Roy Exum: Say ‘Knee-land,’ Not ‘Nay’

Saturday, August 24, 2013 - by Roy Exum

With college football less than one week away, let’s start with the most mispronounced word in Southern football. It is where the University of Tennessee plays games in the fall. The right way to say Neyland Stadium is “KNEE-land,” not “Nay-land”  as so many with a lazy drawl often do.

General Robert Neyland, his coaching career at Tennessee interrupted twice by his military obligation, coached the Vols from 1926–1934, 1936–1940, and 1946–1952. Tennessee won two national championships under Neyland, 1938 and 1951. But his 1939 team was undefeated and un-scored upon and five of his teams won SEC titles, 1938–1940, 1946, and 1951. Overall his record was 173–31–12. (Comparison: Alabama’s Nick Saban now has a 169-72-1 record.)

Neyland, a Texas native who starred in football and baseball at West Point (he was also the national collegiate boxing champion), remained as UT’s Athletic Director after he stepped down following the 1952 season. He actually designed the present-day stadium, overseeing a major renovation to Shield-Watkins Field, and just before his death in 1962 the stadium was named in his honor.

Back to the name: His son, Bob, once wrote a letter to the Knoxville News-Sentinel, and historian Tom Mattingly reported not long ago that it read in part, “Our family has always pronounced our name ‘Neyland.’ My father was a very private person, despite a very public position. He had a fairly small circle of close friends, who knew the correct pronunciation. Newspaper and radio journalists called him ‘Nay-land.’”

That said, here’s a little more of an appetizer before this time next week we will already have seen some games:

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The Sagarin Ratings, a weekly computer football rankings designed by 1970 MIT graduate Jeff Sagarin, just came out and – to no one’s surprise -- Alabama is the No. 1 pick going into the 2013 season. Oregon, Texas A&M, Oklahoma State and Georgia round out the first five, followed, in order, by LSU, Stanford, Oklahoma, Ohio State and South Carolina.

Other notables are No. 12 Florida, No. 16 Clemson, No. 18 Florida State, No. 27 Ole Miss, No. 34 Vanderbilt, No. 35 Mississippi State, No. 38 Missouri, No. 39 Tennessee, No. 44 Auburn, No. 46 Georgia Tech, No. 47 Arkansas, No. 75 Kentucky, No. 85 Georgia Southern, No. 86 Duke, No. 101 Appalachian State, No. 111 Middle Tenn. State, and No. 125 Chattanooga. (251 schools are listed with newcomer  Mercer as last.)

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In Friday’s College Football section, USA Today picked the order-of-finish for the SEC’s East and West divisions:

EAST: Georgia, South Carolina, Florida, Missouri, Tennessee, Kentucky.

WEST: Alabama, Texas A&M, LSU, Auburn, Miss. State, Arkansas.

Six SEC players were named as pre-season All Americans by the newspaper. Alabama’s AJ McCarron was the quarterback and teammate TJ Yeldon the running back. Tennessee’s Antonio Richardson was picked as an offensive tackle while South Carolina’s Jadaeveon Clowney led the defense at end. LSU defensive tackle Anthony Johnson and Auburn  punter Steven Clark were also on the 25-man glitter squad.

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The Kickoff, the weekly college football newsletter that is loved across the South and in other areas of the country, has greatly enhanced its online edition and has added two pages of additional information this fall. To subscribe to the email subscription send an inquiry to or call 423/267-0953.

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There will be five straight nights of college football starting next Thursday and games of interest will include:


North Carolina at South Carolina, 6:00 p.m. (ESPN)

UT Martin at Chattanooga, 7:30 p.m. (CSS)

Ole Miss at Vanderbilt, 9:30 p.m. (ESPN)


Samford at Georgia State, 7:00 p.m. (ESPN3)

Texas Tech at SMU, 8:00 (ESPN)


Elon at Georgia Tech, Noon (ESPN3)

Toledo at Florida, 12:21 p.m. (SEC Network)

Rice at Texas A&M, 1:00 p.m. (ESPN)

Brigham Young at Virginia, 3:30 p.m. (ESPNU)

Syracuse at Penn State, 3:30 p.m. (ABC/ESPN2)

Mississippi State vs. Oklahoma State in the AdvoCare Texas Kickoff, 3:30 p.m. (ABC/ESPN2)

Louisiana-Lafayette at Arkansas, 4 p.m. (ESPN)

Virginia Tech vs. Alabama in the Chik-fil-A Kickoff, 5:30 p.m. (ESPN)

Austin Peay at Tennessee, 6:00 p.m. (ESPN3)

Washington State at Auburn, 7:00 p.m. (ESPNU)

Murray State at Missouri, 7:00 p.m. (PayPerView)

Kentucky vs. Western Kentucky in Nashville, 7:00 p.m. (ESPNews)

Georgia at Clemson, 8:00 p.m. (ABC)

Texas Christian vs. Louisiana State in the Cowboys Classic, 9:00 p.m. (ESPN)


Florida A&M vs. Miss. Valley State in the NEAC/SWAC Challenge, 11:45 a.m.

Ohio at Louisville, 3:30 ESPN


Florida State at Pittsburgh, 8:00 p.m. (ESPN)

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