In it's 50 years of publishing, SI has printed 2,550 issues with an equal number of covers. Recently the venerable periodical celebrated its golden anniversary by publishing an issue commemorating its covers. Most Tennessee fans can probably recall at least one SI cover that featured a UT sports team or athlete. A few may know every cover. Undoubtedly, many have a favorite issue that stands out or may even be framed and hanging on a wall of their home.
When it comes to teams appearing on the S.I. cover, it's no surprise that the New York Yankees have been featured more, 59, than any other squad amateur or professional. It's also no surprise that the college football team featured most often on Sports Illustrated is Notre Dame with 32. Oklahoma is next with 27, followed by Texas is next with 18. Ohio State has 16 while Nebraska, USC and Miami are listed with 15 covers each.
UCLA's basketball team landed on the cover 24 times, followed closely by Duke with 22. Kentucky and Indiana are tied for third with 14 S.I. basketball covers.
The individual to grace S.I. most often is Michael Jordan with an incredible 49 appearances, including once as a baseball player. Muhammad Ali was a very respectable second with 37 while Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson and Jack Nicklaus tied for third with 22 covers each. Larry Bird, Pete Rose and Mike Tyson are next with 15 covers apiece.
Few would be able to recall every SI issue that featured a Tennessee theme, but here's a chance to test your own knowledge and or memory.
(1) How many SI covers have featured a Tennessee athlete(s), coach or game?
Answer: Eight issues of Sports Illustrated have had a UT sport, athlete or personality on the cover.
(2) What was the first issue of SI cover showcasing a UT theme?
Answer: It was 12 years after Sports Illustrated began publishing before a Tennessee athlete made the cover. That was former Vol wide receiver and hurdler Richmond Flowers who was on issue No. 11 in 1966. He was featured as a track performer.
(3) How many S.I. covers featured Tennessee's football team or a player?
When was Tennessee football first featured on S.I.'s cover?
Answer: In issue No. 44 of 1967, Tennessee's 24-13 victory over Alabama grabbed S.I. honors. It would be another nine years before a Tennessee athlete was featured on an S.I. cover.
(4) When was the last time Tennessee football was featured on the cover of S.I.?
Answer: The first issue of 1999 celebrated Tennessee's national title with a picture of wide receiver Peerless Price running down the sideline for a touchdown against Florida State with the headline: PEERLESS
(5) Where does Tennessee rank among SEC football programs for most appearances on S.I?
Answer: The Vols check in at No. 3 with five. Georgia is second with six and Alabama leads with nine.
(6) What UT athlete has been featured on S.I.'s cover the most?
Answer: Peyton Manning with two while at Tennessee. The first was a in Sports Illustrated's preseason football issue (No. 35) which he shared with his father. Petyon's picture was on the upper half of the page and Archie's was picture on the bottom half of the cover. Ironically, the picture of Archie originally ran in 1970 and was taken in a game against Tennessee. A UT defender is pictured in the foreground of the photo rushing the Ole Miss QB. The second cover that featured Peyton was in issue No. 38 of 1997 — the week of the Florida game. It was an illustration that showed Peyton wrestling an alligator with the headline: Gator Bait Again?
(7) Only one Sports Illustrated cover ever featured the Tennessee Vols basketball program. Can you name it?
Answer: This one is probably too easy, but considering it was almost 28 years ago many UT faithful may not remember. In issue No. 6 of 1976, a photo of Tennessee's dynamic duo —Ernie Grunfeld and Bernard King — ran on the cover with the headline: Double Trouble From Tennessee. Along with the Peerless Price cover of 1999, it is the most popular UT cover S.I. ever published.
(8) What was the only S.I. cover to feature a Tennessee coach?
Answer: Lady Vols head coach Pat Summitt was on S.I.'s cover issue No. 9 in 1998 with the headline: Wizard of Knoxville. That was while UT was in the midst of its undefeated season and third national title in a row.
(9) There was one Vol featured on the front of S.I. that came to be known as the surprise cover because it wasn't planned. Do you know who the athlete was?
Answer: Tony Robinson in issue No. 41 of 1985. It was known as the surprise cover because Sports Illustrated was in Knoxville to feature Auburn running back Bo Jackson. The Tigers came into Knoxville ranked No. 1 but suffered a 38-20 upset as Robinson threw four touchdowns that day. The headline read: Tennessee Waltz. Jackson would go on to be featured on six S.I. covers. Conversely, Robinson would tear a knee ligament three weeks later in the first half against Alabama and never played for Tennessee again. Nor did he ever reach the heights predicted for his football career. He only reached the NFL as a replacement player for the Washington Redskins during the 1987 NFL strike and eventually his life spiraled out of control. Was T. Rob a victim of the S.I cover jinx?
(10) A total of four former Vols were featured on S.I. covers after leaving Tennessee. Can you name at least three of them?
Answer: In chronological order they were: (1) UT linebacker Frank Emanuel issue No. 33 of 1966 as a Miami Dolphin. (2) Bernard King "His Royal Highness" issue No. 18 of 1984 as a New York Knick. (3) Reggie White "The Reggie Game" issue No. 10 of 1993 as a free agent in shoulder pads surrounded by jerseys of the Redskins, Raiders, Pittsburgh and Green Bay. (4) Peyton Manning "Soon Good, So Soon" issue No. 47 of 1999 as an Indianapolis Colt. That was also the last S.I. issue with a Tennessee connection.
Grades: If you scored between 90 and 100, you're Big Orange to the core and closely follow the accomplishments of UT's athletic programs. If you scored between 70 and 89, give yourself a hand. You're a knowledgeable UT fan who maintains a keen awareness of the school's highlights. A score of 60 to 69 indicates you're more informed than the average fan but not the average fanatic. A score of 40 to 59 means you're an average fan with limited recall. If you score below 40 you're either a young fan, or don't follow UT closely, or couldn't care less about Sports Illustrated. Of course, you could also be a long-time UT fan who has forgotten most of what you once knew. Regardless of the category you fall into, if you cared enough to read this far your blood definitely runs orange and your heart beats to the rhythm of Rocky Top. Thanks to all for participating.