Days Between Dates

Tomorrow will be 77 days until it’s Football Time in Tennessee. Today is one day until Omaha.

Growing up, it felt like football could always have the kind of year they just enjoyed in 2022. The Vols finished in the Top 15 14 times in 19 seasons from 1989-2007. There was always a reason to believe Tennessee would be in the hunt, and thus always a reason to look forward to next year.

And often times, there wasn’t much else to look forward to.

Credit the ladies for being the most consistent force on campus. Lady Vol Basketball was often so good, fans (including me) didn’t pay a ton of attention to them in the regular season. You just assumed they’d win. They usually did.

Softball has become the most consistent program on campus more recently, but they didn’t begin play until the mid-1990s and didn’t start making regular NCAA Tournament appearances until 2004. Their timetable comes after the peak of Tennessee’s football dominance.

So most off-seasons were long and very long, because there was no NCAA Tournament to look forward to in men’s basketball or baseball. It was once cause for celebration when the football countdown clock hit 100 days; now it’s at 77, and it feels like it hasn’t even really started yet.

In basketball, Tennessee missed the NCAA Tournament eight years in a row from 1990 to 1997. Baseball didn’t make the NCAA Tournament beyond their College World Series appearance in 1951 until 1993. They were a fixture there from that season until 2005, then didn’t return until Tony Vitello’s group in 2019.

From 1989 on, both men’s basketball and baseball missed the NCAA Tournament in the same season ten times. That includes some frustrating days in football in 2011-2012, plus seasons where we thought more was out there in 2015-2016. Those off-seasons were both especially long, and not that long ago.

How many times have men’s basketball and baseball made the NCAA Tournament in the same season?

Five. And four of them have been the last four seasons (minus covid).

The other is 2001, which followed an obvious rebuilding year in football from the fall of 2000. That was Jerry Green’s last basketball season, one of the harshest roller coasters this campus has ever seen. Baseball did make the College World Series that spring.

But other than that, this notion that we have reason for real investment in both men’s basketball and baseball in the same season has never existed until the current combination of Rick Barnes and Tony Vitello.

The first two years of their run included a Gator Bowl appearance and the subsequent end of the Jeremy Pruitt era in football. Then we got an upswing with the Music City Bowl.

And now, it feels like we’ve got everything.

Comments are closed.