“Man, I hate Tennessee.”
Those four words sparked a fire, one with more crimson flames than orange that fueled a campus tradition that has come to be known as Tennessee Hate Week.
University of Alabama sophomore Irvin Carney was waiting at a Crimson Ride bus stop — those were brand new at the time — outside of Ferguson Center when senior Nick Adam approached him on Oct. 18, 2007. Adam asked Carney how he felt about Tennessee, and Carney went on a rant.
Adam immediately realized he should be filming this; that’s why he was out on campus with his camera in the first place. He was working on an Alabama-Tennessee rivalry package for a now-defunct sports website, Palestra.net. So he told Carney to hold that thought while he set everything up, hoping the microphone he had previously damaged would work.
“All right, man,” Adam said. “Just say what you’ve been saying, man. Why do you hate Tennessee?”
“You know when you know you’ve gotten what you wanted?” Adam says 11 years later. “And you’re just like, ‘All right, I’m done. I’ve got to go to the Ferg and get some food.’ I was pumped because I didn’t have to work. It’s just nice when you don’t have to work super hard to pull good content out of people.”
The content was so good Adam immediately uploaded the raw footage to YouTube and gave it the name, “Bama fan trashing Tennessee.”
Surely you’ve seen it. It has more than 670,600 views, and that’s just on the original video. Multiple organizations have shared it on their own platforms. It goes like this:
“First of all, it’s Tennessee. I just hate them because they lowdown, they dirty, they some snitches, and I hate Phillip Fulmer. … Tennessee’s color is that throw-up orange. It’s not that orange you can sit with. It’s that puke inside a pumpkin orange, and I don’t like pumpkins.”
History backs up what Carney says in the video, or at least some of it. Personal bias may take over toward the end.
“Talk to your uncles and aunties, moms and dad, and big brothers and big sisters, they will tell you and they know,” Carney said. “People had been saying that around the dinner table, cooler or tailgate for a while. But this was the first time people had seen somebody on video talking about it.”
This may come as a shock considering where the two programs stand right now. But in the Southeastern Conference 2018 record book, Tennessee is right underneath No. 1 Alabama in the SEC all-time football standings.
The Crimson Tide has a 71.3 winning percentage and Tennessee has a 62.2-percent mark. Both are over the course of 84 years and do not include this season’s record.
Between the two teams alone, Alabama leads the series 54-38-7, which is after vacated wins and forfeits.
“It was a lot more intense of a rivalry back when they (Tennessee) were a better football team,” said Kurt Hansen, who graduated from UA in 1981 and now has a son at the Capstone. “But in recent years, it has kind of slowed down just a little bit. There had been some games almost as bad as Auburn.”
Since UA coach Nick Saban took over in 2007, the Crimson Tide has not lost to the Volunteers. That 11-0 run matches the longest Third Saturday in October winning streak, which Alabama set from 1971-81 under late coach Paul W. “Bear” Bryant. That streak came to a halt when then-No. 2 Alabama was upset by an unranked Tennessee on the road by seven points in 1982, sparking a four-year advantage for the Vols.
Saturday’s 2:30 p.m. CT game in Knoxville will mark their 101st meeting.
“The Alabama-Tennessee rivalry was always considered a gentlemen’s rivalry really,” TiderInsider.com founder Rodney Orr said. “It was a classy rivalry through the years. I think that’s pretty much the way it was viewed, even though it was fierce competition. It probably wasn’t the kind of hate, if you want to use that work, like the Auburn rivalry has always been.
“Then came Phillip Fulmer.”
Johnny Majors was Tennessee’s head coach for almost 16 seasons. The word almost is used because during his final year — 1992 — he had to undergo heart surgery and then-offensive coordinator Fulmer was named interim coach. Fulmer opened the season with three straight victories. When Majors returned, the Vols finished out the regular season 5-3.
After that, Majors was forced to resign and Fulmer was promoted.
Majors was 4-12 against Alabama while at Tennessee. He’s the one who snapped Bryant’s streak and won back-to-back-to-back-to-back games, but then also lost seven years in a row afterward.
