Behind the Blackboard: An orange and white Saturday

Rick Wagner • Sep 3, 2019 at 6:00 PM

KNOXVILLE — Just when I thought I wouldn’t be visiting my old college stomping grounds so much in the near future, I found out I will be after all.

My older son, Jonathan, is a sophomore at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Anybody who’s followed my columns might wonder about him being a Volunteer since the family got him situated as a freshman at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro about this time last year. But after a year there, albeit with all As and one B, he decided MTSU wasn’t for him, and he has moved to Big Orange Country. (By the way, his grades surpassed what I got my freshman year.)

Jonathan’s mother and I learned that when you switch schools after the freshman year, financial aid is not as readily available, but he did OK and we hope he can get some scholarship money as he progresses toward a bachelor’s degree. He’s also got a job at a sandwich shop.


On the Saturday, Aug. 17, trip to take him down to Knoxville, we also took my younger son and Jonathan’s brother, sixth-grader Creed, who enjoyed seeing the campus and helped us move things from two vehicles into the off-campus apartment Jonathan will share with three other students. Jonathan was afraid he wouldn’t get dorm housing, so he went ahead and pulled the trigger on the off-campus option. It has a shady hammock area where you can lounge and study, as well as a walking area for large dogs and one for small dogs.However, because of a $400 annual dog fee, his dog, Riley, won’t be making the journey to Knoxville unless he gets a job. 

It turned out UT had space for Jonathan, but not Riley, although it didn’t tell him until he’d already committed to the apartment complex.

Jonathan is living about three miles from campus just across the Henley Street Bridge over the Tennessee River — you know the place with that little football venue called Neyland Stadium. We got to explore South Knoxville just a bit to find something to eat, some groceries and other necessities, including a brake light bulb after we discovered his car’s right brake light went out the morning we left for Knoxville.


The auto parts store sold us a set of bulbs and the salesman tried to install one but eventually declined because it was too complicated to get to the bulb. Then Super Dad stepped up and, after watching a YouTube video on Jonathan’s phone, got the new bulb installed in about five minutes. When I was a sophomore at UT, smart phones and YouTube didn’t exist, much less what we know today as the internet. Bulbs back then were easier to install and/or didn’t burn out for the life of the car.

I also noticed changes on campus. After we left Jonathan, Creed wanted to see where I had lived and attended classes, so we took a trip to campus including my old dorm, Greve Hall; buildings where I took various classes; Circle Park, where my communications classes were; and, of course, Neyland Stadium. Suffice it to say things have changed since I graduated in June of 1987, five years into a four-year degree.

Maybe Jonathan will not relive the five-year part. But he’ll for sure be on a campus with many different and remodeled buildings. My old cafeteria, Sophie’s, is no more, but a bit of the original building facade remains.

Meanwhile, Jonathan got settled in and the next day walked to meet a friend for lunch near campus. We kept telling him to drive or take a bus, but he said it wasn’t far. He found out otherwise and actually got a little sunburned, but the friend drove him him back to the apartment. He’ll learn red is more of a University of Alabama color, crimson to be exact, while UT is all about orange and white. But he’s still walking to campus some.

Go Vols.

Rick Wagner is an education writer for the Kingsport Times News and a 1987 graduate of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He can be reached at [email protected]

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