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COACH OF THE DECADE
FOR MANY COACHES, ROBERT REESE NEYLAND'S Seven Maxims are to football what the Ten Commandments are to religion. His axioms such as, The team that makes the fewest mistakes will win; and, Carry the fight to our opponent and keep it there for 60 minutes, can be seen in locker stalls and heard in pregame homilies to this day. But when he first wrote them on a locker room blackboard, Neyland had only one thing on his mind: Beat Vanderbilt. That was the order that came down from the dean's office when the 34-year-old U.S. Army captain and first-year backfield coach was charged with the future of Tennessee football in 1926. Before he became head coach, the Vols were a woeful 2-17-2 against their archrival. But over his 21 years of coaching, Neyland rallied the Vols to 16 wins over the Commodores in a run that effectively reversed the nail-hammer rivalry, which has favored Tennessee ever since.
Neyland guided the Volunteers to a school-best 173-31-12 overall record in a career that included two Southern Conference championships, five SEC titles and a consensus national crown in 1951. His Volunteers teams were celebrated for their efficient single wing offenses, but the defenses were the real marvel, holding 112 of their 216 opponents scoreless. The '39 SEC championship squad shut out every team it played during the regular season before losing to USC in the Rose Bowl.
Overall, Neyland's two decades at Tennessee spanned three terms, the first two interrupted by military service. At West Point he served as aide-de-camp to Douglas MacArthur, and he retired from service as a brigadier general in 1946. Seven years later Neyland stepped down from the Tennessee football program and was bestowed an equally lofty title. Knute Rockne called him the game's "greatest coach." Hyperbole perhaps, but as any coach who has borrowed from the general's tenets will tell you, it wasn't empty rhetoric.
TEAM OF THE DECADE
UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA
ALABAMA coach Frank Thomas's role in establishing the Crimson Tide as a major power in the 1930s cannot be undervalued. But 77 years ago university president George Denny did exactly that. "It is my conviction that material is 90 percent, coaching ability 10 percent," Denny told Thomas upon hiring him, "and you will be held to strict accounting for that 10 percent."