We begin RTT's Summer of Brackets today with the first matchup in our Greatest Vol Villains Tournament. This sixteen person field will run for the next four weeks, as your votes will determine the ultimate antagonist in Tennessee Athletics.
A couple of ground rules: we're aiming for the common denominator here, so everyone in the field has been a thorn in Tennessee's side in the last twenty years; no Bear Bryant, no Adolph Rupp, and of course, no Archie Manning. And in the interests of keeping it classy, you won't find any current UT employees or administrators in this thing. Former UT players are also exempt...but as you'd imagine, you'll probably see an ex-employee or two.
It's not seeded one through sixteen, but essentially grouped into four regions, as you'll see. All of the polls for our first round matchups this week and next week will stay open until Friday at 11:59 PM EDT. And of course, we invite your thoughts and comments on each matchup. Many of the entrants have beaten Tennessee enough to earn our begrudging respect, and their fanbases should view their inclusion in this field as a compliment. The others have wronged Tennessee either too well or too recently to be ignored. Either way, remember: it's the offseason, we're all trying to pass the time and this is all in good fun.
So who is the greatest Vol Villain? The conversation begins today with:
Steve Spurrier vs. Les Miles
The OBC vs. The Mad Hatter. One is without question the greatest Vol Villain of the 90s who has still found ways to wound Tennessee in the last ten years. The other is an idiot genius that science and religion have no explanation for. Opposing fans say his teams win in spite of him, but that may simply be part of his master plan. Either way, several of his greatest triumphs have come directly through the broken hearts of Volunteer faithful. Spurrier didn't break Vol hearts, he crushed our souls and then made sure we remembered our failures with his words. He laughed in the face of our very best. Les Miles laughs in the face of everything.
Read on for each man's record of wrongs, then vote in today's matchup:
- He's a traitor. Attended Science Hill High School in Johnson City of our fair state.
- While head coach at Duke, he beat the Vols in Neyland Stadium in 1988.
- Won five straight games against the Vols from 1993-97. While Alabama owns a pair of streaks over the Vols that lasted longer, these losses were a special kind of death because Tennessee was beating everybody else. Between October 1994 and November 1999, the Vols went 1-4 against Florida and 37-0 against the rest of the SEC.
- This line of success came against Peyton Manning, who went 0-3 against the mighty Gators as a starter. This prompted the national media to forget about what Manning did in winning an SEC Championship or changing the course of the Alabama rivalry, forcing UT fans to tirelessly defend our hero against the false accusation that he couldn't win the big one.
- The last team to shutout the Vols, 31-0 in 1994.
- When I picture hell, I see the second half of the 95 game and the first half of the 96 game. And that's before we even factor in all the "WE WILL HAVE OUR REVENGE!" conversations we had between those two games and the swiftness with which Spurrier made us feel so very helpless, again.
- The best knife-twister in the business: "Can't spell Citrus without UT."
- Made anyone wearing a visor in East Tennessee a jerk for the better part of ten years.
- The leader of such fine human beings as Alex Brown and Jabar Gaffney. Seriously, we should have a "Florida Players I Hate The Most" bracket. Watch out for Chris Doering, he's a real dark horse.
- Though he lost his last game in The Swamp to the Vols, he gained a measure of revenge by pounding Tennessee in the game that sealed Phillip Fulmer's fate in 2008. Then he followed up with, "I'd like to congratulate him on hitting that lottery ticket," in response to the news of Phillip's departure and the size of his buyout, which is by far my least favorite thing he's ever said.
- Lifetime record against Tennessee: 12-8 (1-1 Duke, 8-4 Florida, 3-3 South Carolina)
- Has spent the rest of his career making up for what the Vols did to him in 2005.
- In 2006, the Vols lost to the embarrassing duo of Les Miles & JaMarcus Russell. The Tigers not only needed an injury to Erik Ainge and a last second touchdown pass, but a botched call on a fumble on the final drive. Tennessee should've won this game.
- Is the only coach to win a BCS National Championship with two losses. Got there by beating the Vols in 2007 SEC Championship Game, in which he needed The Curse of the Georgia Dome and two 4th quarter interceptions from Erik Ainge. Tennessee should've won this game.
- The ending of last season's game in Baton Rouge is enough to get him on this list by itself, because everything negative that was said about Derek Dooley in its aftermath should've been said about Miles. Was stupid enough to try to change personnel in the final seconds...or brilliant enough to know that the Vols would respond to this particular brand of madness in kind. Made the best moment of the Derek Dooley Era cease to exist. Tennessee should've won this game.
- Eats grass and wears a child's hat.
- Is now the proud owner of John Chavis.
- Not quite a living, breathing train wreck; more like a continual series of inexplicable near misses. Either way, you cannot turn away even when you want to.
- Lifetime record against Tennessee: 3-1. Should be 0-4. Cannot stress this enough.