Tennessee will be seeing a lot of the West Virginia Mountaineers during the 2018–19 sports season. First, Vol football will face WVU on September 1, 2018 in Charlotte, NC. Then on January 26, 2019, UT basketball will welcome West Virginia to Thompson Boling Arena.
Tennessee’s athletics department made the official announcement on Thursday that the Mountaineers would be coming to Knoxville as a part of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge.
In 2018, the Vols traveled to Iowa State as a part of the event. UT won that game 68–45.
The Big Orange’s January meeting with WVU will mark the 9th game played between the two teams. West Virginia leads the all-time series 5–3, although, the last time the teams faced off in 2007 in the Legends Classic in Newark, New Jersey, Tennessee came away with a 74–72 victory.
A turn of the century whitewashed red brick house stands at 2111 Terrace Avenue in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Terrace Avenue is a nondescript street, tucked in close to the University of Tennessee campus and lined with older houses, most of them either nearing or just passing a century of existing. Terrace Avenue is the kind of neighborhood that in the past you would have expected to see kids playing in the front yard or riding their bikes down the street, and then in twenty years or so you expect to see the children of the first batch of kids doing the same thing.
Pure Americana with a Tennessee tang.
That’s the American dream, right? Well, not so fast…
Never underestimate UT’s ability to trample all over the dreams of the people whose hard-earned money subsidizes its every move. Now-a-days, Terrace is occupied mostly by students living in the aforementioned antique homes and there are also a few structures owned and operated by UT itself.
And while the street and the houses on it are really nothing special and typical of late nineteenth and early twentieth century architecture, the 2111 Terrace Avenue house is much, much more than that.
The first residents of the house were General Robert Neyland and his family. Their son, Robert Neyland Jr., was born while they lived on Terrace Avenue. And during that three-year span between 1927 and 1929 when the Neylands called the house their home, the Tennessee football team didn’t lose a single football game.
But even after the Neylands left, the house remained an remarkable dwelling tucked into a neighborhood where everything seemed on the surface to be totally unremarkable. Russell Briscoe, a local businessman, historian, and artist lived and worked in the home for years. Briscoe began painting in 1957, and continued to paint in the residence until 1965, when he sold the house to UT. That may not mean much to you, but bear with me for a minute.
Russell Briscoe used his historical research skills to create 75 known works as a folk artist, painting in the style now identified as American Primitive. And Russell Briscoe’s chosen subjects were almost entirely from East Tennessee. As the East Tennessee Historical Society said:
Briscoe’s paintings capture the spirit of times long past. They are visual history that spans 189 years of life in Knoxville and East Tennessee. The collected works depict landmarks and events, both public and private, from Smoky Mountains to Gay Street, from battlegrounds to churchyards, from trolleys to trains. Minute details, meticulously drawn, show a draftsman’s hand. Painstaking brushstrokes, applied in vivid colors, reveal a heart deeply connected to home and heritage.
Take a look for yourself at one of Briscoe’s works. You can see more of his paintings here.
So let’s think about this dilemma, all right? UT owns the building where its most legendary head football coach lived and where later a renowned regional artist whose work epitomizes East Tennessee first began to paint and where some of his greatest paintings were created. We’re talking about a house that’s a landmark here, right? After all, UT is a land grant university, and as such has an obligation to not only the state of Tennessee, but the region in which the university exists. UT’s purpose here should be to preserve the unique history of 2111 Terrace Avenue.
In late July 2016, the SBC approved the demolition. It’s just not possible to renovate the home due to excessive costs. And because of its condition, no one else can be assigned to the building.
You’re reading that correctly. The Department of Health and Environmental Safety ran the house into the ground and now the university says there’s nothing healthy or safe about the house’s environment.
“The excessive cost to renovate this structure is not a prudent use of funds when the end result does not meet or provide the program needs of the campus,” Haag said of 2111 Terrace Ave. “From an occupancy standpoint, it is unacceptable, and we cannot assign anyone to the building.”
Seriously? So, wouldn’t it have been prudent for UT to use some funds to keep and maintain the house at some point during its fifty-plus years of owning the property? Would that have been acceptable? Because let’s be honest here, Ms. Haag. What’s really unacceptable is the incontrovertible fact that the house’s condition is UT’s fault. The university deliberately allowed the house to deteriorate, and its condition is due to UT’s outrageous neglect of the property.
