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Original Issue


Even in a last-minute farmhouse recruiting session where he has to compete with a Jerry Lewis movie, making a case for playing football at Tennessee comes naturally to the Vols' new coach, Johnny Majors

Johnny Majors parked his car on the back side of the hangar, where it was partly obscured by a row of light planes. He said he didn't like to be seen driving a Cadillac. "If you get your tail beat, it doesn't look good driving a Cadillac," he said. They had tried to give him a Cadillac prematurely at Pittsburgh, too, he said, but he held out for an Olds. Now that he was back in Tennessee, his resistance had apparently weakened, but he still had qualms. When the writer had come to Knoxville the week before, Majors had traded cars with Henry Lee Parker, his administrative assistant, so the writer wouldn't make something of it. "Henry Lee is more the Cadillac type," Majors said, grinning so that he exposed the division in the front teeth of what he calls his "ruddy farmer's face."

The pilot of the orange and white Piper Navajo was waiting in the warmth of the hangar together with a younger man with wispy red hair, a Tennessee assistant coach named Robbie Franklin. It was Franklin who had alerted Majors to the emergency. A coveted high school prospect, a defensive lineman living just south of Bowling Green, Ky., had signed a Tennessee grant-in-aid but was now wavering. Woody Hayes of Ohio State had paid the boy a visit. The visit set off vibrations. The player was good enough for Majors to make this sudden flight.

The university-owned Navajo and its pilot had been Majors' steady companions since early January. There had been Coach of the Year banquets from Boston to Los Angeles. Majors had swept the more established of these honors, but presumably because of the magnitude of his championship season at Pitt, new honors had been conceived, and accepting them had kept him flying around. He had been in demand as a lecturer, too, and there had been rush trips like this one to help get some meat on the bones of a Tennessee team that had gone 6-5 in 1976 and got Bill Battle fired.

"I wake up in a motel room and I don't remember if it's Humboldt, Tennessee, or Kalamazoo," Majors said. "I feel like a schizophrenic. How's it look, Charlie?"

The pilot plopped down a salt-stained pair of rubber boots. "It's snowing in Kentucky, coach," he said. "Not supposed to stick, but...."

Majors looked at his patent-leather shoes with blue suede tops. He was dressed handsomely, if not ruggedly, in a light-orange sports jacket, matching striped shirt and tie, gray slacks and a polished leather suburban coat. He shrugged.

"When I went out to take the Iowa State job in 1968, all I wore was a thin brown suit, like crepe paper. I was ducking in and out of doorways to stay warm.

"My first head coaching job—what did I know? I was a bundle of nerves. I couldn't sleep. I didn't know anybody. I was in the North. I was scared to death I'd fail. I'd always had that fear of failing. My first day at school, six years old, I told my mother, 'I'm not going.' She said, 'What's wrong with you?' I said, I can't read!'

"You should see the official picture they took of me in Ames. The expression on my face—miserable. I'm finally a head coach, and I don't know what the hell to do. I know I can't go back to Arkansas. Frank Broyles has already filled my old job. I know I have to recruit. My dad had told me, 'Lay your ears back and go to work.'

"I got a map of the state and took a ruler and divided it into four equal parts—one each for me and the three assistants I'd hired. I said, 'O.K.. we'll each take a quarter.' And one of my new assistants said. 'Better make that thirds, coach. I'm leaving.' I didn't even look up. I said to Jimmy Johnson, 'Take him to the airport, Jimmy.' I was discouraged enough without having to look at him."

Majors laughed and led the way outside to the plane. The flight to Bowling Green would take more than an hour, bucking head winds. From there, Robbie Franklin said, it was another 30 minutes by car to where the prospect, 18-year-old Donnie Evans, lived on a dairy farm outside Franklin, Ky. Robbie carried an overnight bag. If necessary, he would spend the night to get the boy's signature on a national letter the next day, when binders became final. Majors was carrying only a briefcase.

