The University of Tennessee has enjoyed a football program for 121 years, having begun in 1891. However, they did not win a game until October 15. 1892. They defeated Maryville College, 25 – 0. The Vols did not have a head coach for the first five years of their existence. The team was coached by students.
(1) In 1899 a head coach, J.A. Pierce, was hired. Pierce’s team won their first game against King College 11-5. The team finished the season with a record of 6-2.
The next year did not go quite as well. Tennessee lost to Auburn and North Carolina by a combined 40 points, while also posting the school’s first ever tie. Pierce had no assistant coaches, so he was the entire coaching squad.
He was fired after the 1900 season, with a career record at Tennessee of 9-4-1.
(2) In 1901, George Kelley was hired as the Vols head coach. He played his college football at Princeton University. His career at Tennessee was not very successful. His one year coaching record was 3-3-2.
Kelley did have a couple of things to be proud of. He led the Vols to wins over Georgetown and Kentucky and he also tied powerhouses Clemson and Alabama. Unluckily for Kelley, ties aren’t good enough at Tennessee. The school decided to let go of Kelley after that one year
(3) Next up for UT was H. F. Fisher. He coached during the 1902 – 1903 seasons. Fisher, like his predecessor, George Kelley, played his college football at Princeton. His one-year coaching record at Tennessee was quite a bit better than Kelley’s however. He ended two years with a 10-7 record. The Volunteers won a school record six games in 1902 and beat rivals Sewanee and Georgia Tech.
During this time the Volunteers played in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association (SIAA). Fisher’s record in 1902 was 6-2 in regular play and 3-2 in the SIAA. In 1903 things slid to 4-5 and 1-4.
(4) S.D. Crawford put in his year as the Volunteer’s head coach in the 1904-05 season. He compiled a record of 3-5-1. His one crowning point was that he was the first Tennessee head coach to defeat the Alabama Crimson Tide with a winning score of 5-0. It was the last game S.D. Crawford ever coached for the Vols.
(5) 1905 brought the hiring of J.D. DePree. His two-year stint at UT is mostly unforgettable. He amassed a 4-11-3 record for his two years. He may have had too much on his plate. While at Tennessee, he started the school’s first basketball team and coached the baseball team in 1906.
He played his college football at the University of Michigan.
During his three year tenure at Tennessee, Levene compiled a 15–10–3 record. His best season came in 1907, when his team went 7–2–1. His worst season came in 1909, when his team went 1–6–2, with the one win coming against Transylvania University. His SIAA 3-year total were 7-9-1.
By Nancy Morris