The University of Tennessee: Clay Travis, Rocky Top, and What Happens When a program goes 365Black

University of Tennessee team shot: Used frequently in solving crimes in Knoxville

There’s this white guy named Clay Travis who wrote a book called Dixieland Delight. He chronicled a season in the Southeastern Conference (SEC) by going to one of the 12-members of the conference campus each week and writing about his experiences.

He followed that up with a book called On Rocky Top: A Front-Row Seat to the End of an Era, where he spent the 2008 season following the University of Tennessee football program (his alma mater) and its embattled coach, Phillip Fulmer.

Before we continue, it’s important to note that the U of Tennessee is located in Knoxville, the location of the infamous Knoxville Massacre. Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom, the former a senior at Tennessee, were brutally murdered and raped by five Black people; George Thomas, Letalvis Cobbins, Lemaricus Davidson,Vanessa Coleman, and Eric Boyd.

It should be noted that Christian and Newsom were white. Phil Fulmer actually recruited Davidson for the University of Tennessee football team, as this article makes clear:

Davidson attended Jackson Christian School and even led a bible study group at his church.  His foster parents arranged tutoring for him in math and reading and gave him his own room in their five-bedroom, middle-class home.  When asked, Flo Rudd said Davidson’s mother showed no interest in him while he lived with them.  Former UT coach Phil Fulmer did show interest saying of Davidson’s playing that “this is what we look for” when he was scouting the school. 

“This is what we look for” is a prophetic statement from Phil Fulmer, because recruiting Black athlete-students who have a difficult time abiding by the law has become a trademark of the Tennessee football program. Take a look at this article from 2006 in the USA TODAY:

Before University of Tennessee football players get a playbook, they get a Think Card. It is an orange card small enough to fit into their wallets. On the front it says, “THINK,” followed by a series of questions designed to help the player assess his behavior and make the appropriate decision. 

On the back of the card are the home and cell phone numbers of the Tennessee coaching staff so players can call for help.
The Think Card is part of a safety net of counselors, tutors and role models the university has been constructing since 1995 after eight football players had run-ins with the law in a one-year span. 
But during the last 16 months, players frequently have fallen through. Tennessee football players have been in at least 20 incidents involving shoplifting, assault, gun charges, motor vehicle citations, disturbing the peace and failing a drug test. 
Even after coach Phillip Fulmer gathered his players for a meeting during spring practice in April and told them the bad behavior had to stop, linebacker Daniel Brooks and defensive back Corey Campbell were suspended after off-field incidents.
Brooks pleaded guilty Tuesday to a misdemeanor charge of driving without a license and three other charges were dismissed by a Knox County General Sessions Court judge. Brooks will miss the first three games this season.
While court dates await other Volunteers players, Fulmer is scheduled to face reporters today in Birmingham, Ala., at the annual Southeastern Conference media days.
In an interview last week, Fulmer tightened his lips and took a deep breath when asked about the recent incidents. “It’s embarrassing to our administration, to our fans, to our coaches, to me and to a large portion of the other kids,” said Fulmer, Tennessee’s head coach since 1992. “You would hope that young men who have the opportunities they have, to be on the stage they’re on, would make better choices.”
Assault accusations 
Among the poorer choices:
• Carolyn Goodrich said her son thought he had been hit accidentally by an elbow during a pickup basketball game Jan. 12. 
It wasn’t until the next day, while looking at a university surveillance videotape, that Deshaun Goodrich saw he had been punched on the right side of his face when he wasn’t looking by a Tennessee football player.
“He’ll have a metal plate in his mouth the rest of his life,” Carolyn Goodrich said.
Tony McDaniel, the 6-7, 300-pound defensive tackle who was shown on the videotape hitting the 6-4, 205-pound Goodrich, was arrested and charged with aggravated assault and is scheduled to enter a plea Thursday in Knoxville General Sessions Court. 
• Shadiyah Murphy also never saw who broke his jaw March 4. The Tennessee student said he was hit from behind in an altercation with several Vols football players at a fraternity dance, according to court affidavits and police incident reports.
Murphy’s jaw had to be wired shut to heal.
Jerod Mayo, a freshman linebacker, and Robert Ayers, a freshman defensive end, have been charged with aggravated assault in the Murphy case and are scheduled to appear in court Monday to answer charges.
• Quantavios Emerson did see who hit him, opening a cut on his head that required four staples to close April 10 in a fight in a dormitory lobby. Emerson, who was in the fight with Bret Smith, a Tennessee wide receiver, and Brent Schaeffer, a quarterback, said he was struck while on the floor.
Smith and Schaeffer pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault and were ordered to pay restitution to Emerson. Smith was suspended from the team; Schaeffer left the program voluntarily.
Vols’ safety net 
The school has devoted resources and considerable effort to the issue of student-athlete conduct. At least three full-time employees of the football program have duties that include steering players from trouble.
• Former Tennessee quarterback Condredge Holloway is assistant athletics director for player relations and counsels players on their behavior off the field.
• Running backs coach Trooper Taylor, the assistant head coach, also handles player development issues.
• Judy Jackson, the associate director of student-athlete welfare, has an office with a window looking out on the indoor practice facility. She coordinates players’ participation in community-related projects through the G.O. V.O.L.S. service program.
The list of football players who have participated in the program in Knoxville is substantially longer than the list of players who recently have faced criminal charges. During the spring semester alone, football players logged more than 1,000 hours of community service, from Habitat for Humanity to reading in schools to Boys & Girls Club activities and others, according to a record kept by the athletics department.
The Knoxville Police Department has assigned an officer to act as liaison between the Tennessee team and the police department and to counsel players. 
Tennessee’s athletics department also is participating in a program sponsored, in part, by the SEC. MVP, Mentors in Violence Prevention, is a program conducted by Northeastern University’s Center for the Study of Sport in Society in which college athletes try to teach youngsters how to avoid confrontation.
A cycle of problems? 
The caretakers of Tennessee’s football program — President John D. Petersen, in his second year at the school after coming from the University of Connecticut; athletics director Mike Hamilton, on the job since July 2003 and at the school since 1992; and Fulmer — say there is no systemic problem with the program and college football programs across the country have the same issues with handling young, immature football players.

