Tennessee Traditions

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Courtesy of TN66/CC-BY-SA-3.0

When you hear the words “University of Tennessee football,” what comes to mind?  Maybe an image of an orange-clad team with a “T” on the side of the helmet that plays in a big stadium with the song “Rocky Top” seemingly played every five minutes.  But how many of you know how the school decided on orange as their main color, or the nickname “Volunteers” or the Rocky Top song?

Charles Moore, a member of the 1891 football team, thought the colors of orange and white would be suitable.  These were the colors of the American daisy that grew in abundance on the Tennessee campus.  The student body voted to approve the  nomination of the colors at a later date.  Interestingly, the first orange jerseys were not worn until the 1922 season.

The school gets its nickname from the state motto. Tennessee acquired the name “Volunteer State” during the War of 1812 after General Andrew Jackson led a group of about 1500 volunteers to fight against the British at the Battle of New Orleans.  Several decades later Tennessee sent 30 thousand volunteers to Texas to aid in its fight against Mexico.  So the Volunteers seemed an appropriate nickname for the school.  At all athletic events, UT’s color guard wears 1840s dragoon uniforms similar to those worn during the fight against Mexico.

The song “Rocky Top” was first played at halftime of the 1972 Tennessee-Alabama football game as part of a country music show.  The Tennessee faithful immediately embraced the song and the UT band made it part of its game music repertoire soon after.

The University of Tennessee has a proud athletic tradition.   The school’s “Volunteer” nickname, orange uniforms, and classic song give the school instant recognition among college sports enthusiasts.

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