"What's the story on this kid?" he asked as they buckled in, facing forward in the six-seater. "I thought he was ours."

"I think he needs to be reassured, coach. Woody Hayes came in with both barrels and now the boy's confused. I think he just wants to hear you say you want him."

"Well, we want him, all right. He has the size we need."

Majors dug into his briefcase for his list of recruits, looking for statistics.

"Six-four, two-thirty-five?"

"Yes, sir. Probably make a nose guard. He saw your Pittsburgh defense in the Sugar Bowl and was impressed."

"How about academics?"

"Not too strong, but we can help him. He's certainly no dummy. He read where you said you wouldn't win the national championship with this year's crop of recruits."

"Well, that's right, isn't it? We've done O.K., but we were late starting. If we could have brought in the numbers we did at Pitt...."

His first season at Pittsburgh, Majors said, he signed 70 high school seniors. The NCAA limit is now 30 a year.

"At Pitt, we already had our staff," Majors said, "and we knew what we were going to do. so I just turned the coaches loose to recruit. We were 10 weeks on the road. I told everybody to report on the weekends to see where we stood. We didn't get many blue-chippers, but we did get guys with fire in their eyes. They were desperate to succeed."

With the plane airborne, Majors loosened his seat belt and took out a cigarette, exposing hands surprisingly large and big-boned for a small man. As the Tennessee tailback in the mid-'50s, he played at 162 pounds and led the team in rushing, passing and punting, played safety, was a unanimous All-America and second to Paul Hornung in the 1956 Heisman Trophy balloting.

The pilot turned the Piper north and west, sliding above threatening clouds and into open sky.

Recruiting, Majors said, is never easy, but the degree of difficulty varies. "At Iowa State they hadn't won in so long—a 2-8 record the year before I got there, no tradition, no enthusiasm. That first year we got nothing but nubs. We busted our tails for seconds and thirds. You'd talk to a kid and he'd look at his watch.

"Iowa got all the good state boys. We had to become a national institution to cope. I sent Joe Madden to Pennsylvania. I didn't know anything about Pennsylvania, but I sent him. Joe brought back a newspaper clipping. It said, 'Some schools soft-sell their program, but some don't. Iowa State sends in the Music Man—drums pounding, pamphlets flying around.' "

Majors leaned forward and slapped the armrest of the facing seat. "We had to be like that, like the Music Man. We had to do tap dances just to get their attention. We were living on air, fighting for our lives. Trying to outrecruit teams like Kansas State. But it was a good time to be in the Big Eight. I don't believe you ever knock the opposition; you praise what you've got. One year the Big Eight was 28-8 against outside opposition. I didn't have to say anything against Iowa or Michigan. I could say, 'You play in the Big Eight, you have a chance to play with the best.'

"The second year we ran out of recruiting money while our guys were still on the road. I got my back up and said, 'Stay out. If we don't do it now, we'll never do it.' We spent $15,000 over budget. Not much by Tennessee's standards, but Iowa State couldn't throw money around. We signed George Amundson, the quarterback from South Dakota. About five good players come out of South Dakota a year, and we had one of them. The third year we played Oklahoma to a standstill and lost 29-28. It made our program. The last two years we went to bowl games. Iowa State had never been to a bowl game."

Majors studied his list of recruits. Of the 28 who had signed Tennessee grants, 17 were from within the state. He said you could usually count on at least a dozen and no more than 25 good players a year in Tennessee, so it was necessary to mine the bordering states—Kentucky, for one—and to go into Pennsylvania and Ohio and east to the tidewater area of Virginia. The mathematics was inescapable: in Tennessee, 296 high schools field football teams; Pennsylvania has 567.

Franklin said they had just missed one hot number in West Virginia, a halfback who billed himself 'Alexander the Greatest.' Alexander, he said, had signed with West Virginia—in that state's Capitol Building with Governor John D. Rockefeller IV on hand.

