Tennessee football is coming off two straight losing seasons entering Jeremy Pruitt’s second year. A third will put the Volunteers in rare, bad company.
Okay, so maybe the headline speaks for itself. All teams with losing records are in bad company. But if Tennessee football suffers another one this year, the Vols will be in extremely rare company in school history. And it’s not a club you want to be in.
This is the 10th team in school history to be coming off consecutive losing seasons. The other nine are from just four decades: the 1890s (one), the 1900s (three), the 1910s (three) and this decade, the (three).
So with this being the fourth season in this decade coming off consecutive losing years, there’s enough evidence to already say this is the worst decade in school history unless the Vols somehow win an SEC or national title in 2019, which is highly unlikely. But if the 2019 team has a losing season, it will also do something only a few of those nine teams have done.
Coming off consecutive losing seasons, the Vols have had five losing seasons, three winning seasons and one .500 season. Four of those five losing seasons were part of separate strings of four straight losing seasons, from 1903 to 1906 and from 2010 to 2013. The other, in 1911, marked another string of three straight seasons.
Simply put, Tennessee football has had a streak of three or more losing seasons only three times in history: 1903 to 1906, 1909 to 1911, and 2010 to 2013. If they suffer through a losing season this year, that will mark a fourth time in school history that this has happened. And it will mark the second time this decade alone.
Of course, the 1909-1912 period still marked a period of four straight seasons without a winning record, as the Vols went 4-4 in 1912. And they also had three straight such seasons from 1962 to 1964. But having a .500 season in the SEC is almost impossible to do now.
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If a team goes 6-6 in the SEC, they make a bowl game, making for a 13th game. The only way they could play 14 is if they went 6-6, somehow won their division, and then went to a bowl game. But nobody wins their division in the SEC at 6-6.
As a result, the only chance to really finish .500 is to be on probation or have a regular season non-conference game canceled due to weather. That way they could get to a bowl at 6-5 and then lose their bowl game.
Tennessee football is not on probation. And they don’t play in an area like Florida or Louisiana prone to dangerous weather during the fall months. Since all of their non-conference games are indeed at home this year, they will play the full schedule.
It’s pretty clear with all these facts that the Vols will either avoid this bad company, which includes three or more straight seasons with a losing record record, or they will break it this year. And they certainly want to break it.