This Week in UT Sports History is a weekly column written by RTI contributor Lexie Little
Classes at the University of Tennessee commence next week, but many already have campus on the brain—specifically Neyland Stadium. With football only 19 days away, fans across the country wait in anticipation of “football time in Tennessee.” While waiting, take a look back at football memories and more in “This Week in UT Sports History.”
Aug. 13, 2005
With head coach Phillip Fulmer on the sideline, the 2005 Volunteer football squad settled in for its first scrimmage that August after a 75-minute delay. Thunderstorms rolled through Knoxville as a redshirt freshman rolled past the defense in the Neyland-Thompson Sports Center, penetrating the line for 54 yards on four carries, 13.5 yards per touch.
Arian Foster, who went on to become an NFL standout at running back, led the team in rushing yards that scrimmage ahead of David Yancey (31 yards) and Gerald Riggs Jr. (13 yards). Quarterback Erik Ainge ended up on the rushing boards—for a loss of 21 yards—as did dual starting quarterback Rick Clausen, who netted a loss of 10 yards.
Despite a lack of rushing potential from the pocket passers, the offense looked promising from Fulmer’s vantage point.
“There were some big plays on offense, which I was glad to see,” Fulmer said in the report from utsports.com. “It’s night and day from this time last year with the quarterback position and being able to do a lot more things. It puts more pressure on the defense on the perimeter, and it was good to see the guys make some plays.”
Clausen, the younger brother of Tennessee quarterback Casey Clausen (2000-2003), shared QB responsibilities with Ainge after transferring from Nick Saban’s LSU squad in 2002. He walked on to the squad and sat out one season before taking to the gridiron left cold in the wake of his brother’s departure. At his first senior scrimmage, he threw for 159 yards on 10-of-13 passing. Ainge completed 11 passes for 129 yards on 17 pass attempts.
However, the promise of a dual quarterback system broke.
The 2005 season lagged for the Vols, who earned a losing 5-6 record. Clausen’s narrative climaxed early in the season when he led Tennessee out of a 21-point deficit to defeat his former team in Baton Rouge in the Tigers’ home opener (long delayed by Hurricane Katrina). The Associated Press noted Tennessee “looked lost offensively with Erik Ainge starting at quarterback,” and Clausen’s rally “appeared to settle the Vols’ quarterback controversy” in the 30-27 overtime victory.
The two quarterbacks continued to share time that season, plagued by interceptions and inconsistencies. Clausen failed to break out of the shadow of his predecessors. He wore No. 16 until the program retired Peyton Manning’s number prior to the South Carolina game, the first the Gamecocks ever won in Knoxville. He later wore his brother’s No. 7, which—for most—will forever be associated with the “Iceman.” His senior season ended with a loss to Vanderbilt in which he threw two incomplete passes and an interception to finish the game, marking Vandy’s first win in Neyland since 1975 and ending a 22-year win streak against the Commodores.
Aug. 16, 2008
As Clausen and Ainge took to the field against SEC foes, across campus, the swimming and diving program watched as construction crews broke ground on a new facility. Three years later, the UT Athletic Department dedicated the Allan Jones Intercollegiate Aquatic Center featuring an eight-lane 50-meter by 25-yard pool and a varied platform diving well.
The facility serves conference, national, and international events for amateur, collegiate, and professional swimmers and divers. Upon its dedication, the swimming community lauded the facility as a premier institution for the athletic program.
“To have one complex that includes one outdoor 50-meter pool, an indoor 50-meter pool and the new 50-meter competition pool will, in our opinion, give Tennessee the leading aquatic facility in America,” Tennessee men’s head coach John Trembley said. “This in itself is spectacular. But the real measure is the amount of support the athletic department and the community are giving to Tennessee’s swimming and diving programs.”
Cleveland (Tennessee) native Allan Jones made a $4 million gift to the university’s athletic facilities campaign in 2002 at the beginning of a decade when expansion soared with renovations to Neyland Stadium and Thompson-Boling Arena. In 1993, Jones founded Check Into Cash, the first payday lending chain which now exceeds 1,200 locations.
“Like wrestling, a sport I’ve supported nationwide, swimmers don’t get much attention,” Jones said when the department announced his gift. “Both are individual achievement sports, and that best fits my contribution profile. It should be the nicest facility in the country when it’s built.”
Though controversy has surrounded Jones and his industry over the years, few dare to debate the caliber of the swimming and diving facility bearing his name. The $24 million project on Andy Holt Avenue welcomes up to 1,284 spectators with deck space for 2,000 individuals including teams, coaches, officials, and media members. The aquatic center sits next door to the Student Aquatic Center designated for all student and faculty use, which previously served the UT Swimming & Diving teams.
Aug. 17, 2012
In the same way swimming and diving remains ignored by many sports fans, women’s soccer often fails to resonate with the greater population despite the successes of the U.S. Women’s National Team, which brought home the World Cup trophy earlier this year. However, the Regal Rowdies show up loud and proud to cheer on Volunteer Soccer led by head coach Brian Pensky.
The Pensky era commenced this week seven years ago with a victory against Samford in Regal Soccer Stadium. The Vols dribbled past the Bulldogs 4-0 that Friday evening under their new head coach, who came to Tennessee after seven seasons at the University of Maryland. When media published the SEC Preseason Coaches’ Poll, the Vols and Pensky discovered expectations for the team remained low with a prediction to finish 11th in the SEC. But with an initial shutout win, Pensky pushed the team to keep the momentum.
They kept that momentum.
Following the Aug. 17 victory against Samford, the Lady Vols recorded 533:22 of scoreless defense, shutting out opponents from Aug. 19 until Sept. 9. The team went on to post 11 shutouts on the season as the Lady Vols worked their way to a third-place finish in the SEC, eight spots higher than anticipated. Pensky led the program to its 10th appearance in the NCAA Tournament by season’s end.
Seven seasons later, Pensky and the Lady Vols reached a pinnacle in the program when they won their way to the first NCAA Quarterfinals in Tennessee history. Tennessee finished 16-3-3 in 2018 with the program’s highest winning percentage of .795 and the fewest losses in one season. The Lady Vols hope to capitalize on last season when they take the field for the regular season opener against Fordham next Thursday, Aug. 22 at 7:00 p.m. in Regal Soccer Stadium.
The 2019 Lady Vols will host Loyola-Maryland for an exhibition game tonight (Aug. 12) at 7:00 p.m. The Orange & White Scrimmage falls on the anniversary of Pensky’s debut, this Saturday, Aug. 17, also at 7:00 p.m. with a pre-game meet & greet slated for 5:00 p.m. Tennessee is the highest-ranked SEC program entering the 2019 season, ranking 10th in the United Soccer Coaches national poll.