the checkerboards, saying all of the innovations were done with collective input. He told ESPN.com in 2007 that he may have seen the design in a magazine or magazine ad.

Birmingham's Legion Field, where Alabama formerly played most of its home games, also had crimson-and-white checkerboard end zones before Tennessee did, so that may have been in the back of his mind.

A legend has always existed that the checkerboards were inspired by the checkerboard brick patterns in the tower of UT's iconic Ayres Hall, but Dickey said he does not remember that being the case.

A newspaper story after the Boston College game attended by 28,000 fans praised the checkerboard design.

"It was a colorful crowd of fans in gay fall outfits which watched the teams battle on a Shields-Watkins Field, which, itself, has a colorful new look," was the description. "Much was the praise for the orange-and-white-checkerboard end zones, prepared with paint that is expected to withstand the punishment of players' cleats for many games to come."

The checkerboards lasted until artificial turf was installed in 1968. When a new turf was put in for the 1989 season, the checkerboards were brought back. They also continued after the Vols went back to natural grass in 1994, although UT painters under Johnny Payne began leaving a line of green around the edge.

Longtime former Tennessee sports information director Bud Ford said the checkerboards have added a lot to UT's tradition and mystique.

"The orange and white colors make the field jump out, so to speak," he said. "Other teams have copied it, but I think their school colors don't look quite as good as Tennessee's."

Three games earlier than the checkerboard tradition, the Vols started another longtime tradition — wearing T's on the sides of the helmets. And unlike with the checkerboards, this tradition has continued uninterrupted.

Former News Sentinel sports editor Marvin West made note of them when he wrote after the opening day of practice in 1964, "Press Day at UT was a rousing success. About 50 writers and photographers, the biggest crowd ever, reviewed the Vol dress parade, complete with new/old jerseys (solid orange with white numerals). Headgears have an orange 'T' on the side and numbers behind."

The T was originally thinner but was made thicker during the subsequent Bill Battle era. It took its current look after Johnny Majors was hired in 1977, Ford said.

Whether Dickey or some graphics person came up with the original style of T does not appear to be documented anywhere, and Dickey did not recall.

The change was during a time when a number of colleges were beginning to use school logos on helmets rather than numbers or having blank helmets. Tennessee had used numbers in 1962 and 1963.

But it was another kind of T that was actually on the minds of Vol fans more in 1964. After years of running the single-wing offense dating back to Gen. Robert Neyland, the Vols under Dickey were switching to the slot or wing T. Much more attention appears to be given this change in the 1964 newspapers than the ones remembered today.

An article after the Vols' first game against Chattanooga that year also mentions some other new changes for 1964 — three-month-old Smokey III made his debut, a prayer was held before each game, and Shields-Watkins Field was marked in 1-yard intervals rather than every five yards.

Also, Smokey now had some company, as a Tennessee walking horse started appearing at games. Wingo, a black stallion, was ridden by UT sophomore Rodger Kesley.

Another change was that Dickey in his first year moved the team from the east sideline during games to the west — where the Vols have also been since 2010. The thinking was that the sun would not be in the players' and coaches' eyes as much as it went down in the days before the end zones were double decked.

However, because UT's locker room was then located behind the east sideline before the current one behind the north end zone started being used, another tradition evolved somewhat more by necessity. So that the Vols would not have to go past an opposing team already gathered on the east sideline, Dickey worked with band director J. Julian to have the musicians form a T that the players could run through and opposing teams would know not to come to the east sideline early.

That tradition debuted in 1965, and Dickey is admittedly proud that it and the two other traditions remain.

"I'm not necessarily surprised," he said. "I'm pleased that a number of things have stuck and have had a lot of tradition and meaning to people for a long time.

"There may have been six or eight other traditions that didn't stick."

Perhaps the most important tradition he brought back, however, was winning. After a 4-5-1 rebuilding year in 1964, the Vols showed signs of improvement in 1965 with an inspiring tie against Alabama in the fourth game.

However, two days later, assistant coaches Bill Majors, Charlie Rash and Bob Jones were killed after their car was struck by an eastbound train at Westland and Cessna drives in West Knoxville.

"You have three people killed in a train wreck," Dickey recalled, adding that they left behind widows and young children. "It was a very, very difficult time for a lot of people. There are a lot of tough memories, even today."

That team, which began wearing black crosses on their helmets, later upset UCLA in Memphis in a memorable game and finished 8-1-2. The program was headed in the right direction, and Dickey would win at least eight games in each of his final four seasons.

Two other significant moves also came later during his tenure. Lester McClain became the first black athlete at UT in 1967, although a redshirt season kept him off the field until 1968. Also in 1968, Tennessee became the first stadium in the Deep South outside of the Houston Astrodome to install artificial turf.

Ford said the turf idea was Woodruff's, but Dickey accepted it, in part to allow the Vols a wet-weather practice field before they had any indoor training facilities.

