Knoxville is buzzing with opinions.
But inside the Neyland-Thompson Sports Complex there is no debate.
Down the dark hallways at the football facility, inside a meeting room, 28 seniors unanimously decided to wear the new smokey gray uniforms for their final hurrah at Neyland Stadium – not the traditional orange tops.
How could they do such a thing?
Welcome to college football in 2013, where trendy trumps tradition every time.
Every. Single. Time.
It’s just reality.
Traditionalists may wince at the splash in Tennessee’s age-old color palette, but they’re the only ones doing so.
The seniors have spoken.
Not one was opposed to abandoning tradition.
Face it — “tradition” has its limits with 17-year-old boys, especially when you haven’t won a conference championship in those jerseys since 1998 — when most recruits were 3 years old.
Face it – coaches don’t hit the recruiting trail selling old uniforms.
If they did, Tennessee wouldn’t pocket the second-ranked recruiting class.
You think a selling point to All-Everything running back Jalen Hurd was he could play in the same uniform Johnny Majors wore in 1955 if he came to Tennessee?
I’ll give you a hint — no. No it wasn’t.
|Running back Rajion Neal is one of 28 Tennessee seniors that voted unanimously to wear the Smokey gray uniforms versus Vanderbilt.|
When the alternative uniforms were unveiled to the team back in August, the meeting room brimmed with boyish enthusiasm.
Players and recruits alike have been begging to bust out the grays ever since.
“I hope the Vols wear Smokey (Gray) this Saturday,” Tennessee legacy commit Vic Wharton tweeted Tuesday.
If you’re not a gray fan, you better get used to it. The only thing coming is, well, more gray.
Jones said Tuesday that he talked to players about making the grays a “more standard” jersey option in the future.
It shouldn’t surprise anyone, much less offend.
Alternative uniforms have become an integral part of college football, just as important as flashy new facilities, towering stadiums and championship banners.
"If you had to put a top-10 list that the prospective student-athletes ask you, in the top three would be uniforms," Jones said back in August.
The change should be embraced. Not debated.
It’s really a win-win-win... win scenario for Tennessee.
The alternative jerseys spark energy in the team. They draw fans to the game, especially students. They’re used as a recruiting tool, one as high-powered as the Vols’ crystal ball trophy from ‘98. And they bring boatloads of consumer dollars into the program from all the new, shiny merchandise hanging in the bookstore.
The only negative the gray uniforms bring is upsetting a few handfuls of traditionalists.
“Everything we do will respect our traditions at Tennessee,” Jones said well before the uniforms were announced.
While Jones vowed to respect the school’s rich traditions, he didn’t have a choice but to make a change.
Tennessee was well behind the jersey-craze curve.
He righted the wrong just in the nick of time – to both reap recruiting rewards against Georgia and this time to possibly boost his team to bowl eligibility against Vanderbilt.
But, eventually, the grays will get old. They’ll lose their recruit and team-energizing powers.
Mix it up again.
And again. And again.