SEC gives Vols another week off

Marvin Westwestwords

Let’s see if we can get this straight…

The Southeastern Conference called off, postponed or cancelled the Tennessee-Vanderbilt game in the losers’ division so Missouri will have an opponent for Saturday.

The winless Commodores are going to Columbia. Vandy and Missouri were originally scheduled for Oct. 17. That one was postponed because of virus numbers.

Oh, almost forgot, the Missouri game against Arkansas planned for this weekend was postponed due to a combination of positive tests, contact tracing and subsequent quarantining among Razorbacks.

Tennessee football may or may not have a virus problem. Basketball does.

Got all that?

Tennessee generally does well in dealing with open dates and postponements. It did not lose on Nov. 14, when the Texas A&M game was set aside.

“As we continue to adapt to current realities, it’s important to remain flexible as we move forward in the final weeks of the season,” commissioner Greg Sankey said. “Contact tracing continues to be the biggest contributing factor to game interruptions. We will continue to manage the remaining weeks of the football schedule to allow for as many games to be played as possible.”

The commissioner didn’t say whether Tennessee-Vanderbilt will be rescheduled for the third week in December, the day of the SEC championship game.

As you may have noticed, Tennessee-Vanderbilt isn’t relevant to the conference title race or connected to any playoff or bowl drama. But it is a historical rivalry game.

The teams have bumped heads almost every year since the Vols discovered football. They didn’t play in 1943 or 1944, because of World War II.

They have played 113 or 114 times, depending on which record book you believe. Vanderbilt insists on the higher number to get one more win.

Tennessee was a little slow hearing about football. It did play a game on Nov. 21, 1891 – against Sewanee, neutral site, Chattanooga. Forty-six players got a bulk discount and traveled by train. It was a very rainy day.

There is some question about how official was that University of Tennessee team. It was supposedly organized, at least in part, by a faculty member, Henry Denlinger, who had played at Princeton. I think he may have played in the Sewanee game.

Tennessee had no coach. Players formed a committee to decide who would line up at what position. The whole deal sounded more like intramurals than the birth of the Volunteers.

OK, if you must know, Tennessee lost, 24-0. Reporting was sketchy. Neither Grantland Rice nor I attended.

Vanderbilt would have you believe it also defeated Tennessee that season. UT says it didn’t happen.

Knoxville newspapers liked the idea of a new sport in town.

“Football is one of the most exciting games of the time,” said one editorial. “Knoxville people are not well acquainted with it, but it is high time they were swinging into line and giving it the same place in the winter that baseball holds with them in the summertime.”

One story referred to football as “the Society Game.” Several of UT’s early players were from affluent local families.

The most famous didn’t play for Tennessee. Lee McClung went to Yale. He was a halfback and captain of the undefeated and unscored-on 1891 team.

If he had stayed home, Vanderbilt wouldn’t have said a word about one more win.

Postscript: For the first time in a long time, November is going away without even one football game in Knoxville.

Marvin West welcomes reader comments or questions. His address is

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