Robert Neyland - Coaching Career

Coaching Career

Wanting to continue coaching, Captain Neyland was appointed Professor of Military Science at the University of Tennessee. After one season as an assistant to head coach M. B. Banks, Neyland was named football head coach and athletic director by Nathan W. Dougherty in 1926. He coached the team for nine years before the Army called him to active duty for one year in Panama. During that first nine-year stint with the Vols, Neyland had five undefeated seasons, all within a six-year period (1927, 1928, 1929, 1931, and 1932).

The Vols reeled off undefeated streaks of 33 and 28 straight games. Upon returning to Tennessee from the Panama Canal Zone he retired from the military in favor of coaching.

He coached two more unbeaten Volunteer teams in 1938 and 1939. The 1938 team was national champion and the 1939 squad is notable for being the last college football team to go an entire regular season unscored upon, shutting out every opponent. UT's run of 17 straight shutouts and 71 consecutive shutout quarters are still records that many think will stand forever. Neyland completed another undefeated regular season in 1940. Neyland was recalled to military service again in 1941. In World War II Neyland served in the China-Burma-India Theater, supervising the transportation of material through monsoons and across the Himalayas to the troops commanded by General "Vinegar" Joe Stillwell. During his military career he was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal and the Legion of Merit and made a member of the Order of the British Empire.

He retired from military service a second time, in 1946, with the rank of brigadier general, and again returned to the Volunteers as coach through 1952. After producing mediocre teams in the late forties, many thought that the General had lost his touch, as more teams moved toward the "T formation" and Neyland continued running the single wing. Neyland was vindicated, however, as he ended his career with a flourish, leading the Vols to national championships in 1950 and 1951. He remained as athletic director at the university until his death.

Shortly before his death, Neyland drew up plans for a major expansion and renovation to the Vols' home stadium, Shields-Watkins Field. UT renamed the stadium Neyland Stadium in his honor before the 1962 season, and the plans he drew up were so far ahead of their time that they have been used as the basis for every major expansion since then.

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