Bearden’s UT football fans wrestle with the stress of rooting for a struggling program


Olivia Knowling

Tennessee went 8-5 in 2019, a rare winning season in the lifetimes of Bearden students.

Olivia Knowling, Staff Writer

The recent struggles of the Tennessee football program have led some Bearden community members to develop a love-hate relationship with their beloved Vols.

UT fired Coach Jeremy Pruitt earlier this week, and Phillip Fulmer announced his retirement before the hiring of Danny White on Thursday in Fulmer’s former position as athletics director.

UT football has not accomplished much in recent years, ending the 2020 season with a record of 3-7. Pruitt finished his three-year tenure at Tennessee with a record of 16-19, a far cry from the frequent nine and 10-win seasons of previous eras.

This decline has caused some fans’ faith in the program to waiver, but has also tested the true commitment of the Volunteer fan base. 

“Personally my support has changed from watching it [Tennessee football] religiously every Saturday to finding other things to do,” Bearden athletics director Mr. Donald Balcom said. “A decision to spend time with family on a day when it’s nice instead of planning for a UT football game and being depressed after.”

This disappointment has unfortunately become a common trend over recent years for fans, including Bearden students, who don’t even have memories of 2007 when the Vols last played in the SEC Championship – ending a run of five appearances in 10 years.

“It has kind of driven me away from it, you could say, but I still have a little faith that we can come back,” freshman Ross Elder said. 

Tennessee has won nine games only twice in the past decade, and the Vols have had eight losing seasons since that 2007 championship game. Prior to 2007, Tennessee had two losing seasons dating back to 1980.

Some fans are willing to stick through this trying time and give Tennessee their full, undying support.

“I am with the program until the end,” junior Campbell Miller said. “I have been a Tennessee fan since forever, and I’m not giving up on Tennessee athletics.

“There’s a lot of work to be done, but with effort and commitment, it can be done.”

The rebuild of this program, however, will take a great deal of work. Even so, the rebuild process has already begun. Many fans are excited about the potential of White leading the department, after his previous successes at Buffalo and Central Florida.

“I am hopeful with the new AD hire of Danny White that UT football is headed in the right direction again,” Mrs. Amy McWhirter said. 

Despite the large task at hand, much of the fan base continues to remain loyal, as they anxiously wait for White to announce his first important decision in his new position – the hiring of the football program’s next head coach.

“I’m with them till the end,” junior Carson Hammond said. “I’m hopeful we can hire a guy that can turn us around and put us back on the map.”