By Alex Norman
A new year is nearly upon us, but we are all so busy we barely have time to think about tomorrow much less than the next twelve months. But don’t fret. I’m here to give you a sneak peak into the local sports scene in 2020.
(Note: Some of these entries are tongue in cheek. See if you can guess which ones!)
The Vols win their eighth and final game of the 2019 season by defeating Indiana 31-0 in the Gator Bowl. Tennessee receiver Jauan Jennings, suspended by the SEC for the first half, but still wins game MVP honors after scoring four touchdowns and kicking a field goal.
The Tennessee men’s basketball team hosts Ole Miss on January 21 and for some reason Lane Kiffin shows up for the game at Thompson-Boling Arena. He receives a rousing ovation. After the game he has his assistant coaches call Tennessee recruits telling them not to go to class.
Two days later, the Lady Vols/UConn rivalry is renewed for the first time in 13 years with a game in Hartford. The rivalry gets turned up a notch when Lady Vols head coach Kellie Jolly hits UConn head coach Geno Auriemma with a steel chair after the game.
National Signing Day ends with the Vols ranked 15th in the nation and 7th in the SEC. At the NSD press conference, Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt announces the hiring of former UT coach Butch Jones, recently fired as an Alabama intern, as the Vols director of bake sales. As Jones is still on the payroll and can’t get another coaching job, he accepts the position.
Tennessee’s men’s basketball team upsets 3 seed Michigan State in the 2nd round of the NCAA tournament. After the game, Vols head coach Rick Barnes serenades Tennessee fans that were at the game with a guitar solo. Five days later the Vols are knocked out of the tournament in the Elite 8 because the basketball gods simply won’t allow a Tennessee team to get to the Final Four.
Tennessee’s women’s basketball team is eliminated in the Sweet 16.
The Bearden boys’ basketball team repeats as state champion.
75,000 fans show up for the annual Orange and White Game. After the game recently departed wide receiver Jauan Jennings announces that he is staying at UT and will play for the Vols next season. When told he has used up his eligibility, Jennings tries to convince reporters that is merely an NCAA “suggestion.”
A week later, Jennings changes his mind when he learns that he will stay in-state when he is picked in the 6th round of the NFL draft by the Tennessee Titans.
More improvement for Tennessee’s baseball team as this year they advance to the NCAA tournament and host regionals.
As is tradition, the Tennessee softball team remains the program’s most consistent winner, making it to the Women’s College World Series yet again.
The Farragut baseball team wins yet another state championship.
Temperatures reach 400 degrees locally and no one is willing to go outside, much less play a sport. There are rumors of baseball taking place in Kodak, but no confirmation. Should minor league baseball return someday to Knox County, we will investigate this matter further.
Tennessee arrives at SEC Media Days as one of the hot teams in the country. It will be the third year under Pruitt, and time to make a move in the Eastern Division. When asked about all the preseason hype, Pruitt tells reporters that he still likes cornbread.
The Vols have a very productive Fall camp. They get out of those practices without suffering any major injuries.
Tennessee gets off to a good start to the 2020 season with a 34-10 victory over Charlotte. A week later they fall in a competitive contest at Oklahoma 27-24.
In front of a raucous sold out crowd on September 26, the Vols upset Florida 17-14 at Neyland Stadium. Vols fans rush the field for the first time since the 1998 victory over the Gators. Tennessee athletics director Phillip Fulmer pays the SEC’s $250,000 fine out of his own pocket.
On October 24 the 5-1 Vols host undefeated Alabama in what some reporters are calling an SEC title game preview. Tennessee loses 28-27 in a game best remembered by several questionable calls that went in favor of the Crimson Tide. Vols fans begin a march to the SEC offices in Birmingham.
Things are much more positive a week later when the Vols shut out Arkansas 99-0.
On November 7 the Vols beat Kentucky 14-3 because this is a Tennessee/Kentucky game and frankly that result is what almost always happens. A week later the Vols lose at Georgia but finish strong with wins over Troy and Vanderbilt.
The Vols finish their best regular season in 13 years with a 9-3 record. They accept a bid to the Sugar Bowl. Tennessee fans buy every ticket. Not just their own allotment, but somehow, they get their hands on all the tickets from their opponents, the Texas Longhorns.
Tennessee quarterback Jarrett Guarantano wins the Heisman Trophy. There’s really nothing else that happens this month as the strangest college football career in Vols history ends.