2016 Texas A&M vs. Tennessee; The history and connections between the schools

by Travis Normand
October 7, 2016

[If this post reads like a Facebook fan posting, that is because it is.  I originally posted this on Facebook as a fun informational type of fan post.  However, due to the response I got, I figured I would share it here as well.  I have modified it slightly from the original Facebook post.]

In honor of this weekend’s game between #8 Texas A&M and #9 Tennessee, I am posting some random facts that connect the two schools together (regardless of how much of a stretch some of these facts may be).

I should start by mentioning that General Robert Reese Neyland Jr. (famed Tennessee coach and stadium namesake) is an Aggie and is listed as a member of the Association of Former Students.

Neyland played football at Texas A&M for head coach Charlie Moran (who played on the 1897 Tennessee football team). According to the 1911 Longhorn (Texas A&M yearbook) Neyland was a member of the 1910-1911 Texas Aggie football squad and was listed among the freshman class.

On what appears to be page 222 (the page is not actually numbered) of the yearbook, in the last paragraph, it gives credit to the substitutes “for the important part they played in producing the champions of Texas.”  Among the substitutes mentioned is “Neyland.”  The 1910 Texas A&M football team was known (at the time) as the Champions of Texas due to the fact that they went 8-1, defeating every Texas team they played (with their only loss being to Arkansas).

Neyland left A&M after receiving an appointment to West Point in 1912.  He was appointed by Congressman Sam Rayburn, and graduated from West Point in 1916. Neyland won a national title while playing on the 1914 Army football team.

Later, while working as an assistant football coach at West Point in the early 1920’s, Neyland got help from his former A&M football coach Charlie Moran. Moran (a former Tennessee football player) helped Gen. Neyland land his next coaching job which happened to be at Tennessee.

In 1939, Neyland was the head coach of the Vols and Tennessee went undefeated and un-scored upon in the regular season. In fact, Tennessee outscored their opposition 212-0. I believe that Tennessee is the last major college football program to shut out every regular season opponent.

1939 was also the year that Texas A&M won the AP National Title. A&M won their title despite Tennessee’s accomplishment of shutting out every opponent that very same season.

However, it may be the Tennessee Volunteers who got the last laugh in 1939. The Vols finished the regular season (pre-Bowl game) ranked #2 (behind #1 A&M). While #1 A&M defeated #5 Tulane in the Sugar Bowl, the #2 Vols played and lost to #3 USC in the Rose Bowl. This loss to USC prompted the Dickinson Ranking System to award their 1939 national title to USC instead of A&M, and thus technically A&M “shares” the 1939 title with USC (thanks to Tennessee).

Like Tennessee’s 1939 team, Texas A&M was also undefeated and un-scored upon in 1917 and 1919. The Aggie head coach during those seasons was Dana X. Bible (a Tennessee native). Bible was also the coach at A&M in 1921-1922 when the Aggies defeated Centre College. Centre’s head coach at that time was none other than Charlie Moran.

A few other less tenable Tennessee-Texas A&M football connections: Jackie Sherrill was an assistant under Johnny Majors at Iowa State and Pitt before coming to A&M.

Johnny Majors played football for Tennessee and had finished 2nd in the Heisman voting in 1956 (behind Paul Hornung from Notre Dame). John David Crow won the Heisman one year later in 1957 while playing for Texas A&M.

While the Vols still don’t have a Heisman winner, it may again be the Vols who got the last laugh in 1957. The Aggies and Vols ended the 1957 season by playing each other for the first time ever. The two schools faced off in the Gator Bowl, which Tennessee won 3-0.

The second meeting between the Aggies and Vols came in the 2005 Cotton Bowl (which the Vols also won). However, on October 8, 2016, the Aggies and Vols will face each other for just the third time ever. This third meeting is their first as conference opponents, their first meeting outside of a bowl game, and the first for either to visit the others home field.

Speaking of home fields, I alluded to this before, but both teams in this game have home stadiums named after Aggies: (1) General Robert Reese Neyland Jr. ’14 and (2) Edwin Jackson Kyle ’99.

Finally, I’ll leave you with this: as Davey Crockett (famed defender of the Alamo and a real-life Tennessee volunteer) was addressing his Tennessee congressional district regarding his possible re-election, he told them that if they did not re-elect him, that they could all go to hell and that he would go to Texas!

As you know, Davey Crockett and his Tennessee Volunteers did go to Texas where they bravely fought and died at the battle of the Alamo in 1836.  Crockett, now a Texas folk hero, has been proudly displayed on the University of Tennessee’s apparel as he was, for a time, incorporated into one of their marks/logos.  A company by the name of “Volunteer Traditions” claims to have created the logo (known as The Rifleman Logo) and has this to say about the logo’s history on their website:

When we were approached by the University in an official capacity about possibly creating licensed products, we knew exactly what we wanted to create. Nothing says Classic Tennessee like the Rifleman logo. Featuring Davy Crockett wielding a hunting rifle and coonskin cap, it defines the name “Volunteer”.  The Rifleman Logo was introduced in 1983 and used as an alternate Volunteers logo until 1996, when it was placed in the Vault to make more room for the Power T. It was paired with the famous script featuring a star in the ‘O’ of VOLS. We’re sure you remember it.

Sources:

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