2011 Tennessee Volunteers -- Worst Team in UT Football History
by Mo Johnson
Well, I do believe the 2011 Tennessee Volunteers were, in fact, the worst team ever at Rocky Top. The Vols went 5-7 overall; but only 1-7 in Southeastern Conference play this past season.
Of course, Tennessee has a proud football tradition. If you look back in their history -- all the way back to 1891, there are only a handful of years that can even compare to the pitiful 2011 Vols. To keep this somewhat apples to apples, let's just look at UT's football history since it became a charter member of the SEC in 1933. In the 78 years since then, Tennessee only had three other years that it only won one conference game.
The first time that happened was in 1954 when the Vols went 1-5 in the SEC and 4-6 overall. Simple math tells us that 1-7 and 5-7 is a worse season, particularly because the conference record matters most.
The next miserable year to discuss is 1964. That year Tennessee went 1-5-1 in the SEC and 4-5-1 overall. This was Doug Dickey's first year coaching the Vols. Well, obviously the tie game (3-3 at LSU) makes '64 a lot better than '11. By the way, for a note of optimism, Dickey and the Vols bounced back to go 2-1-2 and 8-1-2 in 1965.
Finally, there is 1977. This was Johnny Major's first year in Knoxville. The Vols went 1-5 in the SEC and 4-7 overall. That 4-7 overall record is clearly worse than this year's 5-7 overall record. But, again, in conference play this year was statistically worse. When you compare the conference wins in '77 vs '11 you find that in 1977 UT ended the year on a high note beating Vanderbilt 42-7.
This year, again it was Vandy we got the win against, but we were lucky, winning in overtime on an interception. It was our 28th win in 29 years against Vanderbilt. Then, we ended the year on a terrible note, losing to Kentucky (and a bad Kentucky team at that). The Kentucky loss is especially painful because a win would have salvaged a somewhat decent season; probably even a bowl bid. Also, it wrecked our 25 consecutive season win streak vs Kentucky; a streak that was the longest in the nation between two teams.
I have to give kudos here to "Coach Scooter" who back in August predicted the Vols could well go 0-8 in the SEC and that no game would be an easy win. Check out UT Vols 2011 Football Preview.
If you need one final bit of proof: the Vols have now suffered through two straight losing seasons. When was the last time that happened? 1910-1911. Yep, exactly 100 years ago.
So, looking objectively at this season and comparing it to other stinkers, I think Volunteer fans, players and coaches just survived the worst Tennessee football season in history.
Amazingly, we nearly made it to a bowl game nonetheless. That's a testament to the overall greatness of UT's football program (that our worse year ever was nearly a bowl season) and, of course, also a testament to the fact that way too many teams get bowl bids these days. But, that's another story.
I think coach-hopping is bad business. But, if Derek Dooley can't pick it up next year, he'll be on his way out. Can we get Fulmer back? What's Johnny Majors up to these days?