Majors said he contacted some of those he had cultivated in Pittsburgh last fall. "I told them I wasn't about to bad-mouth Pitt, it's too good a school. But if they had a visit or two left, come down to Knoxville and see us."

"Most schools can give you a good education," Majors said. "Tennessee has fine engineering, medicine, business, law. But all things being equal, I think a kid wants to know he has a chance to play, maybe a chance to play for a championship. A successful recruiter doesn't lie. He accents the positive. At least I can tell them we're starting out in the middle instead of rock bottom. Tennessee hasn't had losing seasons; it just isn't satisfied to go 6-5."

The rental car that Robbie Franklin had ordered was not at the tiny airport in Bowling Green. Neither, however, was the snow. The storm had lifted and in its wake temperatures had fallen. Robbie, scouting around the airport for a substitute vehicle, found a set of keys that had been turned in, but he couldn't find a car to fit the keys. "How do you like going first class?" Majors said.

The rental agency finally delivered a car from town, and Robbie took the wheel, heading south on Interstate 65 with his foot hard on the accelerator, hoping to regain some time. Majors laid his coat over the seat.

"I don't want a kid whose arm you have to twist," he said. "I want one who it means something to to wear that orange shirt. Even outside Tennessee, it means something. I didn't have that at Iowa State, and not much of it was left at Pitt, either, but I can appreciate the importance of it. I told the Tennessee players at our first meeting, 'It should mean a lot to you to play here, where there's tradition. That orange shirt meant something to the great players who were here before you. Regardless of when we become champions, and I don't have any idea when that'll be, you can play like champions. Like Tennessee teams have played before. This is a fresh start.' "

He slapped the seat with his hand.

"That's why I say, 'Don't come here if it doesn't mean something.' "

He slapped the seat again.

"And that's why recruiting is so important in the fall, when you can bring a boy in on game day, let him hear the whooping and hollering. He has to think, 'Boy, I may be just another student on Friday, but on Saturday I'm special to a whole lot of folks.' "

We left the thundering interstate at the junction of State Road 100, a much narrower ribbon through blood-red strips of raw land opened for seed, and rode past glistening silos and crushed, beaten-looking farmhouses.

"I go into very few wealthy homes," Majors said. "I see kids who are hungry, who see football as a means—an education, a career. I don't like arrogance. If I see a father living his frustrations through his boy, or a boy trying to get a guarantee, I tell them, 'You have a chance,' period. Not many kids have their hands put, not as many as you'd think. But I've seen kids who were tickled to death to see you the first time, and two months later you had to crawl in there on your hands and knees."

The car passed quickly through downtown Franklin, pop. 6,500. A weather clock on an office building indicated it was 27°. In the open on the other side of town, the wind got up and shook the car.

"I've always enjoyed recruiting. I like the challenge of winning a boy," Majors went on, "the chance to look him in the eye, to communicate. They asked me at Iowa State, 'How are you going to deal with blacks?' I'd never played with blacks or coached them. I said, 'If they're men, I'll treat them like men. If they're kids, I'll treat them like kids. I'll treat them the way they want to be treated.'

"Every recruit is not a man. We brought in that group four years ago at Pitt—blacks, whites, Polish kids, Italian kids, guys from the South, from the North. They weren't at all close. They were doubtful. Suspicious. We were tough on them at times. Four years later you never saw such respect and love among a group of young men. They'd have practiced till midnight if we'd asked them. They grew up. How much farther, Robbie? Hell, you said 30 minutes."

"We're close, coach." Afraid he had passed the boy's house, Franklin had made a premature turn, became disoriented and was too embarrassed to confess. He kept driving, hoping for a familiar landmark.

Finally, he pulled off into a narrow dirt drive and came to a stop in front of a squat, cinder-block house the washed-out color of an underdeveloped sepia-tone photograph. No shrubbery enhanced the landscape. A solitary swing suspended between two barren trees turned slowly in the wind.

