VARSITY TEAMS: 16
INTRAMURAL SPORTS: 24
FAMOUS ALUMNI: PHIL GARNER, REGGIE WHITE
EXTRA CREDIT FOR: VOICE OF THE VOLS JOHN WARD
First, there's Rocky Top. Since the Tennessee band began playing it in 1972, Rocky Top has taken its place among the nation's most inspiring and infectious fight songs. "If you play it 50 times in a game, people want to hear it again," says retired band director W.J. Julian. A foot-stomping country song lauding the Tennessee hills, moonshine, disappearing revenuers and a girl wild as a mink but sweet as soda pop. Rocky Top fits the Smoky Mountain environs and East Tennessee attitude to a UT.
Rocky Top is surely music to the ears of celebrated Vols quarterback Peyton Manning, because by choosing to stay for his senior season he has ensured that he'll hear it a thousand more times. One of the reasons he decided to stay was the ambience at 102,544-seat Neyland Stadium, the nation's largest college football arena, which Volunteers fans fill to overflowing. Some even arrive in orange-and-white boats via the Tennessee River. Those few students who don't make it to a game can tune in the revered radio Voice of the Vols, John Ward, whose trademark line, "It's football time in Tennessee!" resounds across the state.
There may be no better bargain in jock-school America than the student tickets (included in the $140 activities fee) that will enable Tennessee students to watch Manning add to the Vols' storied football heritage during his final season. That heritage encompasses 37 bowl appearances, third most among all colleges, a succession of blazing receivers (among them Willie Gault and Carl Pickens) and one national title, in 1950. Last season Tennessee had the third-highest number of alumni in the NFL: 36. The university has one of the nation's biggest athletic budgets ($32.2 million in 1996) and facilities that stand out even among the lavish palaces and ornate basilicas of the SEC. Bill Gibbs Hall, one of the great monuments of athletic housing, looms like a jock-dorm Versailles on the right side of Johnny Majors Drive. On Johnny's left stretches a veritable Chartres—the 120,000-square-foot Neyland-Thompson Sports Center. Just eight years old, this cathedral of athleticism includes a 12,000-square-foot strength facility, a 70-yard indoor practice field with a 65-foot-high ceiling, locker rooms, conference rooms, a team auditorium and a Volunteers football hall of fame exhibit.
Tennessee has long been a leader in women's athletics, thanks in no small part to basketball coach Pat Summitt, who in 23 years has won five national titles, including this year's. Twenty-five Lady Vols from various sports, including 10 of Summitt's basketball players, have competed in the Olympics. It may be no coincidence that Tennessee is one of the last six schools in the nation to operate a separate women's athletic department.
The sports excellence in Knoxville extends even to mascots: Former Smokey Michael Kennedy is now Sourdough Sam of the San Francisco 49ers, and his erstwhile prot�g�, Tim Patinode, is starting his move toward the big time as the costumed elephant of the minor league Modesto ( Calif.) A's. Patinode is surely the only pachyderm able to croon Rocky Top.