Another Big Orange jolt

Coming off a great recruiting weekend in football and an unforgettable upset of America's top-ranked team in basketball, it truly was "great to be a Tennessee Vol" this week ... until around 9 o'clock Tuesday night.

That's when word began leaking out that Lane Kiffin was bolting the Big Orange football program after just 13 months to take the reins at Southern Cal. Suddenly, that warm fuzzy the Vol Nation was experiencing evaporated faster than you can say "It's time."

Sadly, the plunge from the top of the mountain to the depth of the valley is not a new one for Tennessee fans. They've experienced this type of emotional freefall several times previously. In fact, it seems that every time the Vol Nation is riding a dizzying high a gut-wrenching disappointment follows almost immediately.


- October of 1965: Less than 48 hours after managing a 7-7 tie in Birmingham with a Bear Bryant-coached Alabama team on its way to the national title, Tennessee's football program was rocked when assistant coaches Bill Majors, Charlie Rash and Bob Jones were killed in an auto accident.

- December of 1969: After guiding Tennessee football to a 46-15-4 record and two SEC championships in six years, head coach Doug Dickey appeared to have the program primed for a run at the 1970 national title. He broke Big Orange hearts, however, by leaving immediately after the 1969 Gator Bowl game to assume the top job at Florida, his alma mater.

- March of 1977: A Tennessee basketball team led by superstars Ernie Grunfeld and Bernard King entered the NCAA Tournament with a 22-5 record, a No. 7 national ranking and legitimate Final Four aspirations. Grunfeld and King fouled out of the tourney opener against Syracuse, however, and the Vols lost 93-88 in overtime.

- January of 1986: Mere days after Johnny Majors' scrappy Vols stunned a heavily favored Miami team 35-7 in the Sugar Bowl and soared to No. 4 in the final national polls, the joyous mood evaporated when Tennessee quarterback Tony Robinson was arrested on drug charges.

- Fall of 1986: Coming off a 9-1-2 record in '85, Tennessee prepared for its most eagerly anticipated football season in a decade. One day before the '86 opener, however, more than a dozen Vols were found to have violated NCAA rules by putting non-family members on the ticket pass list. Several players were suspended, and a distracted team stumbled to a 2-5 start en route to a 7-5 season.

- January of 1994: Shortly after concluding a 1993 season that saw the Vols produce 484 points to become by far the highest-scoring team in program history, Tennessee was left reeling when star quarterback Heath Shuler elected to bypass his senior year and turn pro.

- Spring of 1997: One week after superstar quarterback Peyton Manning thrilled the Vol Nation by announcing plans to return for his senior season, popular Vol basketball coach Kevin O'Neill abruptly left UT and made a perplexing parallel move to Northwestern.

- December of 2002: After upsetting second-ranked Florida at The Swamp to finish off a 10-1 regular season, Tennessee appeared headed for the Rose Bowl and a shot at the national championship. Seven days later, however, a shocking 31-20 loss to LSU in the SEC Championship Game sent the Vols to the Citrus Bowl.

- February of 2008: Mere hours after a 66-62 win at Memphis elevated the Basketball Vols to the No. 1 national ranking for the first time in program history, they suffered a 72-69 loss at Vanderbilt that brought them - and their fans - back to Earth.

Inside Tennessee Top Stories