“When we adjusted the NCAA rules a couple of years ago to limit the amount of contact with prospective student-athletes, I think it limited the ability of coaches to get to know the athletes better,” Hamilton said. “You’re having to make quicker judgments sometimes assessing a student-athlete’s ability to fit in.”

Asked if he thought there was a recruiting problem at Tennessee and if the Vols were recruiting athletes at risk to get in trouble, Peterson said the university’s issues with athletes are a “cyclical thing we see.”

‘Cyclical thing we see…” Well, when you recruit primarily Black athletes from Black Undertow cities that white people never go to (and when they do, the first thing they do is lock their car door), you are going to bring thug athletes to a Predominately White Institutions (PWI). After Fulmer was fired from Tennessee in 2008, the next coach Lane Kiffin carried on the Vols tradition of recruiting Black criminal athlete-students:

Safety Janzen Jackson and receiver Nu’Keese Richardson, two of coach Lane Kiffin’s most prized signees from his first recruiting class, were among three Tennessee football players arrested early Thursday morning in Knoxville on charges of attempted armed robbery.

The third player arrested is also a freshman, defensive back Mike Edwards. It was not immediately clear if the players have attorneys.

UT coaching legend Gen. Neyland

What’s funny is that the University of Tennessee football program hasn’t been that great lately, even with such highly recruited Black athlete-students representing the school. The problems haven’t stopped either off the field:

The University of Tennessee no longer can blame wayward ways on whatever lax attitudes existed during the lightning-quick Lane Kiffin era. Nor can it attribute the number of Vols names that wound up on the Knoxville police blotter to Phil Fulmer’s dwindling attention span in his final years with the orange.

No, in the wake of the accusations that are flying after last night’s bar fight it’s time for Tennessee to take a deep look at its fabric and culture, because there is just something inherently wrong there.

Early this morning, police charged UT freshman receiver Da’Rick Rogers — the plum catch of this year’s recruiting class — disorderly conduct and resisting arrest in connection with a brawl that left an off-duty police officer unconscious and bloodied in the street with a head wound.

Rogers, 18, is one of at least four Vol football players being questioned about the injuries Officer Robert Capouellez, 24, suffered around 1:50 a.m.

Also in the mix: Darren Myles Jr., a sophomore safety, who in April was charged with public intoxication just hours after the Orange and White game; Denarius Moore, 21, a senior wide receiver; Montori Hughes, 19, a sophomore defensive tackle.

Police say that, according to witnesses, the officer was kicked several times while on the ground.
Last November, three football players were arrested on charges of attempted armed robbery. Two were among the most prized signees of Kiffin’s first recruiting class, and were quickly dismissed from the team.

To understand your typical white SEC football that cheers on a team full of the high-character individuals like the University of Tennessee recruits, one only needs to read Clay Travis’s writings. He has spent an entire life living vicariously through the exploits of people that he has done everything possible to avoid in his private life.

Cheering on a predominately Black football program is… strange, and Travis’s work is important in understanding this phenomenon. After all, it was only in 1968 that the University of Tennessee football program integrated. Sports Illustrated didn’t consider it a momentous occasion worthy of forever commemorating, but published this:

There were just two and a half minutes left when Tennessee found itself on its 20-yard line with, really, only one last chance to tie the game. But now Wyche proved he was no ordinary quarterback. At this point he had hit only nine of 26 passes and ought to have been discouraged, but he had to keep passing. He managed two short completions—and then found Lester McClain, a tall sophomore from Nashville who is Tennessee‘s first Negro varsity player, with a big 14-yarder when it was fourth and three. The roar from the stands rivaled that during halftime when the band formed a Confederate flag.

