Beer at TBA?

I'll never forget my initial reaction when I heard that the University of Tennessee was applying for a beer permit at Thompson-Boling Arena:

"Too bad they didn't apply for it during the Wade Houston, Kevin O'Neill, Jerry Green and Buzz Peterson years," I thought. "Beer sales would've topped ticket sales most nights."

I don't even drink beer but I might have made an exception sitting along press row at TBA between 1990 and 2005. During that time I witnessed some of the worst basketball on Planet Earth. I insist on using the term "witnessed" because what I saw during that time was criminal. Some of those teams should have been locked up for impersonating a basketball program.

It's too late now, of course, but I've come up with a catchy slogan Tennessee could have used if beer sales had been legal during those years of Hoops Humiliation: "The team's getting hammered. Shouldn't you?"

Alas, it turns out that the beer application UT submitted was for non-athletic events only – concerts, tractor-pulls, etc. And, according to today's Knoxville News-Sentinel, school officials have pulled the application for the time being. They want to appoint a "task force" to study the impact at other universities before committing to beer sales at TBA.

It now appears that suds may never be sold at Thompson-Boling Arena. Still, I'm not going to let that stop me from announcing my belated picks for the greatest Hops Ops (drinking opportunities) in TBA history.

Here goes:

- The entire 1990-91 SEC home season. Tennessee went 2-7 vs. league foes at TBA that winter.

- The 1991-92 opener. Tennessee fell 87-79 to East Tennessee State. Honest.

- The 1992-93 game with Kentucky. A Vol team that went 4-12 in SEC games under Wade Houston actually shocked a Kentucky team that was ranked No. 2 nationally under Rick Pitino 78-77. There would've been some celebratory post-game guzzling after that stunner.

- The 1993-94 game with Arkansas-Little Rock. That 69-59 loss may have been the low point of a 5-22 season that included a 2-14 SEC mark.

- The 50-46 loss to Memphis in 1994-95. Even if you were seeing double, Tennessee still wouldn't have made it to 100 points.

- The 1995-96 game with Kentucky. Pitino's Wildcats hung a 90-50 spanking on the Vols that still ranks as the worst homefloor defeat in UT history.

- The 1996-97 game with Tennessee Tech. After losing by 11 points (73-62) on his home floor to the Golden Eagles, Kevin O'Neill might have knocked down a few brews himself.

- The 1997-98 game with Kentucky. A 12-3 start in Jerry Green's debut season had us believing ... then the Big Blue routed the homestanding Vols 85-67.

- The 1998-99 game with Mississippi State. The Vols were 11-0 on their home floor before suffering an 88-82 shocker.

- The 1999-2000 game with Vanderbilt. Tennessee was 14-1 and ranked No. 12 nationally ... only to lose its SEC home opener to the unranked Commodores 76-73.

- The 2000-2001 game with Kentucky. The Vols, 18-6 and ranked No. 15 nationally, fell 103-95 to the Big Blue. UT went on to drop four of its eight remaining games and cost Jerry Green his job.

- The 2001-02 game with third-ranked Florida. Tennessee led by three points with mere seconds remaining. When Buzz Peterson elected not to foul, the Gators hit a game-tying 3 at the buzzer, then won 104-100 in overtime.

- The 2001-02 game with South Carolina. The Vols simply quit, allowing the visiting Gamecocks to romp 94-60.

- The 2002-03 game with Alabama. The Vols were 15-7 and a virtual lock to make the NCAA Tournament ... until they suffered a 76-71 homefloor loss to the Tide. Bama wound up getting the bid instead of UT.

- The 2003-04 games with No. 9 Kentucky and No. 5 Louisville. The Vols hosted the Big Blue and the Cardinals in back-to-back games within a six-day span, outplaying the visitor each time but losing 69-68 in overtime to UK and 65-62 to Louisville. Can you say gut-wrenching?

- The 2004-05 game with Vanderbilt. The Vols were beyond listless in an 88-63 homecourt loss that helped get Buzz Peterson fired at season's end.

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