Tennessee Football Coaches
Life on the Rocky Top can be tough for Tennessee football coaches. Fans do not just expect the Volunteers to win a few games each season. They expect to claim SEC titles and national championships. 22 coaches have paced the sidelines for Tennessee during its lengthy football history. Some have been revered. Some have been vilified. Like with any SEC teams, that status can change from quarter to quarter on Saturdays in the fall. Out of the Tennessee 22, there are a few who stand out for their accomplishments or their infamy.
- Robert Neyland: The namesake for Neyland Stadium. Neyland remains the all-time winningest coach in Tennessee football history with a record of 173-31-12 through three different stints as head coach from 1926 to 1952. With the Volunteers, he reeled off undefeated streaks of 33, 28, 23, 19, and 14 games. He made a mark as one of the best defensive coaches ever. His 1939 team was the last to hold every opponent scoreless during the regular season. It was part of a shutout streak that lasted 71 consecutive quarters against 17 opponents. Neyland was an innovator as a coach. He introduced the use of sideline telephones and was the first to use game film to study opponents.
- Doug Dickey: Although he only coached the Volunteers for six seasons, Dickey is credited with innovating some longstanding team traditions. He placed the iconic T decal on Tennessee's helmets, had both Neyland Stadium endzones painted in an orange-and-white checkerboard pattern, and began having the marching band do a "T" formation through which Volunteer players entered onto the football field. Dickey revived the program, going 46-15-4 and taking the Volunteers to five consecutive bowls, before moving on to coach at Florida for nine seasons.
- Johnny Majors: Before starting his coaching career, Majors first made a name for himself as a prolific tailback with the Volunteers. He narrowly missed out on winning the Heisman Trophy as a senior. After leading Pittsburgh to a national championship in 1976, Majors returned to Tennessee and led the Volunteers to three SEC championships during his tenure. Majors was forced to resign eight games into the 1992 season after Phillip Fullmer went 5-0 in his absence while Majors recovered from heart surgery.
- Phillip Fullmer: Tennessee earned distinction as the first ever BCS National Champions during Fullmer's tenure. That 1998 BCS title win marks the school's most recent national title. Fullmer went 152-52 from 1992 to 2008 and led the Volunteers to a pair of SEC titles in addition to the national championship. It was not enough to save him. Fullmer became the victim of his own success and was fired in 2008 after enduring his second losing season in a four-year stretch.
- Lane Kiffin: In only one season, Kiffin managed to enrage virtually the entire state. After bolting Tennessee following the 2009 season to become the coach at USC, hundreds of students rioted on the campus in Knoxville when they heard news of Kiffin's departure. Inept recruiting and playing fast and free with NCAA rules allowed Kiffin to set back Tennessee several seasons and turn a one-time SEC power into a mediocre program. It's a safe bet there will be no home-and-home series played between USC and Tennessee any time soon.