Donnie Evans' father met Majors at the door, a hulking, frowning figure with glasses thick as windshields over hollowed-out eyes. He was wearing green coveralls and was in his stocking feet and his graying hair was almost shaved, causing his bullet-shaped head to appear to thrust up from his shoulders.

Without fanfare, he invited Majors and Franklin inside, as if Coaches of the Year dropped by regularly, and turned down—but not off—the living-room television. A thick-set boy, wearing glasses indicating eyesight as poor as his father's, came out of the kitchen. The father introduced him as Buck, Donnie's brother, undoubtedly a relief to Majors, who took a chair under a large print of the Last Supper. On the opposite wall a 1977 calendar advised to "Insulate Now." The house had the pungent smell of raw sewage. The father explained that the pipes had frozen and the toilets were backed up.

Donnie, the father said, was still milking the cows. "Buck'll get him," he said. Robbie Franklin followed Buck out the door.

Alone with Majors, the father said he had become an avid football fan since Donnie became a sports-page item. His own enthusiasm had surprised him. "I don't understand the game, but I watch it all the time." He said he even took a portable television to the barn on weekends to watch the games. "I been milking those bastards all my life," he said. "The least they can do is let me enjoy it once in a while."

They chatted amiably. The father said the family "didn't have to live in this dump, we got another place, a nicer one, not too far away," but it was a way to assure Donnie a better school district for his football. Abruptly, the father turned solemn. Tilting his head forward, he said earnestly, "Coach Majors, I think we got a problem. Woody Hayes was here last weekend and sold Donnie a bill of goods. I want him to go to Tennessee, but Donnie's like his mother. Every time he hears something new he changes his mind."

A flicker of surprise crossed Majors' face (he admitted later he was stunned by the finality of the news), but he spoke calmly. "I appreciate your telling me," he said.

Donnie himself led Buck and Robbie Franklin back into the living room. Even in stained work clothes he was plainly an athlete—powerfully built and lithe, with pleasant good looks; a protruding upper lip made him appear petulant. Brown curls spilled from a red-and-white cap he left on as he took a seat on a sofa, a vantage point from which he could see both the Tennessee coaches and the television set. A Jerry Lewis movie had come on, apparently one the boy had missed. Even without the sound, and in the middle of talking, he seemed able to follow its progress.

Majors started slowly, making a conversation piece out of his winter travels. "I tried to get up here a couple times, Donnie, but our schedules got fouled up. I think you couldn't make it the last time." Then he said how pleased he was that Donnie "had decided to come to Tennessee." The boy did not respond except to say he had made a last-minute trip to Auburn. Majors said he remembered Auburn as a place where there were always nice-looking girls.

"I felt like I was in heaven for two days," the boy said, releasing the television from his gaze and offering his first, small smile.

Majors carried the conversation, gradually saturating the room with the vitality of his personality. It nevertheless seemed clear enough that Donnie Evans had been sorely tempted by Ohio State. He was defensive on the subject of opportunity, of where a lineman might go "to get a pro offer." He said he had been led to believe Ohio State was such a place. He said he had been worried over "stories" about all the big defensive linemen Tennessee had signed.

Majors leaned forward. "Who? What big linemen?"

The only name the boy gave him drew a smile. "Yeah, that boy's from Ohio—and Ohio State didn't even try to get him," Majors said. "Listen, young man, competition will make you a better player and us a better team. Did you ever think of that? I don't think you're the type who's afraid of competition, are you?"

The boy said he wasn't. He shrank from the issue. His gaze wandered back to the television. "That Jerry Lewis is something else," he said.

