It has been a while since Tennessee football played a role in the national championship picture, but the Vols hope things turn around soon under the leadership of new head coach Jeremy Pruitt. In the meantime, plans are coming together for Tennessee to pay tribute to the 1998 national championship team, the first school to claim victory in the BCS era. This season marks the 20th anniversary of Tennessee’s last national championship.
A ceremony to honor the 1998 Tennessee team is scheduled for September 22 when the Vols host Florida. A number of players are expected to make an appearance at Neyland Stadium for the ceremony, although it remains in question whether or not one key member of that team will be there.
Tee Martin, who was the quarterback for the Vols after Peyton Manning graduated, may have the schedule work in his favor to make it happen. Martin, who is the offensive coordinator at USC, will be coaching a game for the Pac-12’s Trojans on Friday night. USC hosts Washington State on Friday, September 21. That game will be played at night, which means Martin would have to take an overnight flight across the country to show up, and then he would have to fly back across the country to begin preparing for USC’s next game the following weekend. The game time for Tennessee’s home game against the Gators has not been announced yet.
One former coach from the 1998 staff that won’t be in attendance will be David Cutcliffe. Then the offensive coordinator of the Vols and now the head coach at Duke, Cutcliffe’s Blue Devils are scheduled to play a home game against North Carolina Central for Duke’s homecoming game. Although, if Duke plays in the early afternoon and Tennessee gets to play at night, you never know.
In 1998, Tennessee got their promising season off on the right track thanks in large part to snapping a losing streak to SEC rival Florida, upsetting the No. 2 Gators 20-17 in overtime in Neyland Stadium. Tennessee completed their 13-0 march to the national championship by dispatching of No. 7 Georgia (22-3) on the road and No. 10 Arkansas (28-24) before beating No. 23 Mississippi State in the SEC Championship Game (and yes, Tennessee also beat Alabama, 35-18, but the Tide were not quite on the same level they are today). A clean 12-0 record and an SEC championship to their name sent Tennessee to the inaugural BCS National Championship Game to face No. 2 Florida State, and the Vols defeated the Seminoles 23-16 in the Fiesta Bowl while also limiting Peter Warrick to just one catch for seven yards.