Vols athletic department legend Gus Manning dead at 99

Tennessee Athletics photo / Longtime Tennessee athletic department official Gus Manning, shown here celebrating a Tennessee touchdown while holding his briefcase, died Sunday at the age of 99.

Charles A. "Gus" Manning, who worked in Tennessee's athletic department for nearly 50 years, died Sunday at the age of 99.

The university on Monday described Manning as "the last remaining link with direct ties to Gen. Robert R. Neyland," the legendary football coach who guided the Volunteers to a 173-31-12 record and to the 1951 national championship. Manning became Tennessee's Director of Sports Publicity in 1951, making him the athletic department's first full-time employee who wasn't a coach.

He would serve as Neyland's top aide, and his duties eventually expanded to include the oversight of the ticket office, business office, event management, facilities and more.

"This is a tremendous loss," former Vols football coach and athletic director Phillip Fulmer said through a school release. "We've lost a major piece of Tennessee history. Gus Manning is an icon. His personality and humor made him a pleasure to be around, and his historical knowledge about all that makes Tennessee Athletics special was second-to-none.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with his family."

Manning may be best remembered for co-hosting "The Locker Room" radio show on the Vol Network on football Saturdays from 1960-2016. His first co-host was Haywood Harris, who died in 2010, and he later worked with Bud Ford.

With Manning, Harris and Ford, Tennessee was routinely regarded as having one of the nation's top sports information departments.

"No doubt Gus Manning was a true legend -- not only at Tennessee but also throughout the Southeastern Conference and national athletic circles," said Ford, who now serves as Tennessee's official athletic historian. "He was a principal figure in the growth of Tennessee Athletics as we know it today."

Manning attended a 608 consecutive Tennessee football games -- home, away and neutral-site contests -- until an accident while traveling to see the Vols play at Kentucky in November 2003 caused him to return to Knoxville. The 2017 opener against Indiana State was his 455th consecutive home game attended and the final contest he saw in person.

Before serving eight athletic directors and 11 head football coaches in his career, Manning enrolled as a Tennessee student in 1947. He was a walk-on in football, earned a varsity letter with the 1948 baseball Vols and graduated in 1950.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com.