Saturday’s Alabama vs. Tennessee game will be only the eigth night game in the long and illustrious history of the series.
The first game between these two teams occurred 110 years ago in 1901. Other than 1943 when World War II forced both teams to not field teams, the Vols and ‘Tide have met every year since 1928.
The first night game was played in 1987 in Birmingham when Alabama blasted Tennessee, 41-22. This will be the first Tuscaloosa night game EVER in the series.
It’s amazing that through the 110 years of this rivalry that there are still firsts regarding such a basic element of the game. The reason for this first is the fact that Alabama played its home games for large games versus teams like Tennessee and Auburn in Birmingham. Not just in the distant past, but up until 1999.
1999 was the first ‘Bama-UT game in Tuscaloosa since 1930 and the ‘Tide didn’t get a win in Tuscaloosa versus the Vols until 2005.
It’s one of the many elements that make college football the best game in the United States of America. Even with all the history, pageantry, and tradition of college football, something as simple as a night game could be as monumental as the first game in 1901. Ask Michigan.
Another element that makes college football special to me is the television broadcasts. It can make or break a game. By “make a game,” I mean having a big-game broacast team like CBS covering the game. Even with Verne Lundquist’s shortcomings that have grown with age, the mere sound of his and Gary Danielson’s voice let you know that there is nothing bigger in your world at that exact moment than the game that is playing on your television.
By “break a game,” I mean having the 3-Dave Jefferson Pilot Sports team call the game. Alabama and Tennessee nearly cancelled the series after finding out the game was relegated to the Jefferson Pilot broadcast. It was a slap in the face to the historical rivalry and many believed that it could never remove the stinky sweat left by the big-man-on-big-man battles in the trenches. Come to think of it, Tennessee hasn’t been the same since.
I’d like to invite you to look at the spreadsheet below that breaks down each television broadcast from every game since 1986. Many legendary broadcasters have called this game and it’s only fitting. A series of legend should only be covered by those with legendary voices.
I’m looking at you, ESPN. You took Ron Franklin off the primetime SEC game after 2006. Shame on you. I love the Brad Nessler-Todd Blackledge team, but Ron Franklin and Mike Gottfried was as much a primetime staple as Keith Jackson was a 2:30 P.M. CST centerpiece.
Saturday’s game will be broadcast on ESPN2 with Mark Jones and Ed Cunningham with the play-by-play and color commentary respectively. Though the booth is not exactly dripping with history and tradition, we can all agree on one thing whether you wear crimson red or doodie orange — Bob Davie will be nowhere near a functioning microphone for this game.
That’s something we can all raise a hand to the ghosts of Paul “Bear” Bryant and General Robert Neyland and offer thanks.
Enjoy the spreadsheet. If you look at it with enough of a quizzical facial expression, it can double as something work related. You’re welcome.