Majors speaks at Little Rock Touchdown Club (Part 4) jh72

Interview with Johnny Majors after 1982 Kentucky game

Jim Harris wrote these words about the Arkansas/Tennessee football series in the past:

THE TENNESSEE CONNECTION: Johnny Majors, who led Pittsburgh to the 1976 national championship and directed his alma mater, Tennessee, to SEC championships in 1985, 1989 and 1990, returned to the Little Rock Touchdown Club on Monday.

Majors was enjoying the plight of his successor, Phil Fulmer, in 2008 when he last visited and Fulmer was headed out the door in Knoxville. Majors made it no secret that Fulmer had back-stabbed the former Volunteer great as a player and coach to get the head coaching job during the 1992 season.

When Arkansas and Tennessee meet Saturday, it will mark the first meeting since 2007. Both schools started as permanent opponents in 1992, following the SEC’s first expansion with the addition of the Razorbacks and South Carolina. Following the 2002 season, the SEC moved away from two cross-division rivals and the annual Arkansas-Tennessee game went away until UT reappeared on the Arkansas schedule in 2006.

Former Arkansas Athletic Director Frank Broyles was all for Tennessee as the Hogs’ regular SEC East rival, not only because of the state’s proximity to eastern Arkansas, but because the two football programs shared a deep bond.

Below is a picture of Lane Kiffin with Johnny Majors.

Image Detail

I got to hear Johnny Majors speak at the November 7, 2011 Little Rock Touchdown Club meeting. Below is a story about Johnny Majors from 2001:

To Me, Johnny MajorsIs ATennesseeMan
Story by Wayne Phillips, The Greeneville Sun
 

     To me, Johnny Majors is and always will be a Tennesseeman.
He was born in Tennessee, played at Tennessee and was a pretty darn good coach at Tennessee.
It’s unfortunate that Majors feels the way he does about the university. But almost a decade after he left Tennessee with hard feelings, he still harbors an obvious hurt and anger towards some folks in Knoxville.
Majors feels a lack of loyalty by some members of his staff and non-support from Athletic Director Doug Dickey and then-President Joe Johnson led to his departure at the university in 1992. It was the year that he had heart surgery, and Phillip Fulmer took over the team while he was laid up. Majors eventually came back to coach later in the season, but it would be his last in Knoxville.
Majors was a visitor in Greeneville on Saturday. He came to speak at the Boys & Girls Club’s Champions Dinner that night, but he spent much of the day touring the city with Kathy Knight, who was chairman of the dinner. In addition to her many other civic duties, Kathy is the Accent Editor at The Greeneville Sun.
I met Majors in the lobby of the General Morgan Inn Saturday afternoon, and he chatted freely with me for about an hour, almost making him late for the reception scheduled at Link Hills prior to the dinner. I covered the Vols while Majors was coach. Although I didn’t necessarily agree with all his calls and decisions as coach, I did like him because he was Big Orange through and through.
We talked about lots of things. I didn’t press him about his leaving Tennessee because I knew that was still a sore spot with him. He did volunteer some comments, though, that left no doubt that he still harbors some ill feelings.
Majors was raised in the small town of Lynchburg, and his dad, Shirley Majors, was a football coach, first at the high school level and then for over 20 years at the University of the South.
A history buff, Majors seldom travels anywhere now without asking to see all the sights of that particular area. He was impressed with Greeneville. He didn’t know much about our town before, except that one of his teammates in 1953 was a big guy named Charlie Rader from Greeneville, a man he described as “extremely intelligent and an excellent football player.”
Majors retired from coaching in 1996 and since that time has served as a special assistant to the chancellor of the University of Pittsburgh. He said much of his duties involve fund-raising and speeches. He also plays golf “every chance I get.”
His first year out of football left him “sort of lost,” Majors said.
“My dad began coaching football in 1943, and from 1943 until 1996 I had been around football,” he said. “That’s 53 years. Naturally I missed it. I missed being around the players and the coaches and every thing.”
Majors said he still watches a lot of football on television, but he doesn’t miss coaching as much as he used to.
He said he always thought recruiting was a challenge, “and I even enjoyed that up to
a point.” He was obviously a good recruiter, as his record shows. He turned a downtrodden Iowa State program into a winner in his first head coaching job, then was summoned to revive a Pittsburgh program that was struggling. All he did there was win a national championship with Tony Dorsett.
“You never know how good the player will become when you recruit him, but everybody thought Dorsett would be great, and he was,” Majors said.
He said Reggie White, the defensive lineman who he recruited from Chattanooga to play at UT and who went on to become a great player with the Philadelphia Eagles and Green Bay Packers, was cut out of the same cloth.