“His inconsistency against Alabama probably cost Johnny Majors his job, or allowed Phillip Fulmer to position himself to move in and get that job even though he was an assistant on the staff under Majors,” Orr said. “So, Phillip Fulmer realized the importance, obviously being a former Tennessee player, of beating Alabama, and he took it to another level. He changed the rivalry. It became hate.”
This isn’t where the idea of Tennessee Hate Week transpired, but it very well could have been if hashtags were around.
Fulmer and the Vols became good. They defeated Alabama from 1995-2001, then again from 2003-04 and in 2006.
“There was a time when he was the coach there that you didn’t sense a lot of confidence here,” Orr said. “Because he started winning. There was a sense of, do we have a chance to pull this off?”
‘They some snitches’
Not only did Fulmer beat Alabama numerous times, he ratted the Crimson Tide out — some say to save himself and the Vols.
In 2002, the NCAA slapped Alabama with a five-year probation, including a two-year postseason ban and loss of scholarships, after a scandal that involved boosters paying prospective recruits. Fulmer was one of the NCAA’s secret witnesses against Alabama. He provided information that incriminated the Crimson Tide.
“That was the nicest thing they would have called them back in the day: snitches,” Orr said.
While it is not proven, people believe Fulmer helped bust Alabama so that in return the league would overlook any Tennessee violations.
But it didn’t stop there.
TiderInsider.com covers recruiting and has been around since 1996.
“A lot of the top prospects that Alabama was recruiting, that Tennessee was recruiting, we talked to them and they would tell us that Fulmer was negatively recruiting against Alabama,” Orr said. “One in particular was a highly-recruited running back out of Nashville named Santonio Beard, who had grown up an Alabama fan as I recall. And I have an interview with him where he told me about repeated calls from Fulmer bashing Alabama. In fact, (Fulmer) told him in one of their contacts that Alabama’s football program would be out of business in two years.
“That’s kind of been something Alabama fans have never forgotten.”
They’ve never forgotten Fulmer, that’s for sure.
And he’s back.
On Dec. 1, 2017, Tennessee named Fulmer its new athletic director.
Orr’s website message boards immediately reacted.
“They said, ‘Watch out, Phillip Fulmer is back,’” Orr said. “’Trouble could be around the corner.’”
‘And I hate Phillip Fulmer’
That trouble is here. It’s Tennessee Hate Week in Tuscaloosa. This Saturday will be the first time Alabama plays a Tennessee team that has Fulmer in any sort of position since his time as head coach ended there in 2008.
Old wounds are reopening.
“That’s kind of what I sense this week, something that we haven’t sensed in a long time,” Orr said. “I know the Alabama fans like to say that Nick Saban processed Phillip Fulmer, and they want him to process him again.”
The Volunteers are 3-3. They’re coming off a big 30-24 victory over Auburn last weekend. Tennessee was a 15-point underdog, according to OddsSharks.com.
“I wish they both could have lost last week,” Carney said. “But now that I look back on it – Phillip Fulmer’s smile and him laughing on the sideline – I would have been OK with an Auburn victory.”
And that’s saying something.
It has been 11 years since Carney and Adam made that seasonally viral video. Both have lives outside of Alabama – Carney, 30, is a lead software engineer at 84.51 in Cincinnati and Adam, 32, is a priest at St. Richard Catholic Church in Jackson, Mississippi – but keep up with the Crimson Tide.
“We haven’t lost since I made that video,” Carney said. “So, I’m not saying I’m a good luck charm, but it seems like I’m a good luck charm.”
People recognize him as such, too. Those who know Adam shot the video give him just as much credit.
Carney still embraces his hatred of Tennessee, while Adam now prefers not to use that word.
“Tennessee Strongly Dislike Week would be great,” Adam said.
The video was made all in good fun. They do wish YouTube monetized things back then, since it’s re-shared every year around this time and they don’t get any profit. But as time passes and Alabama continues to separate itself talent-wise from Tennessee, people forget the truth behind Carney’s words.
So, this was all a friendly reminder.
“Hopefully at least it’s a history lesson,” Adam said. “It’s like oh yeah, there’s this thing where Phillip Fulmer allegedly turned us in, got us on probation and all this stuff. Nobody knows this now. But he’s (Carney) obviously been wounded by this event and it colors his commentary.”
Just a little.
“I hate Tennessee, man.”
Reach Terrin Waack at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 205-722-0229.