After the 1969 season, Dickey left for Florida, causing a little Lane Kiffin-like disdain among the Vol faithful, at least initially. He was not quite as successful there, losing key games to rival Georgia late in both 1975 and 1976 that prevented possible SEC championships. He ended up being replaced after the 1978 season and a 53-48-2 record.

Dickey, who admits to doing "as little as possible" in his retirement, said he follows the yearly football game between Florida and Tennessee these days closely, but with mixed emotions due to his past connections to both schools.

"I do a whole lot of cheering," he said wryly. "I watch the teams and hope the best team wins."

But what he does not have mixed emotions about is his time at Tennessee.

"Tennessee was very good to me and my family," he said. "I had a wonderful time as coach and athletic director. I'm very appreciative of the opportunity I had."

John Shearer is a freelance contributor.

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Comments » 34

albert63 writes:

first, who?

CoverOrange writes:

Who put the "power" before the "T"? It wasn't Dickey.

mattingly writes:

Lester McClain was not redshirted in 1967. He was a freshman, and freshmen weren't eligible for varsity play. Legion Field had green and white checkerboards in the end zones, not red.

tovolny writes:

I wish Dickey had stayed in Knoxville. It's hard not to contemplate what might had been.

Some of my wife's relatives were very close and life-long friends with the Dickeys. Doug Dickey is one of the good guys to wear orange down on the side lines.

Thanks Coach Dickey. I have more good memories than I could ever relate. I set...cross tackle left...88 c cut. On go.

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to collegegrovebilly:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

STHU already, you're one sick POS!

brauhuff#295403 (Inactive) writes:

I will always have mixed feelings about Doug Dickey. He deserves credit for bringing Tennessee much success in the 1960s but I was not happy with his time as athletic director especially the way he treated Don Devoe and John Majors and besides he is a Florida guy

Colliervol writes:

Sick and obsessed. A sad combination.

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to brauhuff#295403:

I will always have mixed feelings about Doug Dickey. He deserves credit for bringing Tennessee much success in the 1960s but I was not happy with his time as athletic director especially the way he treated Don Devoe and John Majors and besides he is a Florida guy

I remember that trip to the Gator Bowl and not only did UT lay down and quit in that game, we heard rumors that Doug was leaving to coach UF during the game. I was eleven years old that year and the memory still angers me to this day.

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to GlennFordsFoible:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Uhhh, who GAD what you say?? You're just a shell of a man and forever in the shadow of your big brother..Laces out Dan!!

rb4346 writes:

in response to collegegrovebilly:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Why not get off the Dooley train , it is gone. I will say that if Wilcox had stayed around you would be amazed that the Vols had won 8 or 9 games plus a bowl. Why not get behind CBJ and back him all the way, I feel that great things are coming to K-Town. One last thing and that is CDD left the Vols in better shape than when he arrived. Not trying to make you mad, just stating the facts! GBO

FearTheVols1252 writes:

in response to GlennFordsFoible:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Fine... we're warned... feel better? Thanks Eeyore, for regurgitating the same pointless diatribe over and over again.

VolFanInTheBoro (Inactive) writes:

in response to GlennFordsFoible:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

suggest removal

Moesart writes:

Since the Phil Fulmer social circle is now gone, we can have hope again.

GoVols025 writes:

in response to collegegrovebilly:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Your obsession with Dooley is obsessive - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MjoMQJ...

voloffaith writes:

in response to albert63:

first, who?

Remember I offerred you line leader at school after HOLYdays are over and it is back in session. Hey Hey Hey sick Albertsixtyfree....Article on Coach Dickey isn't even mentioned so you are off topic ,but the site police like the friction...

volguy#211935 writes:

We live in the Orlando area, and my family and I went to a UT-UF women's basketball game 3-4 years ago in Gainesville. I saw Doug Dickey there a few rows behind me. I stopped to shake his hand and just say hello. He was wearing a UT shirt. That said a lot to me about his long-term loyalty.

gobigorange5090 writes:

in response to collegegrovebilly:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I think you have a thing for Dooley. You talk about him all the time!

gobigorange5090 writes:

in response to brauhuff#295403:

I will always have mixed feelings about Doug Dickey. He deserves credit for bringing Tennessee much success in the 1960s but I was not happy with his time as athletic director especially the way he treated Don Devoe and John Majors and besides he is a Florida guy

John Majors got what he deserved!

gobigorange5090 writes:

in response to GlennFordsFoible:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Whine, whine, whine!!

richvol writes:

The first thing coach Dickey did when named coach was to lock down the local talent. He signed Jim McDonald,Richard Pickens and Billy Justus. Ron Widby was already at UT I believe if I remember correctly. All of these athletes became great players at UT. It seems Butch is trying to do the same in locking down Tennesse borders for 2014 recruits. If Butch does half of what Dickey did for UT we will be happy.

dvhill100 writes:

Hopefully Coach Jones does just as well as Dickey but stays longer.