When Tennessee began looking for a coach to replace Bill Battle in 1977, Majors seemed almost a natural. A former All-American tailback, he was greeted with open arms by the faithful back home. Tennessee was struggling at the time just as Iowa State and Pitt had been in his ventures there, but he quickly got things going in the right direction at UT and won Southeastern Conference titles in 1985, 1989 and 1990.
But he left Tennessee in anger, and has been back on campus only one time since. He did come to the reunion of the Sugar Bowl champs of 1990 last season. The team and coaches were introduced at halftime of a football game and were met with a rousing roar of approval.
“I did that for the players,” he said. “But the people in Knoxville were very nice to me.”
“I left UT with a winning program,” he said, with a touch of bitterness in his voice. “I never had the luxury of taking over as a coach and having it laid out on a silver platter.”
Majors recalled a lot of ball games, both as a player and a coach. He likes to talk about quick kicks, something that’s almost a lost art in college football nowadays.
He recalled a quick kick against Georgia Tech that he booted for 69 yards. As a coach, two of his fondest memories involved quick kicks.
“One came in 1983 against Alabama in Birmingham,” he recalled. “We had it third down and 24 from our 25, and we got out of trouble with a quick kick and went on to win the game. Another was during a wind storm in Nashville against Vanderbilt. We had it second down with the wind at our back and we sneaked the punter in before the quarter changed and we’d lose the wind advantage. Colquitt kicked it and it rolled 81 yards to the 2 yard line.”
The four wins over Alabama rank high on the list of Majors’ accomplishments at Tennessee, including the last year that Bear Bryant was in charge of the Crimson Tide.
The win over highly-favored Miami in the 1990 Sugar Bowl was also a highlight that he fondly recalls, as well as the 1991 Notre Dame game in South Bend when the Vols staged the biggest comeback in school history, trailing 31-7 before coming back to win.
He still keeps track of many of his former players. Two weeks ago, there was a reunion of the 1976 national champion Pittsburgh team and he said several of those players spent time at his home with him and wife Marylynne. There has also been a recent reunion at Iowa State for the 30th anniversary of the Sun Bowl team that Majors coached in 1971.
He also keeps track of many of his former assistant coaches. Walt Harris, an offensive coordinator for six years under Majors at Tennessee, is the head coach at Pitt  “He’s done a fine job over the years,” Major said. “He was also one of the most loyal coaches I had at Tennessee.”Loyalty was a word that he used often, both in the interview with me and later in the evening during his speech at the banquet, attended by some 200 people. He still feels that he was betrayed by some of his own assistant coaches while he was in Knoxville.
      I think he was surprised at the number of people who asked him for his autograph while at the Saturday night dinner. Whether you liked him as a coach or not, he is obviously a coaching legend, and to have him in our midst for a day and evening was nice. He did an excellent job as speaker, and the Boys & Girls Club was the big winner, taking in some $25,000 in the fund-raiser.   I hope someday Johnny Majors will bury some of the bitterness that he holds toward theUniversity ofTennessee. There are two sides to every story, and I’m sure the university people have a different story to tell than does Johnny. But the hurt he felt when he left the university squeezed most of the orange blood out of his veins.  I hope there’s still some orange blood there. Because to me, and apparently a lot of other people that I’ve talked to over the years, Johnny Majors will always be aTennessee man.

 

    
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