*Played no conference games (SIAA Member)
Yes, Tennessee football went undefeated way back in the 1890s, before they ever had an official head coach and while the sport itself was just getting off the ground. This was a significant season for many reasons, though.
The Vols had not officially counted football games in the record books for three years, and 1896 was to be the first season in which they brought it back. That was after going 2-0-2 and 3-2-1 as Independents in 1894 and 1895 with W. B. Stokely as a student coach.
But the first three seasons any records counted, they went 0-1 in 1891, 2-5 in 1892 and 2-5 in 1893. So with the sport restored officially, it was crucial that they have a good year. Also, this was their first season as official members of any conference, the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association.
Simply put, the early foundations for the Vols were laid this season. And while they didn’t play any SIAA games this year, it was going to set the stage for the future. They came through behind Captain Strang Nicklin and went 4-0 on the year.
A 10-0 win over Williamsburg was their first game of the year. They then beat the Chattanooga Athletic Club 4-0, and they closed out the year with a 30-0 win over Central Kentucky, who are now the Eastern Kentucky Colonels.
However, the highlight win was a 6-4 win over what was the original Virginia Tech Hokies program, VPI. That was critical to the history of UT, and the next year they would win their first SIAA game against Cumberland. So this undefeated season may have saved football on Rocky Top.