Nearly six weeks after unveiling them, Tennessee will wear its "smokey gray" alternate uniforms for today's game against sixth-ranked Georgia in Knoxville. The color actually is part of the school's little-known official color palette, along with orange and white, which have been the base look for the Volunteers since the 1930s.
The smokey gray uniforms will be a changeup from Tennessee's traditional style, but the Vols have tweaked their look or worn alternate jerseys a few times in the past 20 years.
The Vols went with the black outline on the orange numbers for their white road uniforms full-time after debuting it midway through the previous season. For years the numbers were solid orange, and Tennessee added the black outline after adding an orange outline to the numbers a couple of seasons earlier. The double orange lines on the sides of the white pants were removed on both home and road uniforms. The black outline remained on the Vols' white road uniforms until this season.
In their homecoming game against Memphis, the defending national champion Vols, ranked seventh and a week removed from a 23-21 loss at Florida, wore solid orange pants with the regular home orange jerseys and needed a late Tee Martin touchdown pass to avoid an embarrassing loss to the Tigers. The orange pants were a staple of former coach Johnny Majors, but Phillip Fulmer, when he took over as the interim coach for Majors in 1992, preferred the all-white look on the road.
After years with solid white pants, Tennessee added a thick orange stripe to its pants for home games, and the road whites featured the same thick orange stripe outlined in black on both the jerseys and pants. The injury-riddled Vols went 8-5 that season, and the blocky stripes lasted one year. The solid white pants returned until 2006, when the two orange stripes were added back to both road and home jerseys.
In its season-opening Sunday night game against UNLV in Knoxville, the Vols wore throwback jerseys in the 42-17 rout of the Runnin' Rebels. The jerseys and pants were white and the numbers were orange with a black outline, but the distinctive look was the solid orange shoulders. The Vols originally sported that look in 1971, when the NCAA changed its rules forcing road teams to wear white.
Tennessee broke out the all-orange look again in the SEC championship game against LSU, and the Vols lost 21-14 to the eventual national champion.
The orange pants with the two white stripes returned to the road jerseys for Tennessee's season opener at UCLA on a Labor Day Monday night. The Vols lost 27-24 in overtime in what would be Fulmer's last season. Tennessee wore white pants for the rest of its road games that season.
Under new coach Lane Kiffin, the orange pants with the double white stripes returned full-time to Tennessee's road attire except for the regular-season finale at Kentucky, but that was hardly the biggest uniform tweak of that season. For its Halloween night home game against South Carolina, Tennessee warmed up in its traditional set but came out of the tunnel in black jerseys with orange numbers outlined in white and the typical orange pants with white stripes. The Vols won 31-13 that night and haven't beaten a ranked team since, a stretch of 18 games.
Tennessee unveiled its five jersey combinations less than a month before Butch Jones coached his first Vols game, and after wearing orange pants at Oregon and going with the all-white look at Florida, the Vols will wear Saturday the fourth combination in their first six games.
Contact Patrick Brown at email@example.com.
Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...