Robert Neyland Biography
Robert Neyland is the pride and joy of the University of Tennessee; he led the program into some of its greatest stretches in the program's history. He is well renowned as one of the greatest defensive coaches to ever coach in not only the SEC, but in the entire nation.
Neyland was born in Greeneville, Texas on February 17th, 1892. When he graduated high school, he joined West Point, and graduated from the prestigious academy in 1916. Neyland played both baseball and football while he was with the University, and after his graduation, he was even offered a contract to play in Major League Baseball.
He went on to command the Corps of Engineers in World War I, and later he became an aide to General Douglas MacArthur. His first coaching position was with West Point when he was named the head coach of the Black Knights of the Hudson.
Neyland made his way to Tennessee in 1925 as the Professor of Military Science for the school. After one year on the coaching staff, he was named both the head coach and athletic director of the school in 1926. In only nine years, he led the Volunteers to five undefeated seasons, including undefeated streaks of both 33 and 28 games. This was to be just his first stint with the club, as in 1935 he was called in by the army for a year's stint in Panama.
Former Tennessee Coach Robert Neyland.
After he returned from Panama, Neyland decided to retire from the army and just be a coach. Unfortunately, his army past would not be buried so easily, as he was only able to coach for five years before be was dragged back into the army for World War II.
In those five years of coaching, however, he led Tennessee to two more undefeated seasons in 1938 and 1939. The Volunteers won the national championship in 1938, and were the only team in 1939 to never allow their opponents to score a single point on them in the entire regular season. Their final record was 17 straight games without allowing a point and 71 total quarters of unrelenting defense; it is a record that still stands to this day, and one that will probably never fall.
Neyland had become a brigadier general in the army by the time he left service in 1946. He won both the Distinguished Service Medal and Legion of Merit for his amazing services that he gave to the nation. He was also invited into the Order of the British Empire.
After his final tour with the army, Neyland cam back to a changing landscape in college football. Many teams had moved on from the single wing, and were instead running the T Formation. After four seasons with only moderate success, the general broke through and won the national titles in both 1950 and 1951. He retired from coaching in 1952 but stayed on as the athletic director for Tennessee until his death in 1962.
Neyland's career shows that he is one of the best coaches in SEC history. He and Paul "Bear" Bryant are constantly locked in a Bryant vs Neyland battle for the best of all time in the SEC. One of the key arguments against the General is that he coached at a football powerhouse while the Bear coached for weaker programs that he had to build into strong contenders. This comment was made by an anonymous poster. Another poster by the name of gohorns replied in Neyland's own words, saying that if a team goes 9-1, people are going to wonder just how weak their schedule was so that they could win that many games.
The great debate in about he best coach in the SEC will never truly be solved, as their primes were in two different eras of the sport. Although, I would be partial to seeing those 1938-1939 Tennessee teams play against any of Bear Bryant's title contenders.
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