Army’s football team was supposed to play a game in Knoxville, Tennessee next season on Sept. 17 against the Tennessee Volunteers.
It would’ve been the first time since 2011 that the Black Knights have faced a team from the SEC. That season, Army went to Nashville and lost 44-21 to a Vanderbilt team led by Jordan Rodgers (you might be familiar with his big brother up in Green Bay).
But the game in Knoxville is off. It ain’t happening.
Because the Tennessee Vols are scared.
Specifically, first-year head coach Josh Heupel and athletic director Danny White are frightened of a potential future, one where the scoreboard at Neyland Stadium is lopsided when the Black Knights leave it.
The Army teams coached by Jeff Monken are much better than the one that got beat by the Commodores a decade ago. Monken’s teams have gone to overtime with the likes of Oklahoma and Michigan. They hung 70 points on Houston in a bowl game. They’ve beaten teams like Duke, Wake Forest, Buffalo and San Diego State. Army has also won three Commander-In-Chief trophies in the past four years.
In short: Army’s football team is good, and they have the potential to make things very uncomfortable for folks in the Power 5.
And Tennessee’s football team is not good. The Vols have beaten a pair of cupcakes this season in Bowling Green and Tennessee Tech. They also lost at home to Pitt, and are likely to be blown out this week by No. 11 Florida on their way to a sub-.500 season.
The Vols do not want to play the Black Knights. Not now, not next year, not on a field, not on turf, not in a box, not with a fox.
So, Tennessee canceled its 2022 meeting with Army and replaced them with Akron, a team with a total of two wins in the past three years. That will be a winnable game for Tennessee, and it will be one that is far less compelling and entertaining than a match-up with Army.
Tennessee is so afraid of losing at home to a triple-option-based Service Academy team that they are taking a $100,000 loss to back out of the game, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel. The good news for Army is that Tennessee is writing them a check for $500,000 to cancel the contest.
The meeting between Army and Tennessee was scheduled two athletic directors ago for the Vols. Dave Hart put Army on the 2022 schedule in May 2016. According to the Knoxville News Sentinel, the Vols have been trying to weasel their way out of the game for more than a year, in a process started by former AD Phillip Fulmer and former football coach Jeremy Pruitt.
Tennessee’s game against Army won’t be rescheduled.
Army’s next game against an SEC team is set for 2023, vs. LSU in Baton Rouge. The Black Knights are also scheduled to travel to Missouri in 2029.
In addition to the cash Army is getting from the cowardly Vols for backing out of the game, the Black Knights also now have an open date on their 2022 schedule, which could be viewed as a positive. Another team that is also one game short of a full schedule next year is BYU. The Cougars’ open dates don’t exactly match-up with Army’s, but perhaps some rearranging could be done to set up a meeting.
Deion Sanders’ Jackson State Tigers of the FCS haven’t filled their 2022 non-conference slate yet either. Maybe they’d be interested in playing Army. They’d probably put up more a challenge than Tennessee anyway.