Posted: 9:06 a.m. Thursday, April 18, 2013
By Joel Hollingsworth
The Tennessee Football program is hoping to break the school's record for spring game attendance this Saturday. The record? 73,801 in 1986. Recent high water marks include 51,488 for Lane Kiffin's first year and 35,891 for Derek Dooley's first year, although using Dooley's Year Zero math that number could be anything, really.
So the #FillNeyland hashtag movement this week is an ambitious one, and Byron Moore's threat to quit Twitter if we don't break the record is a risky one. But you know what? It can happen. Kentucky just drew about 50,000 to its spring game. We are not Kentucky. The game is free. Parking is free. It's supposed to be 62 degrees and sunny. There's no reason not to go.
And there are plenty of reasons to go as well. Many of us here at RTT, most notably me, practically begged the UT administration to make the right hire last fall, and we defined the right hire as one that would immediately stifle growing fan apathy and give fans good reason to hope that things were finally headed in the right direction. Our error -- my error -- was believing that only a shiny name that was already on everyone's lips could get that done.
But somehow Butch Jones, widely perceived to be a less than inspiring hire at the time, has made as much of a splash as we had hoped for with an already well-known brand name. He can't win any games before they're played, but he has done everything that can be done right now to spark hope. The enthusiasm, the obviously genuine endorsements of former players from Peyton Manning on down, the motivational slogans, the interaction with fans, and on and on and on.
And it's not just smoke and mirrors and finally some good PR. The man has put the Power T back in the Top 5 in the only list that he has control over right now, the 2014 recruiting rankings. He's done what we thought only Jon Gruden's name could do.
So go to Neyland Stadium on Saturday. You don't have to spend a penny. You can sit in the warmth of the sun and enjoy the cool breeze. And you can get a first hand look at what Butch Jones and his guys are building #brickbybrick. He says we'll leave inspired. And much to my surprise, I believe him.