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Road Trip

Knoxville, Tennessee


By John Walters

In Knoxville sailgaters, cheerleaders and the usual 100,000 plus at Neyland paint the town orange on game day.
Patrick Murphy-Racey

Should you roll left at Tee Martin Drive or pitch right at Peyton Manning Pass? To get to the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame do you take Pat Head Summitt Street or Chamique Holdsclaw Drive? And, if the Volunteers' football coach informs you that you can take either Phillip Fulmer Way or U.S. 441, is he really telling you that it's "My way or the highway"?

To ask directions in Knoxville, as any Tennessee fan knows, is to journey down memory lane. Thanks to a city council dedicated to honoring the Vols (and exasperating MapQuest), athletes and coaches who pave the road for Tennessee's success often have paved roads named after them.

"We call it 'Vol-opoly,'" says Tony Basilio, a Tennessee alum who hosts a sports talk show on Knoxville's WKVL-850 AM. "It's the silliest thing in the world."

There is more than one way to navigate this charming little city on the banks of the Tennessee River. In 1962 then Vols broadcaster George Mooney piloted his tiny boat down the river to the game, spawning what is now known as the Volunteer Navy. Today hundreds of boats jockey for berths on football Saturdays, making Neyland Stadium the state's most popular port of call.

You need not even own your own Tennessee-worthy vessel in order to cruise to Saturday's football game against South Carolina at capacious Neyland Stadium (occupancy 104,079). The Volunteer Landing Marina will rent a paddleboat, pontoon or even a houseboat to prospective sailgaters.

Or you might take a cue from the most successful coach in women's basketball history and hoof it. Before a 1987 game against Texas, Pat Summitt -- she of the 821 career wins and six national championships -- was stuck in a five-mile-long traffic jam on Neyland Drive. Summitt could ill afford to be tardy: The then largest crowd in women's hoops history (24,563) awaited her. The coach abandoned her car and walked, arriving 25 minutes before tip-off. Summitt was one of the original inductees into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame (located on Women's Basketball Hall of Fame Drive, of course) when it opened in 1999. Even the directionally challenged have little trouble finding this edifice -- a basketball (measuring 30 feet in diameter and weighing 10 tons) sits atop it.

Then again, you could do worse than be lost in Knoxville. Yes, this gateway to the Smoky Mountains has a reputation as a hillbilly haven, a mullet metropolis. And sure, the guy who created MTV's Jackass, Johnny Knoxville, calls it home. But so what? The city is justifiably proud of its flavor (which, if we had to guess, would be hickory) and its university's unique traditions. What other school has fans who don electric orange so fashionably? Who else decorates their end zones in a checkerboard pattern? So enjoy Knoxville. Who knows, by the time you arrive yet another UT icon may be immortalized with a street sign. Anyone for The Great (Reggie) White Way?

5 Things Every Visitor Needs to Know

1. Hit the strip. Cumberland Avenue, which forms the northern border of campus, has an eclectic array of pubs, eateries and even an oxygen bar. Locals just call it the Strip.

2. Mountains are Smoky and mascots are Smokey. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the most visited national park in the U.S., is about 30 minutes away. Smokey the blue-tick coonhound (above) is closer: Check the sidelines at Neyland Stadium.

3. Watch your tongue. Unless you want an earful, don't mention Steve Spurrier, Alabama, Georgia fans or anything involving Charles Woodson and the Heisman Trophy.

4. Wear orange. You'll feel like a foreigner if you don't. The color is everywhere. And it had better be the right shade. Stay away from Texas or Syracuse colors, and God forbid, no Florida orange. The proper hue? Think hunting vest.

5. Learn the fight song. Rocky Top, an homage to the simple life in the Tennessee hills, is one of the catchiest around: "Rocky Top, you'll always be/Home sweet home to me/Good ol' Rocky Top/Rocky Top Tennessee."

-- Brett Edgerton

The 48-Hour Guide to Knoxville


10:04 P.M. Old College Inn Since 1939, students have walked down to the Strip to consume a beverage and a gigantic Vol burger (eight ounces of beef, ground in-house, for $7.95).


1:17 P.M. Gus's Good Times Deli Fans line up around the building for the unique steamed hoagie sandwiches ($5.45) and to check out the player memorabilia on the walls.

5:30 P.M. Vol Walk Thousands of fans line the streets to shake hands and give high fives to Vols players as they trek across campus for the South Carolina game at 7:45 p.m.


1:54 A.M. The ThinQ Tank Downtown's Old City, home of nearly a dozen bars, is just a Hail Mary from campus. At the Tank, you can truly eat smart: Try Einstein's Egg Rolls ($5.95).

11:21 A.M. Tennessee Grill You can eat brunch on the patio, perched high above the Tennessee River in the shadow of Neyland Stadium. The skyline and the rolling hills are the best view in town.

-- B.E.

The Vitals

Best lodging: Days Inn, located between campus and the Strip.

Best music: Blue Cats, where local bands and the occasional big name play -- Sugar Ray is in the house on Sept. 29.

Best weekends: Oct. 11 vs. Georgia; Nov. 15 vs. Mississippi State

Distance from: Athens, Ga.: 208 miles; Starkville, Miss.: 398

Next Week's Road Trip: Austin, Texas

Issue date: September 30, 2003

SI On Campus: September 30, 2003 issue 
Sports Illustrated On Campus, a new magazine covering college sports and collegiate lifestyles, is available as an insert in 72 major college newspapers across the country every Thursday throughout the school year. Click any of the links below to see selected content from the latest issue:

Cover story: 100 Things You Gotta Do
Road Trip: Knoxville, Tenn.
The Final: For Your Viewing Pleasure
Previous week's issue: Sept. 23, 2003

Send your college sports questions to Milo at Your query might be answered in a future issue of Sports Illustrated On Campus.

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