Consider, too, that this isn’t the first time Tennessee has screwed the pooch when it comes to its responsibilities as a land grant university, a status that requires the school to act as a conservator toward historic or culturally significant locations. UT’s 2009 Campus Heritage Plan stated that:
While peer campuses throughout the nation have adopted policies to promote and protect historic resources, the University of Tennessee has largely resisted systematic preservation efforts. As a result, many of the flagship campus’s extant historic resources are currently at risk, and the university’s legacy — itself a significant institutional asset — is in jeopardy.
The 2009 Heritage Plan also admitted that:
Prior to the Campus Heritage Preservation Project, the University of Tennessee had no inventory of its historic and architectural resources. There was no recognition of historic properties, even among top administrators. Decisions regarding potentially historic properties were made on an ad hoc basis with no established standards or review processes.
This wasn’t the first attempt to address the issue of conservation either.
In 2001, the university developed and published a revised master plan for the campus. Among the master plan’s “governing principles” was historic preservation, which specifically called upon the university to: “…respect the historic character of existing buildings” and to “collaborate with historic preservation groups within the community.” Notably absent from the master plan was a detailed preservation plan or any specific preservation policies or proposals.
In fact, UT had multiple plans to address its lack of conservation before 2001. The University of Tennessee has been telling the world it was going to preserve its historic buildings since 1919, when the original Old College building was demolished. The problem is that UT hasn’t lived up to any of those promises. Terrace Avenue neighbor James Mason has his own views on UT’s treatment of historic properties:
“UT tends to ignore groups like Knox Heritage that are trying to preserve the history of the city. UT has torn down many of the houses in this neighborhood, some of which were really fine houses.”
Okay, so what gives here? What’s really going on? People have been agitating about preserving the Neyland/Briscoe house for months now, and while the property may apparently have no value to UT (obviously, considering how they’ve mistreated the house for fifty years) it certainly has value to a lot of people. What’s so expensive about this house that Tennessee can’t afford to repair and renovate it? Not like we’re talking about a huge building, after all. It’s going to cost the university $38,000 to tear down the house and level the lot.
Sure could do a lot of renovation for forty grand, I’m thinking. The uses this house could be put to that would turn the property into an asset for UT, Terrace Avenue, the children of Neyland and Briscoe, and for Knoxville are many.
A museum, dedicated to General Neyland and the traditions of Tennessee football.
A museum and center for the folk art of East Tennessee, featuring the work of local artists like Russell Briscoe.
A special accommodation — maybe for something as altruistic as a home-like place to stay for families of critically ill kids at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital, which is no more than half a mile from the house. Or something as beneficial as a bed & breakfast steeped in Neyland lore.
I live in Ohio. I’d pay good money to stay at General Neyland’s house when I come down for games. That place would be booked solid four or five years in advance.
At the end of the day, though, UT hasn’t considered any of those actions. They’ve been full speed ahead on destroying the house for months, ignoring the negative press and pretending not to hear the blowback from fans, alumni, and Knoxville residents regarding those plans.
Because, you know — UT’s need for another parking lot is far more important than conserving a house with legitimate historical and sentimental value to the people who are the community they allegedly serve. Hell, if UT doesn’t want the house, sell it! I’d be willing to bet a buyer would show up and pay $38,000 for that house this afternoon. For that matter, give it away and write it off. The East Tennessee Historical Society would probably love to get their hands on the house, and I’d wager they’d find a way to honor both residents of that property.
Or, if they want, I’ll drive down from Ohio today. Within a week, I’ll have an organization put together with contractors, interior designers, and curators. Within a year, I’d have a fully functioning facility where reverence for the General would be the order of the day downstairs, while upstairs the guest bedrooms would be adorned with Russell Briscoe prints on the wall. A dual purpose, to reflect the dual heritage of the building.
There are creative and useful ways the Neyland/Briscoe house could serve the UT community. Why are they being ignored?
Why are we being ignored yet again by an administration that seems determined to drive itself off a cliffside road in the Smokies, Thelma and Louise style?
See, if you’re not mad about what UT is planning for this house, you should be. Once again, the administration — and in this case specifically Senior Associate Vice Chancellor Jeff Maples, who holds the fate of the Neyland/Briscoe house in his hands — has proven to be tone-deaf to the wishes of the community around them. You’d think that after the Schiano debacle, the Currie firing, the document dump that made UT’s administration and Board of Trustees look like badly costumed freaks running through a clown car, and then the egregious termination letter President Joe DiPietro sent to Dr. Beverly Davenport in some Mafioso-styled career and character assassination — you’d think that after all that, the University of Tennessee powers that be wouldn’t be stubborn enough to once again ignore the wishes of fans, alumni, former athletes, neighbors, and local officials regarding a once again brainless decision on their parts.
