1926 – 1952
Head Football Coach Robert Neyland “The General”
Before he transformed the Tennessee football program, Robert Reese Neyland was a superb student–athlete in the Army. He won 35 games (20 consecutive) as a baseball pitcher, played starting end on the Cadets’ 1914 national championship football team, and won the academy’s heavyweight boxing championship his final three years. In 1925, Neyland was serving as UT’s assistant football coach and an ROTC instructor who was also a major in the Army when he was named head coach. His only piece of instruction was to beat Vanderbilt since the Commodores began trouncing the Vols in 1920. It took three years, but Neyland delivered on that win and many more. He developed one of the most efficient single-wing offenses in the country, complemented by an unyielding defense. Of the 216 games he coached, the Vols shut out their opponents 112 times. In fact, from 1938 to 1940, his teams recorded 17 consecutive regular season shutouts. Neyland’s teams eventually won four national championships and compiled an overall record of 173 wins, 31 losses, and 12 ties. During World War II, Neyland left his coaching duties and returned to active service, eventually earning a promotion to brigadier general. After the war ended and Neyland resumed coaching at UT in 1946, he was always known as “the General.” Although health issues forced Neyland to step down from coaching six years later, he served as UT athletic director for a decade and helped design the stadium. The UT trustees voted to name Neyland Stadium after him about a month before his death in 1962, and UT dedicated a statue of him there in 2010 that displays his seven game maxims.