Throughout the season, SIOC will travel to different schools and grade the tailgate scene in 10 categories. Today's stop: Tennessee
The University of Tennessee's campus is nicknamed "The Hill," and with good reason. Neyland Stadium is situated beneath two major slopes and perched on the north bank of the Tennessee River. The view near the river was breathtaking thanks to the orange and brown hues in the changing trees. While there isn't a ton of space for tailgates in any one place, the lots avoid feeling cramped, having just enough space to move around. None of the areas is particularly large, but there are plenty of them. Grade: A-
While most in the Volunteer Army could rattle off Peyton Manning's college statistics, many admitted they weren't that sure who Robert Neyland was, or why the stadium was named after him. Well versed in the standings and recent news of the SEC, people often willfully ignored other goings on around the country. Perhaps some would argue that non-SEC football isn't really football at all, but such a claim would be better made if they had more knowledge about other conferences. Grade: B-
A 12:30 kickoff wasn't the preferred start time for the folks in Knoxville. Forced to arrive earlier than usual, nearly every tailgate had a box of Krispy Kreme doughnuts in tow. Tables were draped with orange tablecloths and set with the occasional flower arrangement which included daises, the flower to which many attribute the team's colors. There were at least three tailgates roasting whole pigs. They were playing the Razorbacks, after all. Most setups brought sandwiches for their main course, though I also happened upon sausage balls and barbecue. Grade: B
Celery stalks abounded as everyone arriving early started with a bloody mary. Once past the breakfast phase of the morning, most people turned to bourbon mixed with cola. The bourbon was exclusively of the Tennessee variety, with Jack Daniels being the main choice. No Kentucky bourbon could be found, which is not surprising, considering the location. The most unique offering was definitely calvados, though everyone referred to it as apple moonshine. When it's homemade, which I can only assume was the case since it was served in a sports bottle, moonshine is probably the better name to use anyway. Grade: A-
A fair number of cornhole sets showed up in the lots, but the bags and boards weren't even used all that much. People seemed more interested in eating, drinking, and commiserating than playing the games, especially once the food got going. Grade: C
Technically speaking, Rocky Top is not the official fight song of Tennessee, but you'd be hard pressed to find a Vol fan who knows about Down the Field, let alone the words. Rocky Top is a catchy enough tune that even Steve Spurrier has admitted to humming a few bars. It is played so often, it weaves itself into the fabric of the entire day, and I'm sure it will be in my head for weeks. Aside from the song, the cheers "It's great, to be, a Tennessee Vol!" and "Orange! White!" were shouted often. The Arkansas fans in attendance countered with their own, "Whooooooh .... Pig Sooey! Razorbacks!" Grade: A-
The sun was shining and the temperatures weren't frigid by any means, but everyone told me that this was not ideal UT tailgating weather. One of the issues they noted was that the women were far more bundled up than usual. But there were still a fair number of southern belles dressed to the nines. Sorority girls seeking donations for the Make-A-Wish Foundation looked particularly sharp, but in general, jackets and sweaters were worn throughout the day. Grade: B
Some older fans donned orange vests bedazzled with enough flair to make Stan from the movie Office Space happy. But beyond that, orange T-shirts were the most fans could muster. Grade: C-
Someone brought a baby pig to the party, which was a huge hit, especially with the Arkansas passersby. The pig was named Baby McFadden and the owner declared, "I just hope the Vols can tame Daddy McFadden today." But the tailgate of the day goes to the gang at Club 23, a.k.a.-- Ms. Jeannie's. Between the huge flatscreen, checkerboard dance floor, and customized bar setup, they definitely had all the bells and whistles one could ask for. Grade: B
One of only two college football stadiums you can get to by boat, Neyland stadium sports a large contingent of sailors docked in the Tennessee River. The Vol Navy boasts a lot of impressive vessels, many including hot tubs, waterslides and jetskis. It is a community that is very friendly and they get to know their neighbors over the course of the season. Some were even cooking together. In warmer weeks, everyone swims in the river all day long. I can't imagine a better place to be. Grade: A
Complaints about cold weather aside, it was a gorgeous day in Knoxville. No one was very confident about the home team's chances, but all were pleasantly surprised by the game's outcome. They returned to their tailgates content, ready to eat and drink some more, but the party didn't really get going again. Maybe they were all in shock. Still, the friendly and welcoming approach from the Vol Army continued with many people offering food and drink to strangers and Razorback backers alike.
To read more of Andrew Reed's tailgate reports, check out his Road Games blog.