This Week in UT Sports History is a weekly column written by RTI contributor Lexie Little
As Vol faithful prepare to cheer on the Orange & White at this weekend’s annual spring game, take a look back at notable dates relating to the Tennessee tradition and more in “This Week in UT Sports History.”
April 9, 1966
A renowned defensive coach entered the world on April 9, 1966 and has been a big force in the football world since. Tennessee Defensive Line coach Tracy Rocker celebrates his 53rd birthday this week. Rocker joined head coach Jeremy Pruitt’s staff in 2018, helping the Vols defense jump 74 spots in run defense nationally, holding opponents to around 100 yards less than in the prior season.
Originally from Atlanta, Georgia, Rocker played for Auburn University as a defensive lineman from 1985 to 1988. The Washington Redskins selected Rocker as a third-round draft pick in the 1989 NFL Draft. He played for the Redskins organization until a knee injury stopped his NFL career after two seasons.
Rocker began his coaching career at Auburn High School in Alabama before entering the college arena as a defensive line coach at West Alabama from 1994 to 1996. Since, he has coached collegiately at Troy, Cincinnati, Arkansas, Ole Miss, Auburn, and Georgia before heading to Tennessee. Rocker spent three seasons with the Tennessee Titans as defensive line coach before joining Mark Richt at Georgia in 2014. During his time at Georgia, Rocker coached with Pruitt in 2014 and 2015 when Pruitt was UGA’s defensive coordinator.
Rocker and the Vols will take Shields-Watkins Field for the Chevrolet Orange & White Game this Saturday, April 13, in Neyland Stadium. The scrimmage begins at 6:00 p.m, and admission and parking are free with gates opening at 4:30 p.m.
April 8, 2006
Spring games ignite excitement in the hearts of fans eager to start a new chapter of SEC football. Such scrimmages also allow coaches to get a glimpse of the potential to write the narrative of their upcoming season as players play in full pads, change up positions, and practice to earn starting jobs.
The 2019 Tennessee Vols will suit up for the annual Orange & White match-up this Saturday, following the lead of predecessors like the 2006 Vols:
“Game Time: 2:08 p.m. Weather: Not bad after last night’s storms. Temperature at kickoff is 59 degrees with mostly clear skies, although there is a 30 percent chance of a shower. Winds are out of the north at 5-15 mph…”
A white streak did flash, but not from the sky. The White team trounced the men in orange on April 8, 2006, exploiting turnovers to win 34-7. White team quarterback and season starter Erik Ainge gave an impressive performance in the 46th annual match-up, throwing for 210 yards – more than Orange’s Jonathan Crompton, Bo Hardegree, and Dylan Dickey combined (154).
“I thought Erik had a really good game except for the two sacks,” then head coach and current Tennessee Athletic Director Phillip Fulmer said. “I’ve been really impressed with Jonathan Crompton, considering he hasn’t played any football since high school. And Bo has had a really good spring.”
The receiving corps on both sides, which Fulmer said were, “blocking their rears off,” proved promising for the months to come. Robert Meachem caught two touchdown passes, one covering 70 yards. The New Orleans Saints drafted Meachem as the 27th overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft. He spent five seasons with the Saints before going to San Diego in 2012. He returned to New Orleans for the 2013 and 2014 seasons.
The 2006 match-up drew a crowd of 15,411 fans. Last year, attendance reached 65,098, as many fans flocked to see new head coach Jeremy Pruitt and his staff. That game also ended in a score of 34-7, with the Orange led by Jarrett Guarantano emerging as victors.
April 8, 2013
Holly Warlick’s tenure at Tennessee ended March 27, 2019 after a disappointing season, with the Lady Vols exiting the NCAA Women’s Tournament in the first round. Warlick spent a combined 38 years with the Lady Vols, taking over as head coach following Pat Summitt’s illustrious era in 2012 and earning national Rookie Coach of the Year honors at the end of the season in 2013.
In her first season as head coach, Warlick led the Lady Vols to a 27-8 record with only two in-conference losses. The Associated Press named Warlick SEC Coach of the Year after her successful run without any returning starters from the previous year’s NCAA Elite Eight team. Her honor as the Spalding Maggie Dixon Division I Rookie Coach of the Year came during the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association Awards Show in New Orleans on Monday, April 8, 2013.
“[Summitt] taught me a lot of things, but there’s two things that she did that stuck with me,” Warlick said. “When you do something, you do it with a passion. You do everything with a passion. And I know sometimes I’m on the sideline acting like a fool, but that’s my passion. And secondly, you surround yourself with great people. And I promise you, the first thing I did was hire a great staff.”
The award honors the late Maggie Dixon who coached the Black Knights of Army for one season. She led Army to the NCAA Tournament for the first time as a Division I school in 2006, just weeks before she died from complications of an enlarged heart shortly before what would have been her 29th birthday. Dixon’s Patriot League Champions (20-11 overall) entered the tournament as a 15-seed, losing to Pat Summitt and the Lady Vols 102-54 in the last game Dixon ever coached.
“I had the privilege of knowing Maggie Dixon,” Warlick said. “I knew her when she was an assistant at DePaul University and, obviously, the head coach at Army, and she exemplified just energy and love for her players. And I hope that I have been an example for our young ladies at the University of Tennessee.”
Warlick thanked the university for taking a chance on her as a new head coach and thanked sponsors for their support of women’s basketball.
The search for Warlick’s replacement has finally reportedly ended, though. Former Lady Vol point guard and Missouri State head coach Kellie Harper is expected to be the next head coach of the Lady Vols.