The visit that Majors hoped would be brief dragged into the second hour. Majors glided effortlessly into a lighter pitch. He seemed genuinely baffled that the boy would consider backing out of his agreement with Tennessee. He said he thought Donnie must be "kidding," just "trying to make Coach Majors' hair gray." He pointed out that Tennessee needed big, quick linemen like Donnie Evans, that the need was "critical," that they were "counting on him," that he should remember the positives of playing "in your own backyard," where "we speak your brogue. Do they speak your brogue in Ohio?" He spoke of the pleasure of "getting in on the ground floor" of a building program. "We are undefeated, untied and unscored on—and we haven't won a game, either."

He pointed out how pleasant it is to have your friends come see you play, and to have your future formed "in your own backyard."

The boy looked up. "Coach Majors, that backyard is 200 miles from here."

"How far is it to Columbus?" Majors said.

The father laughed and slapped the knee of his coveralls. "He's got you there, Donnie."

The phone rang and Buck hopped up from his listening post in the kitchen to answer it.

"Wish I had money for every time that thing has rung lately," Donnie said.

The father, who had slipped out of the room, reappeared in a large yellowish cowboy hat, grossly outsized for his shaven head.

"Hey, that's all right" Majors said, brightening. "But, uh, it's the wrong color."

"Well, hell no, it's not, this is Vanderbilt's," the father boomed. "Now, here—" He peeled the hat away like the leaf of a giant artichoke, uncovering a second one of a deeper orange shade. This hat had a "T" on the facing.

"Ah, that is the model," crooned Majors.

As if a switch had been thrown, the tension eased. The boy began to respond agreeably to injunctions and to ask questions. He asked if it were true that the pros "find you no matter where you play." "Of course," Majors said, "and do you think they'd pass up a school like Tennessee?"

Sensing the change, Majors wound down his argument. "We want you at Tennessee, Donnie, and we're counting on you. But I'll tell you one last thing. Once you get there, don't think you won't have problems. You'll have 'em. I did; everybody does. When you do, come see me. My office is always open. If it's something pressing, and I'm in a meeting, they'll call me out."

Donnie Evans remained noncommittal through the goodbys. Majors told him Robbie Franklin would be over in the morning for the signing. The boy said he would "take the night to think about it." An Ohio State coach was supposed to come, too, he said.

Robbie Franklin seemed to breathe easier as he drove Majors back to Bowling Green. "I think you turned him around, coach," he said.

"Maybe. He seemed tuned out at the start."

"He doesn't think he's big enough."

Majors laughed. "Yeah, a kid 6'4", 235, sees a kid 6'6", 250 as a 'monster.' Donnie's plenty big enough."

"You like him?"

"Yes, I do. I think he may be a little wary of the competition, but, hell, so was I. I was petrified. He'll be fine once he gets to Tennessee. Don't lose him, now."

It was dark when the little Piper landed in Knoxville. Majors said he had eaten exactly two "suppers" with his family since they had moved into their new house—a 40-year-old colonial on 4½ acres in suburban Topside—and now he had missed another.

The Hyatt Regency near the Tennessee campus in Knoxville is the spot to take a friend to dinner in that town, it being a house of class amenities and good food and where, in the dim light of the Volador restaurant, a man can get some privacy. Johnny Majors and his companion found a corner table. Almost immediately the manager and his wife dropped by for a chat. Shortly after, a bottle of wine was sent over from another table.

"The job's a fishbowl," Majors said. "I'm not complaining, it just takes getting used to."

When he arrived from Pittsburgh in December, he said, The Tennessean in Nashville had begun a series on his life—eight columns across the first sports page. " 'What the heck's going on?' I thought. I was shocked." A 40-page booklet, Majors of Tennessee, breathlessly written by F. M. Williams and Jeff Hanna of The Tennessean, was in its second printing. The disc jockeys were playing a number called The Major Change by a country-and-Western singer named Sue Roberts.

