The Tennessee Volunteer nickname began from a call for volunteer soldiers by the army during the War of 1812. A request of 3,500 soldiers was made, and over 25,000 Tennesseans answered the call. The Tennessee Volunteers participated in battles from the Gulf of Mexico to the Canadian Border. Under the command of fellow Tennessee native Andrew Jackson at the Battle of New Orleans, Tennessee Volunteers took part in the greatest victory of the war when they helped to defeat a wave of top British soldiers. A captain in the 2nd East Tennessee militia, Jacob Hartsell, was among the soldiers involved. He was so inspired as to write a poem entitled “The Brave Volunteer”. This is known as the earliest written reference to Tennesseans as “Volunteers”. Two decades later, Tennesseans advanced their reputation as Volunteers when several hundred made an unsolicited journey to help the Davy Crockett and the Texans in their war for independence from Mexico. The Volunteer name was solidified during the Mexican-American War when a call for 2,800 soldiers brought out over 30,000 volunteers. In 1897, the new student yearbook was christened “The Volunteer”, and in 1902, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution referred to a University of Tennessee sports team (football) as “Volunteers” for the first time. In 1905, Tennessee Volunteers became the official name for sports teams from UT.
The colors orange and white were selected by Charles Moore, a member of the first football team in 1891, and were later approved by a vote of the student body. The colors were those of the common American daisy, which grew in profusion on The Hill. Orange jerseys were first worn by the Tennessee Football team in 1922.
Mascot: Smokey (Blue Tick Hound)
After a student poll sponsored by the Pep Club revealed a desire to select a live mascot for the University, the Pep Club held a contest in 1953 to select a coonhound, a native breed of the state, as the mascot to represent the school. Announcements of the contest in local newspapers read, “This can’t be an ordinary hound. He must be a ‘Houn’ Dog’ in the best sense of the word.” The late Rev. Bill Brooks entered his prize-winning blue tick coon hound, “Brooks’ Blue Smokey,” in the contest. At halftime of the Mississippi State game that season, the dogs were lined up on the old cheerleaders’ ramp at Shields-Watkins Field. Each dog was introduced over the loudspeaker and the student body cheered for their favorite, with “Blue Smokey” being the last hound introduced. When his name was called, he barked. The students cheered and Smokey threw his head back and barked again. This kept going until the stadium was in an uproar and UT had found its mascot.
Known as one of the most infectious and well known fight songs in the nation, Rocky Top is in fact, not the official fight song of the University of Tennessee. Rocky Top was written in 1967 by the late Felice and Boudleaux Bryant. The song was not played at Neyland Stadium until 1972, but quickly became a fan favorite. Rocky Top was adopted as an official state song by a public acts bill passed in the legislature in 1982.
Since the 1800s, “The Hill” has been symbolic of the higher education in the state of Tennessee. The University, founded in 1794 as Blount College moved to “The Hill” in 1828 and quickly grew around it. The main part of UT’s old campus stands on this rising bank above the north shore of the Tennessee River. Neyland Stadium sprawls at the base of The Hill, between it and the River. Years of constant expansion and development have pushed the campus west of The Hill. Ayres Hall, built in 1919, holds a commanding view over the campus and houses the College of Arts and Sciences, and still provides the most dynamic and recognizable scenes on campus. Next to that building is the oldest building on campus, South College Hall, built in 1872. Today “The Hill” is the center of activity for the majors of natural sciences, mathematics, computer sciences and engineering.