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Why your mascot sucks: University of Tennessee

Spoiler: Its mascot does not suck, but their tradition does

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NCAA Football: Georgia at Tennessee Bryan Lynn-USA TODAY Sports


Tennessee became the Volunteers as a result of President James Madison calling on people from Tennessee to defend the lower country during the war of 1812.

It was asked that 1,500 troops be sent to help defend the lower Mississippi region from Great Britain.

Andrew Jackson would lead the troops from Tennessee into battle and the Volunteerrs became famous for defending New Orleans in 1814-15. The victory even propelled Andrew Jackson into the White House in 1828.

President James K. Polk also called upon volunteers to help fight in the Mexican-American War. It was asked that 2,600 join the fight and 30,000 responded.

Davy Crockett

A soldier and congressman from Tennessee, Davy Crocket led a 12-man group known as the “Tennessee Mounted Volunteers” during the Battle of the Alamo where he gave his life volunteering for freedom.

To this day, Crocket is honored by Tennessee as one of the school’s mascots.

“Davy” leads the Volunteers onto the field of play throughout each game, carrying the Power-T flag.


Caleb Jones/Tennessee Athletics

Smokey is an anthropomorphic hound dog who roams the sidelines at Tennessee sporting events.

He was inducted into the Mascot Hall of Fame in 2008 and has been awarded National Mascot of the Year three times at the Universal Cheerleading Association College National Championship.

I have to give props to whoever designed Smokey’s costume, because it is impressive.

I also have to give mad props to Smokey (and the U.T.) for how they responded after a child made his own Tennessee shirt in September and was then bullied for wearing it.

He made the shirt for “College Colors” Day at his elementary school.

The boy drew “U.T.” on a piece of paper and then stuck it to an orange shirt. The university later made the shirt a reality and Smokey, has worn the design.

Junior Smokey

Junior Smokey is well you guessed it, a real dog and SUCH A GOOD BOY!

Smokey got his start in 1953, when the school held a contest to select a live mascot. The mascot contest announcement read, “This can’t be an ordinary hound. He must be a ‘Houn’ Dog’ in the best sense of the word.”

Smokey has certainly had an entertaining run as one of the school’s mascots, since 1953.

Smokey II was kidnapped by Kentucky students in 1955 and later managed to somehow survive a run-in with the Baylor Bear at the 1957 Sugar Bowl.

Smokey VI suffered heat exhaustion in 140-degree temperatures in 1991 when Tennessee played UCLA. He was later listed on the injury report until he returned later in the season.

Smokey VII was the school’s all-time winningest Smokey, as Tennessee went 91-22 with two SEC titles and a national championship in 1998 during his tenure.

In 2006, Smokey IX nipped at an Alabama player who had fallen onto Smokey after running out of bounds for a pass.

Seriously, Tennessee needs to take better care of this dog. He is a treasure and should be treated as such.

Smokey X, and his mate-for-life Goodnight Gracie are already siring the next generation of little Smokeys.

Awwwww... puppy love...


For reference, here is a listing of all of the real-life Smokey’s that Tennessee has used and their record (in football), as the school’s mascot.

  • Blue Smokey (1953-1954) 10-10-1 .500
  • Smokey II (1955-1963) 58-39-5 .597
  • Smokey III (1964-1977) 105-39-5 .729
  • Smokey IV (1978-1979) 12-10-1 .545
  • Smokey V (1980-1983) 28-18-1 .608
  • Smokey VI 1984-1991) 67-23-6.744
  • Smokey VII (1992-1994) 27-9 .750
  • Smokey VIII (1995-2003) 91-22 .805
  • Smokey IX (2004-2012) 62-53 .539
  • Smokey X (2013-present) 21-17 .552

Rocky Top

The playing of “Rocky Top” is a time-honored tradition at Tennessee. So time-honored that, if I were to attend a game, I think my ears would bleed. (Author’s note: I saw a live performance of Rocky Top by the Osborne Brothers at the Grand Ole Opry. Carry on.)

Tennessee plays the song 40-50 on average during a football game. I have no idea how many times they play it during a basketball game, but for Greg Gard and company’s sake, I hope it’s very few times...

40-50 times.

Just ridiculous. I get it, you love your song, but play it a couple of times. Wisconsin sure loves its “Jump Around,” but it plays it 1 times. Could you imagine fans jumping around 39-49 more times during the course of a game?

C’mon Tennessee, do better.

Mascot Suck Index

Suck Ranking University Mascot Mascot Suck Index
Suck Ranking University Mascot Mascot Suck Index
1 University of Minnesota Goldy Gopher 100
2 Ohio State University Brutus 94
3 Purdue University Purdue Pete 92
4 Kent State University Flash the Golden Eagle 90
5 University of Illinois Chief Illiniwek 89
6 University of Nebraska Herbie Husker & Lil' Red 86
7 University of Iowa Herkey The Hawk 85
8 Michigan State University Sparty 63
9 Northwestern University Willy the Wildcat 62
10 University of Michigan N/A 60
10 Central Michigan University N/A 60
10 University of Southern Florida Rocky the Bull 60
13 University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee Pounce 40
14 Purdue University The Boilermaker Special 10
15 University of Tennessee Smokey 8
16 University of Wisconsin - Madison Buckingham U. Badger 0