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Wednesday, October 17, 2001
The third Saturday in October
By Beano Cook
Special to

If you are a fan of Tennessee or Alabama football there are two rules to live by: Don't get married on the third Saturday in October, and try not to die -- because in either case, the preacher might not show.

Bear Bryant
Paul "Bear" Bryant coached Alabama to a 16-7-2 record against Tennessee.
When the SEC went to 12 teams and a new format for scheduling, the Tennessee-Alabama game wasn't always guaranteed to be played on the third Saturday in October like it is this year. For years, the best litmus test Tennessee had for a recruit was, "Will he be there to do the job on the third Saturday in October?" If the answer was yes, it was the highest compliment a coach could give a player.

This is one of the greatest rivalries in college football, mostly because of the great coaches and players who have taken part in it. Of course, the two coaches that come to mind are Paul "Bear" Bryant and General Robert Neyland.

Classic Friday Tailgate
This week's Classic Friday Tailgate features Tennessee-Alabama and USC-Notre Dame.
I want to set the record straight about something. It was General Neyland who said, "When you throw the ball, three things can happen -- and two of them are bad." He doesn't always get credit for the quote, as it is often attributed to Woody Hayes. But it was Neyland.

There are two stories that exemplify the effect Neyland and Bryant had as the coach of their respective programs. Lindsey Nelson, the famous announcer and Tennessee graduate, was waiting for Neyland with two former Tennessee players after the 1952 Sugar Bowl, which the Vols had lost, 28-13, to Maryland.

One of the former players was smoking, and the minute Neyland came out of the dressing room, the player dropped the cigarette and stomped on it so Neyland wouldn't see him smoking. Nelson turned to the player and said, "You don't have to do that -- you don't play for him anymore." The player replied, "You know that, and I know that, but I don't think the General knows that."

After Joe Namath won the Super Bowl and was the toast of Broadway, Namath talked to Paul Zimmerman of the New York Post. In the interview he told Zimmerman, "The Bear always said defense won games." The next time Namath saw Zimmerman, he claimed to he was mis-quoted. Zimmerman said, "That's what you said about the defense." Namath answered, "Yes, I said that about the defense, but I never said 'Bear.' I either called him Coach Bryant or Mr. Bryant, but I never called him 'Bear'."

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Alabama leads the series 42-34-7. Bear Bryant had an overall winning record against Tennessee (16-7-2), but there was a stretch (1967-70) where he lost four straight years.

You can't lose this game consistently and expect to keep your job as the head coach of either team. It's a bigger game to Tennessee than it is to Alabama, because 'Bama's true rival is Auburn. But for both teams, it has stood the test of time. It's not only a great rivalry -- it's always a great game.

Beano Cook is a college football historian for ESPN. Help | Advertiser Info | Contact Us | Tools | Site Map | Jobs at
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