It was enough to make him think he deserved it, Majors said. "That's the danger—to think you've found Shangri-La. There is no Shangri-La. It's like Darrell Royal told me before I went to Iowa State. 'Johnny, if they didn't have problems, they wouldn't want you.' "

The problem Tennessee has is that it once had a coach named Bob Neyland, who in 21 years on the job averaged more than eight victories a year, an astonishing feat. Bill Battle, Majors' unfortunate predecessor, once said he had to "live up to Tennessee's standards, which is 10 wins a year." Battle overstated the figure but did not underestimate its portent.

Coaching the Tennessee Volunteers offers a man the fairly suffocating opportunity to have at his disposal a big state school budget, a big tradition, a big stadium, a rich and established recruiting program and an interested, mostly loving and fanatical populace.

In seven years as head coach, Bill Battle won more than 70% of his games—59 wins, 23 losses—and never had a losing season. In 1975, however, his team went 7-5 and last year 6-5 when, for the sixth year in a row, it was beaten by archrival Alabama. "The bottom line," said Tom Siler of the Knoxville News-Sentinel, "is Alabama."

For whatever reason—some speak of a disloyal coaching staff, others of poor recruiting ("Too many scrawny linemen")—Battle found himself in a Shangri-La gone berserk. After a season-opening loss to Duke, exterminators, sent by an unknown benefactor, showed up at Battle's office. A FOR SALE sign was hammered into his front lawn, a moving van was sent around to his house. Battle found himself apologizing to his red-faced secretary for the language used in the mail and the phone calls he was receiving. Battle's "retirement"—at age 34—was speculated on, doubted and, finally, confirmed in November.

Losing—rather, not winning enough—is not just a matter of pride at a big school like Tennessee. It is a matter of economics, of protecting a vast investment. The Tennessee athletic program generates a whopping $4.7 million a year. The football program provides all but about a quarter of that. Majors, who once made $3,500 a year there as an assistant coach—he had to go to Mississippi State and an $8,000-a-year job in order to afford marriage—will make $75,000 a year for the next six. That figure includes a television deal.

Can it be worth it? Is there enough money in the world to make a man happy in an atmosphere of uncompromising expectation?

Johnny Majors laughed.

"I've always been my own worst critic," he said. "So who knows? I do know that where I've been has a lot to do with where I'm heading. I think it gives me the perspective I need. I know what Bob Dillon would tell me. Did I tell you about Bob Dillon?

"Bob Dillon's about 72 now. A hell of a man. He was vice-president of KRNT-TV in Des Moines and on the Iowa State athletic board and the first person I met at the airport when I went to be interviewed. He was wearing a tuxedo, probably from a banquet or something. He said, 'We always meet our head coaches in tuxedos at Iowa State.'

"Dillon could see how miserable I was. He said, 'Young man, do you realize you're being offered $100,000?' I knew I was being offered $20,000 for five years, but I never quite saw it as a lump sum. He said, 'Do you realize how much money that is?' I said, 'No, I guess not.' He said, 'Young man, if you don't take a chance, you'll never know what you can do.' He quoted Shakespeare—'There's a tide in the affairs of men which, taken at the flood...' and so on. He always gave me that one, and he'd give it to me now.

"You can't get too filled with yourself when you've experienced what I have. Playboy said we'd lose eight games. Another magazine picked us as 'The Failure of the Year.' We took copies of those magazines around to the fraternity houses and the dorms and waved them at those kids and said, 'This is what people are reading about you. Is that the way you want to be remembered 20 years from now?' I doubt they understood me, with my brogue and the way I mumble, but what the heck, it was fun.

"The thing is, you can't worry all the time about the first play you're going to run in a game. You got to have some fun. There wasn't anything we didn't try, at Iowa State or at Pitt. We got them to move lockers around, for privacy, and put carpet on the concrete floors, and paint the stadium. We got cars for the coaches and a steer or two for the training table. We had meetings just to discuss the colors of the uniforms. At Iowa State we got rid of those drab-colored pants and put the kids in white, and added Green Bay stripes. Players are your best ambassadors, and they deserve good food and good equipment, but they also want to look good.