You’d think they would have learned by now that they ignore this community at their own peril.
The University of Tennessee is broadcasting its priorities both loudly and clearly. UT was willing to spend $340 million to renovate the stadium named after General Neyland — a plan in which they planned to remove hundreds of the peons’ seats (you know…the ones we peasants sit in for games) in order to put in a VIP club. However, the administration is not only unwilling to spend a few thousand dollars to renovate and repurpose a house General Neyland lived in, they’re also of the opinion that the Tennessee community is so stupid we’d fall for a line like “the excessive cost to renovate this structure is not a prudent use of funds”.
Really? So taking seats away from the regular folks for whom Tennessee football is a luxury to build a space that only the sifted few could enter is somehow a more prudent use of funds?
Time to put an end to this. Sign Greg Minton’s petition to save the Neyland/Briscoe house. But also consider contacting Vice Chancellor Maples’ office at 865–974–4204 or email him directly at email@example.com. Let him hear what you think of UT’s “prudent use of funds” that will bury a piece of UT and Knoxville history. Enough is enough! This continuing tone-deaf attitude, this condescension and dismissal of the Tennessee community has gone on for far too long and it needs to stop. If UT can’t find a way to save the Neyland/Briscoe house, a prospect significantly less expensive than the constant construction projects on campus, then the school should make the property available to someone or some organization who will.
Doesn’t sound like it’s so hard, does it? But for some reason, the University of Tennessee thinks it’s both impossible and imprudent — or, at least, they want us to think it is.
At the end of the day, the fact of the matter is simple. UT doesn’t care what the people of Tennessee want. The university has proved that time and time again. They particularly have little or no interest in preserving historic sites, which they’ve been proving repeatedly for a century now — since the demolition of the Old College in 1919. And although UT officials are utterly indifferent to what the fans and alumni are demanding regarding the Neyland/Briscoe house and pretending not to hear the feedback on social media or in the local press, they’ll certainly expect everyone to pony up when it’s season tickets or Neyland Stadium renovations time.
They won’t listen when it comes to what we want, but they won’t have a bit of trouble calling or emailing for donations, will they?
And unless the Tennessee community steps up, UT will be calling every alumni and season ticket holder on their usual schedule. While the bulldozers scrape an important piece of UT, Knoxville, and Tennessee history off the rich, dark soil where once Russell Briscoe painted and General Robert Neyland considered his maxims while watching his children play in the yard, UT reps will be calling as usual for more donations.
Because they think we’re stupid.
Because they think the Tennessee community only cares about wins in football.
Because they think our opinion doesn’t matter.
Because after all their bleating about Tennessee traditions and history, they have no qualms about burying a piece of that history. They’ll be adding another body to the body farm tally, but this body will have General Neyland’s name attached to it.
Perhaps the UT administration, and especially Vice Chancellor Jeff Maples, should remember that traditions, like history, shouldn’t be demolished for being inconvenient…especially when the reason for the inconvenience is decades of tone-deaf negligence they’re personally responsible for.
It looks like Tennessee basketball’s starting five will stay in-tact for the 2018–19 season. On Tuesday night, Coach Rick Barnes spoke to media at the Big Orange Caravan and spoke about the status of Admiral Schofield, who has been working out for NBA teams but hasn’t hired an agent so he has the option to return to school.
Barnes had this to say about Schofield…
“He’s told us from day one that his plan had always been to come back to college. That’s why this system is great. It’s there for guys to go out, because a year from now it’s for keeps. … I think the experience that he has garnered right now, not only will it help him but I just think it’s going to help our whole team. Because he’s going to share what he’s gone through and he’s learned a lot with it.”
If Schofield ultimately comes back as Barnes believes he will, it’s a massive development for the Vols because Schofield has become one of the cornerstone’s of UT’s roster. During the final nine games of the 2017-18 season, Schofield averaged 18.7 points and 7.2 rebounds per game and he was named to the postseason All-SEC second team.
Schofield hasn’t yet made an official announcement about his future plans and he has additional workouts scheduled with NBA teams in the coming days. He must make a final decision by the draft declaration deadline of May 30th.
Jeremy Pruitt missed out on some big time targets in his 2018 recruiting class and ended up finishing No. 20 in the nation, according to 247Sports. A lot of fans were left feeling somewhat disappointed that he couldn’t land the blue chippers such as five-star offensive lineman Cade Mays and five-star linebacker Quay Walker. Both of whom went to Georgia.
