Smokey is the mascot of the University of Tennessee sports teams. These teams, named “The Volunteers” and nicknamed “the Vols”, use both a live and costumed version of Smokey. There is an actual Bluetick Coonhound mascot, Smokey X, who leads the Vols on the field for football games. The Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity cares for the hound on the UT campus. There is also a costumed mascot that appears at every game and has won several mascot championships.
In 1953, UT Pep Club held a contest to select a coonhound, a breed native to TN, to serve as the school’s live mascot. The late Rev. W. C. “Bill” Brooks entered his prize-winning bluetick coonhound – “Brooks’ Blue Smokey.” The student body elected Rev. Brooks’ coondog when the dog howled after being presented and cheered on by his new fans.
Smokey IX began his post at the 2004 Peach Bowl and was retired in 2012. He was known to be somewhat feisty and in 2006, bit an Alabama player during pregame warm-ups. an ESPN article said a Crimson Tide receiver fell on the dog when the player jumped out of bounds for a pass. AL said that Smokey bit the player; UT said Smokey only nipped, getting a little of the receiver’s uniform but not breaking the man’s skin. He also took a nip at one of UT’s own: running on the field after halftime of the Vols’ game against Georgia State, he nipped a backup long snapper on the hip.
Smokey X, the current Smokey mascot, made his debut in 2013. During the week he lives with Earl Hudson and his family – the brother-in-law of Rev. Brooks, the original owner of Smokey. He is the first Smokey not descended from the original Smokey bloodline, but he is the first from a new Tennessee-born and bred bloodline. He is still handled by members of the Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity and spends the weekend in the fraternity house for home games.
The costumed version of Smokey made his debut in the 1980’s. His costume was designed as a cartoon-like orange and white dog who would often drink orange juice out of a bottle to cool down, mostly because of the color of the drink. In 1988, Smokey’s new, more realistic look featured a black body and led to occasional misidentification as the more familiar Black and Tan Coonhound. However, his white blaze firmly identifies him as a Bluetick Coonhound. He typically wears a TN jersey bearing the number “00”. Smokey is joined at most events by his six-year old little brother, Junior Smokey, who serves as the “kiddie” mascot. Junior typically wears a jersey with the number “1/2” on it. In 2015, Junior Smokey was named “Mascot of the Year” at the World Dog Awards in Los Angeles.
Charles Moore, president of the university’s athletic association, chose orange and white for the school colors on April 12, 1889. His inspiration is said to have come from orange and white daisies which grew on the Hill. To this day, there are still orange and white flowers grown outside the University Center. UT’s official colors are UT Orange (Pantone 151), White, and Smokey Gray (Pantone 426).
UT is known as the “Volunteer State” for the large number of Tennesseans who voluntered for duty in the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, and the American Civil War. A UT athletic team was dubbed the Volunteers for the first time in 1902 by the Atlanta Constitution following a football game against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.
Next week’s blog features the Arkansas Razorbacks.