The black alternate jerseys Tennessee’s football team wore in 2009 when the Vols took on South Carolina are some of the most talked-about and controversial uniforms in recent Tennessee football history. And it seems some version of those jerseys will be returning to UT’s wardrobe this season.
During a virtual press conference on Thursday, Tennessee head football coach Jeremy Pruitt stated that one of the things his team and coaches have talked about over the last few weeks is wearing black jerseys this season and then auctioning those jerseys off after the game to donate to Black Lives Matter. Pruitt said that part of the mission of the Culture Committee that’s headed up by wide receivers coach and former Vol quarterback Tee Martin is to listen to feedback from players and figure out how to implement change, and this is one thing that’s been suggested.
“It’s been really good. It’s something that Tee has done a fantastic job heading up and getting our players involved and getting feedback,” Pruitt said of the new committee. “Once we get the feedback, we have to act on it. We’ve started today to get all our players registered to vote. We have speakers planned to come in here, and there are things during the season we want to do.
“One of the things we want to do is when we play the Kentucky game, we want to wear black jerseys. When the game is over with, we want to find a way to auction the jerseys and raise money for Black Lives Matter. That’s just one thing that our kids have talked about.”
Tennessee hasn’t worn black jerseys since that famous (or infamous, depending on your outlook) 2009 South Carolina game during Lane Kiffin’s one and only year as UT’s head coach. Notably, that game was on Halloween, and the players were fired up about the last minute change in uniform (players were warming up in more standard home attire prior to heading back to the locker rooms).
The Vols beat South Carolina 31-13 that night after jumping out to a 21-0 lead and securing all the early momentum.
Right now, Tennessee’s contest against Kentucky for the 2020 season is scheduled for November 7th. That, of course, could change depending on how the current COVID-19 pandemic affects the 2020 football season.
Tennessee hasn’t worn any true alternate uniforms during Pruitt’s tenure thus far. The Vols did wear all-orange uniforms and orange pants on the road during the 2019 season, but that’s part of Tennessee’s more standard repertoire. The last time Tennessee wore a less traditional alternate look was in 2017 when the Vols wore the Smokey Gray alternate jersey at home against Georgia.
Pruitt tries to listen to his players, and wearing black jerseys is just one of the things he’s heard from his team. The third-year head coach also stated that he and his coaches have had numerous conversations with UT’s players about events happening in the world right now, and hearing from his players was one of the reasons he joined the team in a protest in downtown Knoxville earlier this month.
“Right before the players came back, we obviously had a lot of circumstances that happened throughout our country that everybody was aware of,” Pruitt explained. “We started with just sitting down with our team and really talking about it.
“I think in my lifetime, this is the first time that I can ever remember with all the things that are going on, not only in our country but in our world, there’s conversation of how to put measures in to create change. Absolutely I want to be an advocate of that, support our players, and use our platform at Tennessee to help create that.”