6. 1977: 4-7 (1-5)
Looking back, this was the reality check year. Tennessee football had all the hype in the world when it hired Johnny Majors in 1977, as he had just won a national title with the Pittsburgh Panthers and was coming home to his alma mater.
Majors replaced Bill Battle. What was not clear was just how behind the times UT was in terms of facilities, as they had been living in the past for a while. It hampered Majors’ recruiting efforts, and that was not conducive to his first year in the SEC.
As a result, all the hopes were dashed early with the Vols losing their opener to the Cal Golden Bears 27-17. They beat the Boston College Eagles the next week but then lost 14-12 to the Auburn Tigers. A 41-10 win over the Oregon State Beavers suggested they figured things out.
Then reality set in further. The Vols lost three straight to the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, Alabama Crimson Tide and Auburn Tigers. They had a slight rebound with a win over the Memphis State Tigers, but then they lost to the Ole Miss Rebels and Kentucky Wildcats, and this was a top 10 UK team that they still nearly beat. A win over the Vanderbilt Commodores ended the season at 4-7.
Majors oversaw the Vols’ first losing season since 1964, which was Doug Dickey’s first year on Rocky Top. That team went 4-5-1. However, it only lost to one team with a losing record and scored a quality win over GT along with a quality tie against the LSU Tigers. As a result, it didn’t make this list.