All About Smokey - The History of The Volunteer's Mascot
by Tom Poste
It's football time in Tennessee and a you can't play Tennessee ball without Smokey the Blue Tick Hound. Coaches, players and athletic directors come and go but Smokey is forever. The fans may turn on the players and run coaches and ADs out on a rail, but Smokey is top dog, year after year.
In 1953, it came to the attention of the University, via a polling of students by the Pep Club, that the student body wanted to join the ranks of colleges with live animal mascots, but theirs needed to be one that uniquely represented Tennessee. Someone suggested a Blue Tick Coonhound, a dog native to Tennessee, and a contest was set to select the right one during halftime at the home game against Mississippi State at the old Shields-Watkins field.
During halftime, the contestants were brought out and stood in line on the cheerleaders' ramp. The crowd was told to cheer for their favorite.
The last hound was Rev. Bill Brooks' pride and joy, the prize winning “Brooks' Blue Smokey.” When the announcer called Smokey's name to introduce him to the crowd, Smokey barked.
The crowd cheered.
Smokey reared back his head and barked some more.
The crowd cheered some more.
Smokey barked and howled back.
The give and take continued until the stadium was in a frenzy, and the Volunteers had a real mascot.
And so began one of the most popular sights in college football; a Blue Tick Hound in an orange and white kennel blanket galloping through the Pride of the Southland Band in the Power T formation, bounding and baying, leading the team onto the field.
The Brooks family has been part of the Smokey heritage ever since that day. Reverend Brooks, until his death in 1986, supplied the University with Smokey and several of his successors (Smokey I through VI). The Reverend's widow, Mildred, became the caretaker upon her husband's death and continued until 1994, when her brother and sister-in-law took over the duties.
His tenure hasn't always been easy, either. Smokey II had a rough time of it. He was dognapped by University of Kentucky students in 1955 and later in the season Vanderbilt students tried the same stunt and failed. Then, at the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans in 1957, Smokey II got himself mauled by the Baylor mascot, a bear named Judge. Smokey has to be excused for getting himself into that predicament, he is, after all, a Blue Tick Hound, and one of the things a Blue Tick Hound is bred to do is go after bears. Unfortunately for Smokey, he didn't have the usual backup that his peers would have when going on a hunt, no pack at his side, no handler loaded for bear, just one li'l ol' Hound Dog out there all by his lonesome. He survived the encounter and went on to represent the Tennessee Volunteers until his retirement in 1964, although it was said by some that Smokey was never quite himself after the incident and Judge was a bit friskier.
Smokey VI made the injured player list in 1991 after suffering heat exhaustion at the UCLA game where temperatures soared to 140 degrees on the field. He remained on injured reserved until later in the season, when he recovered and returned to his duties, leading the Vols onto the field, howling and barking.
Smokey III led the Vols for a long time, 1965--1977; Smokey VII was one of the short - termers, and was the renegade of the line. He bit. The official count is twice, the victim both times being a tuba player. I happen to be acquainted with the uncle of Smokey VII's handler from the Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity and according to him, Smokey went after a few members of opposing teams -- and scored at least one bite there as well.
Smokey VIII, the most titled of all the Smokeys, did miss out on one title -- obedience. It almost kept him from his duties at the 1998 Fiesta Bowl where his teammates won the national championship. He seemed out of sorts earlier and a trip to a local vet showed an obstruction in his colon. He'd scarfed down one of the hotel washcloths. The vet gave him the go ahead to appear at the game and wait until he got home to have the obstruction removed. Smokey charged onto the field and howled, bayed and belled his way through the game like nothing was wrong, then made it home and had the washcloth removed from his gut.
Oh, and don't leave the dog alone in the hotel room with pizza before a game . . .
Read more about Smokey and the history of SEC mascots; about other SEC Canine Mascots and all 12 Southeastern Conference mascots.
This Article was written by Tom Poste of www.pet-super-store.com: Come to our site to find the high quality dog trainging collars and dog kennels that you can't find at other pet stores!