VolFanInTheBoro (Inactive) writes:

you and your alter ego gff are the ones with the Dooley obsession. Not me

orangecountyvols writes:

in response to Colliervol:

Sick and obsessed. A sad combination.

Collier and other real Vols,

You said it friend. Notice, when the little punk kid Billy, the used t.v. wannabe salesman came along with yet another FORMER coach Dooley slam, predictably, his partner Wilted Flowers saw that as his opportunity to jump in also.

These 2 perverts are sickos as we are well aware. The rest of us are moving forward, but these 2 sickos are stuck in place with these Dooley comments, as well as Wilted Flowers with his Kremser and Glenn Ford references.

USMC_1959 writes:

Thank you,John...this article brings back a flood of great memories of Doug's time at UT! I recall having to work the day of the UCLA game in Memphis and was able to sneak a listen on the radio..what a game!! The tv close-up shot of place kicker Karl Kremser's orange shoes on the missed field goal in the UT-Oklahoma orange bowl game (that would have won the game). Many,many more..probably think about the Big Orange rest of the day!!

LovinMyVols writes:

Hopefully one day people will remember Neyland, Dickey, Majors, Fulmer AND Jones as some of the greatest of UT coaches.

rbwtn writes:

Doug Dickie I remember him as the one that enlarged the Stadium to 108,000 which caused several schools to enlarge theirs including Michigan because they were always bigger, he started a Stadium war. The TV hosts would talk about how Big the Stadium was and what tradition TN had. It changed the View of Tennessee in the mind of the Country and brought in Recruits and much TV Revenue. Oh I forgot about him as Coach. He gave TN that "Wow" factor and made me proud as I traveled across America and mentioned the Big Orange. Doug Dick was the Tool that Put TN in the Lime Light. A Later A.C. forgot about Sports Pride and looked at it as a business and we fell off the cliff.

FearTheVols1252 writes:

in response to collegegrovebilly:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Nor will your incessant whining ever let us forget. New coach = New day. Move on!

OrangePride writes:

The arrival of Coach Dickey was exactly the time when I was here at Tennessee. If you think the football fortunes at Tennessee are at a low point now, I can tell you they were even lower then. We were barely 500 and getting worse. We had no offense, but a decent defense. Lots of big names had just graduated and there were only a few blue chip players coming in... but Dickey started in much the same way as Jones. He wanted to rebuild our sense of pride in who we were, our tradition, and the fact that we WOULD be back. Enjoyed this article as Coach Dickey's years were very special.....just hope that our new staff can capture some of that magic in a bottle. I frankly think they can! GO VOLS!!

JonGrudensAgent writes:

Nice filler article before recruiting cranks back up in earnest. I never tire of hearing of the traditions of this great program.

Would have been nice to include a mention of Daryl and what he did for the Vols in the '86 Sugar Bowl as well.

Thumper72 writes:

Things were pretty low when Coach Dickey arrived. This article is a good summary for the most part. He focused on two things, recruiting and defense. I remember his philosophy on defense was “11 of the best against all the rest.” I hope Coach Jones gets on his recruiting horse soon. Currently 11th or 12th in the SEC and that won’t cut it.

VOLtage writes:

Love the T formed by the marching Pride of the Southland Band and really loved back when the players use to run out of the east tunnel and half would go right and the other half would run left. And loved the cannon on the hill that would be fired after a touchdown.

JonGrudensAgent writes:

in response to Thumper72:

Things were pretty low when Coach Dickey arrived. This article is a good summary for the most part. He focused on two things, recruiting and defense. I remember his philosophy on defense was “11 of the best against all the rest.” I hope Coach Jones gets on his recruiting horse soon. Currently 11th or 12th in the SEC and that won’t cut it.

It's been a dead period in recruiting for the holidays. Only one phone call per week for the past three weeks or so.

I'd expect Jones to significantly pick up the pace and a lot more recruiting news to start flowing soon.

He grabbed Foreman and Swafford from DB in Kingsport over the break.

This team desperately needs some speed in the secondary, at least one guy who can pressure the QB in the front 7, and a Patterson type receiver on offense.

HighPlainsVol writes:

in response to brauhuff#295403:

I will always have mixed feelings about Doug Dickey. He deserves credit for bringing Tennessee much success in the 1960s but I was not happy with his time as athletic director especially the way he treated Don Devoe and John Majors and besides he is a Florida guy

He spent a lot more time with the Vols than the Lizards and he gave us success. I remember getting beat by Chatt and pre-Bowden FL State (teams Memphis State beat handily the same season). Doug shows that we needed a good coach (whether he has an elite name or not). Butch is the next Doug Dickey(or better) to bring the glory days back to Vol Nation.

Ayres_Hall writes:

Are we the only college football fanbase that hates its ex-coaches?

I'll never understand how so many of you hate the men that have lead our teams. It simply boggles the mind.

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