"We heard the students sat on their hands at Iowa State, and at the first game, there were more people out hunting than there were in the stands. Three years later they were in that stadium shoulder to shoulder every Saturday at 12:30, an hour and a half before game time. They'd stand and they'd roar and roar and roar. Eddie Crowder [of Colorado] said it was the best enthusiasm in the Big Eight. The place only sat 30,000, but it sounded like three times that.

"When we left Iowa State, my wife Mary Lynn said, 'You'll never have a more rewarding experience than this,' and she was right.

"But it's like Dillon said—the tide was right. We wound up loving Pittsburgh just as much. I never thought I'd like a big city, but I did. We had tickets to the ballet, to the symphony. Mary Lynn got them for both of us, and I'd go. I suppose I averaged three out of 10."

Even the struggle for attendance, never ending in a town with beloved professional teams, had been fun, he said.

"Did I tell you about the flags? Last year we beat Notre Dame and Georgia Tech our first two games, both on the road and, sonofagun, we come back home and we only draw 38,500 for Temple. I said the heck with this. We're going for No. 1, we got the best player in the world [Tony Dorsett], we got to have more enthusiasm than this.

"I went on TV. I said, 'We ought to have more fun at Pitt. We aren't always going to look like champions; sometimes we'll look like Ned and the first primer, but we ought to have some fun.'

"And I told them my idea about the flags. I wanted them to wave green flags for 'go' when we were on offense, red flags for 'stop' when we were on defense. Like the Stop-N-Go stores. I wanted a new cheer for Dorsett, and a higher stand for the cheerleaders to stomp around on, and a guy on the mike getting people riled up. And I wanted those flags.

"We called Stop-N-Go. They said, sure, we could have the flags in a couple of weeks. I said, 'Heck, we need them Friday.' Henry Lee called all over the state, trying to find some cloth to make the flags. Finally, he found some. In Altoona. Huge bolts of red and green cloth. He had to send a truck to get it—$2,000 worth of cloth. I still don't know how we justified that one.

"We got a whole bunch of people in there to help, and we cut the cloth in shifts into little flags. And on Saturday we had them all passed out for the Louisville game.

"It rained like the devil and we only had 34,000 people there."

Majors laughed, and then, after a long pause, grew thoughtful. Admittedly, he said, at Tennessee the seats do not need filling. Every game is a sellout. In 1976 the Vols were the third-largest draw in the country, behind Michigan and Ohio State. The team's uniforms are fine, even beautiful. There is no need to scurry around trying to con some beef for the training table or cars for his coaches or cheers into the throats of partisans.

"But I'll find something to have fun with," Majors said. "I haven't been here long enough to know the problems, but there are always problems. The challenge right now is to build a team back to the championship level. Maybe that'll be fun enough. Tennessee hasn't won a national championship in 26 years. It hasn't won the SEC in seven. I think the people can be realistic about that.

"I sure didn't come here to be run off. Or to die on the vine. And I didn't come here to prove anything to Tennesseans. This is home, and I've got roots, but we made homes in Ames, Iowa, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, too. I won't be changing my personality. I'm here as much for my fulfillment as I am for Tennessee's.

"I'll have certain goals. I always have. I doubt, for example, that I could have left Pittsburgh if we hadn't beaten-Penn State last year. I had a thing about beating Joe Paterno, and finally we did. Like Bob Dillon said, 'You don't play Willie Hoppe, you shoot pool.' We shot pool last year and beat them pretty good.

"The thing is, I'm here now, and I hope the tide was right. It's going to be very interesting."

His secretary had left a note on Majors' desk the next morning. It read: "Coach Franklin called. Donnie Evans signed. Coach Franklin wanted you to know your talk had a great bearing on our being able to sign him."

"I think Robbie's looking for a raise," Majors said, grinning so that he exposed the space between his front teeth of his ruddy farmer's face.