Yes, the band formed a Confederate Flag. All SEC schools used to play “Dixie” and wave the Confederate Flag at game, but with the recruitment of Black athlete-students, those traditions were tossed. Now though, every Black “first” (no matter how insignificant or minor its achievement) is celebrated with a fervor once reserved for actual events worthy of praise. Here is a recent article from the Knoxville News that celebrates the integration as a moment that Tennessee football – already with a rich tradition of winning – decided to enter the 20th century:

Tennessee opened the 1968 football season on Sept. 14 against Georgia on the new Tartan Turf at Neyland stadium.

History was in one of its cycles of change. McClain’s arrival on campus for fall drills in September 1967 came more than 20 years after Tennessee had forfeited a Dec. 23, 1946, basketball game against Duquesne at McKeesport, Pa., rather than play against a team that refused to bench an African-American player. U.T. historian Milton Klein chronicled that event. That seems so long ago.

McClain came to Knoxville as a scholarship athlete 13 years after the Supreme Court’s Brown vs. Board of Education decision, and a year after Kentucky had signed Greg Page and Nat Northington in football and Vanderbilt had likewise inked Pearl High School’s Perry Wallace in hoops. 

Doug Dickey led the way for the Vols, saying the time was right to make the move. The times might have been troubled and uncertain, but the reminder is always present that whenever significant social advances are made, somebody or a number of somebodies, in this case McClain, Dickey, Holloway, Bill Battle, and/or Jimmy Streater, have to lead the way. 

Here’s a quick history lesson. Northington was recruited in the 1965-1966 UK recruiting push out of Louisville, and had played sparingly in the Kentucky-Ole Miss game in 1967. He did not letter that season, according to Kentucky records. 

Page, also signed by the Wildcats that year, came from Middlesboro. He was paralyzed after an injury in a non-contact drill Aug. 22, 1967, and died a month or so later, Sept. 29. He is listed as a 1967 letter winner in the Kentucky Football Media Guide. After Page’s death, Northington transferred to Western Kentucky.
The Tennessee-Kentucky freshman basketball game in the 1967-68 season, Feb. 2, 1968, Kentucky 94, Tennessee 74, was played in Middlesboro as a benefit for Page.

McClain had been one of two African-American players recruited in that 1966-67 recruiting season. The other, fullback Albert Davis of Alcoa (often referred to in media reports of that day as “Alcoa’s great Negro running back”), was not admitted to the University, so the torch was passed to McClain and he played and played well. 

He finished in 1970 with 70 career catches for 1,003 yards and 10 touchdowns. He had an 82-yard TD reception from Bobby Scott in the 1969 Memphis State game. He was determined to make the best of things, despite a rough patch or two along the way. 

“There is a time you question whether you want to pack your bags and go home,” McClain said. “I would be lying if I said I never considered that. But I just couldn’t. I knew the next day the headlines would say, ‘Lester McClain, first black athlete, quits U-T.'”

McClain ended up being the trailblazer and history will positively record his contributions to the Vol program.

 In 2007-2008, the UT football program was 51 percent Black. The enrollment for the University of Tennessee was only 3.5 percent Black male. In The New Plantation, University of Georgia professor Billy Hawkins writes:

Recruiting Black males specifically for their athletic ability is an institutional racist practice that reinforces belief’s about Blacks intellectual capabilities and athletic abilities. It creates unique experiences for Black males who do not participate in varsity team sports, as well as, for Black males who are highly visible as celebrity athletes. 

Let’s be honest, Mr. Hawkins: less than five percent of Black males are academically qualified for college work. Lowering academic standards for the sake of “diversity” and upping Black enrollment is a tried and true measure for schools like Tennessee. The majority of the football program at Tennessee would not be in Knoxville were it not for their athletic ability.

The University of Tennessee football program has the largest recruiting budget in the nation, because – it is said – the state of Tennessee doesn’t produce enough quality athletes. This is, of course, nonsense. Tennessee won in segregated times with predominately white Tennessee players. Now, because SEC fans have been conditioned to believe “Black is Best,” white Tennessee high school athletes rarely get looks from the state’s flagship university.

They might have the grades, but they don’t have the right melanin. It is in On Rocky Top that we learn just how conditioned white southerners have become to the concept of Black athletic supremacy. Before the 2008 UT-South Carolina game, Clay Travis was in the UT locker-room and writes this on p.262-263:

Then Vol sophomore Eric Berry stands. 


