Superstitions and Traditional Beliefs of UTK Football team


The study herein presents the findings on study conducted to identify the superstitions or traditions that UTK students have and follow upon the football team. The study was done through conducting of oral interviews on three final year students. The interviews were done independently for a period of 20 minutes each and entailed a total of 18 questions. The interviewees were all fans of the UTK football team and were conversant with most of the team’s traditions of the tem. They all unanimously agreed that the failure to adhere to the traditions of the team resulted in the team losing a game. The three main traditions identified were “Running through the T”, “Rocky Song” and “Vol Walk.”

Key Words: Traditions, Superstitions, Football

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In University of Tennessee the athletic club is the most popular with football being ranked the best sport in the institution. The continued excellence of the football team in college championships is coupled by a number of superstitions and traditions that date back to the very early years of the college’s inception. New students at the University of Tennessee often find it quite hard to cope with the many traditions and the institution’s rich football culture. Failure to comply with the various football traditions are also believed to have consequences on the performance team and as such held in high regard and followed to the latter. In this study, I seek to identify some of the superstitions and tradition among UTK students in regard to the institutions football team. In order to come up with viable information and data, I conducted 20-minutes long on three UTK senior year students, to get an insight on the various traditions of the football team. Students in their final year of study were selected owing to their in-depth understanding of the various traditions and superstitions.

The aim of this study was to present an overview of the various traditions held by the students and review their implications on the overall performance of the football team. Further, the study was aimed at assessing how intense the beliefs and traditions impacted the UTK students. The finding of the study revealed that UTK students held a number of superstitious beliefs in regards to the performance of the football team. Further, the findings also highlighted a number of traditions done prior to any football match. The students strongly believed that the continued success of the institution’s team was subject to loyalty to the ancient traditions over the years, and that failure to adhere to the preset traditions would result in poor performance of the team.


Literature Review

University of Tennessee athletics website outlines a total of 10 superstitions that are associated with the athletics team. The website outlines the details of each and every tradition giving details of their inception and details of their practice. The first tradition outlined in the website is the “Power of T” which is the official logo of the institution’s athletic department. The power of T tradition dates back to 1964 when it was first used. An important tradition to note from the website is also “Rocky Top” song which is the football team’s motivation song and that is sung before the beginning of any match (“Tennessee Traditions”). An article by Joel Barker written in 2011 also highlights various football traditions and superstitions of UTK football team. In this ranking, “Rocky Top” tradition tops the ranking followed by “Running through the T” tradition, while “Vol Walk” tradition falls into third place. The author also states that UTK ranks among the very best in terms of tradition-rich football teams (Barker).



The study included three participants who were all in their final year of study in UTK. The interviewees were aged 20, 21 and 23. Two of the interviewees while one was male. The interviewees were selected randomly from among the current final year students.


The data collection was done through conducting of interviews exclusively. The interviews were done on three final students. Each of the interview lasted twenty minutes and included a total of 18 one on one questions. The questions were open-ended direct questions. The interviewee responses were recorded on a voice recorder for further analysis to draw conclusions on the research questions.

Data Analysis

In analysis of the interviewee responses, each of the recordings was played and the key points from each interviewee noted. The responses were then compared to draw conclusions on traditions and superstitions of the UTK football team.


All the participants interviewed had attended UTK for a period of 4 years and were fans of the UTK football team that attended most of the football games. All the three participants had attended a game in the last one month and had in-depth knowledge of the team and its traditions. The interviewees were quite familiar with the football traditions and their history. The study’s participants also believed that the traditions and superstitions have direct impacts on the performance of the football team. The football team is nicknamed Volunteers.

The three common traditions highlighted by the findings were “Running through the T”, Rocky Song and Vol walk. The “Rocky Top” song was written in 1972 and is the official fight song for the Volunteers. In a single game, the song is chanted 40 to 50 times and has a hysterical effect on the team players. The song is highly despised by UTK opponents. Running through the T tradition was founded in 1964 by the then coach Doug Dickey. It entails running the players running through a giant T, formed by the matching band. The third tradition highlighted by the interviewees was the Vol Walk that began in 1990. The Walk starts two hours and is most fairly loved traditions. In 2010, the Vol Walk’s path was modified to pass through the Torchbearer statue, which is a traditional symbol of the team’s spirit. Other common traditions highlighted by the interviewees were “The Power of T”, “Orange and White Checkerboards” and “Smokey”. All the three participants agreed that failure to perform the traditions resulted in the volunteers losing a game. The loss was a sign of punishment from the founders of the traditions. A superstition highlighted by the interviewees is the switch from orange white uniform to Smokey gray uniforms to break a curse or losing streak. The switching of the uniforms is believed to result in the team winning after consecutive losses.


From the findings of the interview, it is evident that traditions and superstitions are held in high regard at UTK. The continued success of the football team in college championships has been directly related to the superstitious effects of the various traditions. Also outlined from the findings is that the breaking of the traditions can possibly lead to poor performance by the team. Students of UTK actively engaged in the traditions and were die-hard fans of the college’s football team. The study further revealed that the outcomes of breaking of traditions could be reversed to ensure success and good performance of the team.


The findings of the study fully answer the research question of the study and give all the necessary information required for analysis of the study. The interviewee responses were satisfactory and give an overall understanding of the key traditions associated with the football team. The findings herein also show that superstitious beliefs are a key aspect in college athletics and bear possible consequences is broken.


Works Cited

Barker, Joel. “Ranking The Greatest All-Time Traditions In Tennessee Football History”. Bleacher Report, 2011, Accessed 12 Sept 2019.

“Tennessee Traditions”. University Of Tennessee Athletics, 2019, Accessed 12 Sept 2019.


Appendix A

I give my permission to [your name here] to use my spoken words in his/her research project written for English 102: Inquiry into the superstitions or traditions that UTK students have and follow upon the football team The University of Tennessee, Knoxville. I understand that my participation is completely voluntary and I may withdraw from the study at any time. I understand that my identity will be kept confidential and will not be revealed to anyone but the researcher and my name will not be used in any presentation of the data or findings. I also understand that I may make any concerns about my participation known

Research Question: What are some of the superstitions or traditions that UTK students have and follow upon the football team?

Interview Questions:

  1. How often do you watch football games?
  2. What was the last football game you watched?
  3. Do you watch UTK football games?
  4. How much do you know about the football team?
  5. Have you ever been to one of the games?
  6. How long have you attended, or lived near UTK?
  7. Are there any specific traditions that are followed by UTK students before football games?
  8. If So, what are some of those traditions?
  9. If those traditions are not followed do you think there is an effect on the game’s outcome?
  10. How does that effect the game’s outcome?
  11. How did these traditions originate?
  12. If the traditions are broken once, is there anything that can be done to reverse your actions to change the outcome?
  13. Are there any football superstitions, myths, or excessive beliefs that UTK students have?
  14. If so, what are some of those superstitions?
  15. What caused those superstitions to be begin?
  16. What are the consequences of not following the superstitions?
  17. Once the superstition is broken, Is there anything that can be done to reverse the outcome?