Some Vol fans and analysts were feeling like Pruitt might struggle with landing the most elite recruits.
However, taking a detailed look at what Pruitt has accomplished on the recruiting trail since arriving on Rocky Top tells a different story.
For the first time ever, the early signing period was established for December 2017. That meant that recruits could sign Letters of Intent in December instead of February, which gave Pruitt, who was hired on December 7, 2017, just a couple of weeks to round up talent for the first wave of signings. When he took over, the 2018 class was lacking severely, sitting somewhere in the 60s of the national rankings.
When it was all said and done, Pruitt managed to snag the No. 1 JUCO TE Dominick Wood-Anderson, four-star JUCO OL Jahmir Johnson, four-star WR Alontae Taylor and four-star LB J.J. Peterson, who was committed to Alabama before Pruitt flipped him. The class went from the 60s to No. 20. For a first-time head coach, given so little time to work with, that was an outstanding job, despite the lackluster ranking.
Be that as it may, the 2019 cycle started off a bit slow, and some onlookers were getting restless and doubtful, despite Pruitt essentially working magic for the 2018 class.
Thankfully, Pruitt has since hushed the doubt. In the last few weeks, he has landed five-star OL Wanya Morris, four-star WR Ramel Keyton and four-star LB Lakia Henry. As a result, the class has shot up to No. 15 in the nation.
And perhaps the most notable thing to come out of the recent recruiting success is that Pruitt is snagging guys right out of Georgia’s backyard. (Wanya Morris hails from Loganville, GA while Ramel Keyton is from Marietta)
Georgia, right now, is undoubtedly the best team in the SEC East and are seemingly a close second to Alabama in the entire league. If Tennessee wants to make a trip to Atlanta, they’ll have to get through the Bulldogs first and that all starts with recruiting.
In acquiring Georgia stand-outs like Morris and Keyton, Tennessee is attacking and taking away from UGA’s resources. Pruitt’s ties with high schools in Georgia are surely helping to lure those players in.
So, when we all take a step back and look at what Pruitt has done on the recruiting trail, there’s no denying that he knows what he is doing.
And it looks like Pruitt and the gang are just getting started. At this rate, Tennessee should be loaded and ready to compete for the SEC East title very soon.
Tennessee Director of Athletics Phillip Fulmer announced on Tuesday that former Vol wide receiver CJ Fayton has been hired as UT’s new Director of VFL Programming.
Fayton has worked in recent years as an associate athletics director at Maryville College in Maryville, TN.
According to Tennessee’s official release regarding the hire, as the Director of VFL Programming Fayton will “administer comprehensive career and professional development programming to student-athletes across all 20 sports while also directing the Vol For Life (VFL) program and working to keep former letterwinners engaged and connected to Rocky Top.”
Fayton played football at UT at the wide receiver position from 2002 until 2005. He is a three-time graduate of Tennessee, holding bachelor’s, master’s, and juris doctorate degrees from the institution.
“I am excited to have the opportunity to serve as the Director of VFL Programming for all sports,” said Fayton in a statement. “What makes Tennessee a special place is the people. To have an opportunity to work with the current student-athletes, former letterwinners and the whole VFL community is an honor.”
Jeremy Pruitt has shown that he’s not a big fan of the spotlight, and also of not letting much info out about his team. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
However, fans have been yearning to know what progress has been made with the new-look Vols and where that progress has taken place.
Well, this week, Pruitt finally did a little talking.
During an interview on 104.5 The Zone in Nashville, he stated that the most improved position group has been the offensive line and that is fantastic news for Vol fans.
It’s no secret that the offensive line has struggled in recent years. Perhaps the worst being last year’s unit. They ranked 114th in the nation in sacks allowed with 35. They were even worse when pounding the rock. UT’s offense ranked 125th in the nation in rushing, tallying up a total of 1,409 yards with an average 117.4 yards per game.
Not great, Bob.
However, some of that performance may have been due to the inept, high school-ish offense that Butch Jones and Larry Scott put together. Nonetheless, improvement is improvement, and this team will really need to be able to lean on the o-line this fall if it wants a chance to succeed in the SEC.
The Vols have a very young offense coming back this season, but a good o-line can make up a good deal for youth. Undoubtedly, it will be interesting to see if this offensive line can be the anchor of the offense that it needs to be this fall.