1924 record: 3-5 (0-4)
Tennessee football had seen sporadic success to this point under different head coaches. But M.B. Banks was entering his fifth season in 1925 and needing to make a splash after a 3-5 season in 1924 that saw him go winless in the Southern Conference.
That had been the Vols’ first losing season on record since 1911, when Zora Clevenger was builting a program in the 1910s before World War I, one that culminated with a 9-0 1914 season. Here, there was determination to replicate what had been successful then.
This year, Banks brought on an assistant coach who would just happen to become the Vols’ head coach a year later, the General himself, Robert Neyland. With Neyland on the staff, Rocky Top managed to turn things around.
Banks’s squad started out with a bang, beating Emory and Henry 51-0. Then they shut out Maryville 13-0. A 34-7 loss to the Vanderbilt Commodores was tough to swallow, as was a scoreless tie to the LSU Tigers.
But after that, they scored wins over the Georgia Bulldogs, Centre Colonels and then-Mississippi A&M Aggies (now Mississippi State Bulldogs) before losing their final game of the season to the Kentucky Wildcats. Despite that loss, going from 3-5 to 5-2-1 was remarkable.
And with Neyland on the staff set to take over the next year, in 1926, this was also the year that laid the foundation for the unprecedented success that was to come. So it’s not the most memorable turnaround year, but it is indeed a big deal.