“When I say , “Killas,’ y’all say, “Killas,’ and then when I say, ‘Trained assassins,’ y’all say, ‘Trained assassins,’ and then when I say, “want some,’ y’lall say, “Gone get some.'”


Then Berry starts, “Killas!”


“Killas!” the team replies in uinson. 


“Trained assassins!” Berry chants. 

“Trained assassins!”

“Want some,” Berry leads. 


“Gone get some!”


“Let’s go bang a motherfucker, man!” Berry yells in conclusion. This cheer seems to get the team fired up [SBPDL note: they would lose the game, bad]. I’m kind of fired up. Of course, I have no ideas what it means. In fact, I’ve never felt whiter in my life. Later student manager Andrew Haag will confess, “I don’t know what he was saying, either, but he’s Eric Berry. He’s so cool, he can do anything and it’s cool.”

No, actually Eric Berry isn’t that cool. He can only do anything because he got a scholarship to Tennessee because of his athletic ability. In a simpler age, when America was an actual country (now it has been replaced by the proposition Black-Run America), Haag’s hero who he thought was “so cool” would have been a white defense back.

Now, it’s some ghetto thug (Berry plays in the NFL, so the usage of the term “ghetto thug” accurately describes 65 percent of the leagues players), so Haag is left convinced that anything he does is “cool” though he probably avoids Black people and majority Black cities in every other decision in his life.

It’s sick, when you think about it. Black athlete-students, who have no business attending a major university based on their academic resumes, receive as much help as possible to succeed. Even if that means cheating:

The past decade-plus in University of Tennessee athletics history is as checkered as the end zones in Neyland Stadium. Athletic department successes have been undermined by academic fraud allegations involving the football team, investigations into the recruiting practices of one-and-done football coach Lane Kiffin, and suspensions for basketball players arrested on drug and weapons charges. 

Into this atmosphere stepped Fritz Polite. An assistant professor in the UT Department of Exercise, Sport and Leisure Studies, Polite was recruited to Knoxville four years ago to implement ILEAD — the Institute for Leadership, Ethics and Diversity. That charge, combined with his extensive sports background (he played and coached football professionally and worked with the New York Giants on profiling potential draft picks), has put Polite on a new extracurricular course — mentoring African-American male student-athletes. “They need to look at someone outside of football and basketball as a mentor,” Polite says. “They need to look at engineers and lawyers and professors — the types of people who are right here on campus.” 

Polite has so far assembled a team of 10 interested faculty members, and he has sought the input, if not outright approval, of athletic department officials. “I’m going to do this with or without them, because as a faculty member I have the right to engage any student on this campus at any time,” he says, having begun mentoring athletes last fall. “And I’m hoping that the athletic department will be open and willing to work with us to try to benefit these students.” 

Historically, the benefit in the relationship between mostly white colleges and universities and their black student-athletes has been one-sided to the point of exploitation, according to Billy Hawkins, associate professor of kinesiology at the University of Georgia and author of The New Plantation: Black Athletes, College Sports, and Predominantly White NCAA Institutions, published earlier this year by Palgrave Macmillan. “If you look at the relationship initiated by a slave owner, it’s purely economic. When we look at an institution’s relationship with black student-athletes, and more specifically black male athletes in the sports of football and basketball, it too is purely economic,” Hawkins says. “They are generally selected or migrate from communities that are socially and culturally different, and placed into this environment that is somewhat of a culture shock to them. No political power, whatsoever, when you talk about making decisions — even choosing a major.”
That is not to say that non-black student-athletes escape exploitation, Hawkins acknowledges, but blacks are proportionally more likely to gain entrance to college based on athletic prowess even if they’re ill-prepared for the academic experience. At the same time, those athletes are relied on in greater numbers than their non-black contemporaries to produce a profitable product. “The NCAA generates 90 percent of its revenue from March Madness. More than 60 percent of the athletes who compete in the tournament are black,” Hawkins says. “We hear PSAs about how more than 400,000 athletes are going pro in something besides sports. Well, less than one percent of that 400,000 is generating more than 90 percent of the NCAA’s revenue, which I think is alarming.” 

When U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan recommended in March that men’s basketball teams with low graduation rates be banned from post-season play, the NCAA responded with a statement citing federal graduation statistics that place all student-athletes — and African-American males, in particular — on a higher trajectory of success than their demographic peers in the general student population. Forty-nine percent of African-American male student-athletes graduate, compared to 38 percent of black males in general, the numbers say.

So Phil Fulmer praised one of the Black individuals who killed Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom in the infamous “Knoxville Massacre” incident. He stated, “This is exactly the kind of guy we recruit.”

Judging by the UT record of off-the-field problems involving the Black athlete-students that represent Rocky Top now, it obvious that the only type of athlete Tennessee recruits is of the Black thug variety.

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