When word began to circulate Saturday morning that the 42-foot boat taking part in one of college football’s great traditions had caught on fire and began to descend into the Tennessee River, it would have been pretty easy for Tennessee fans to dismiss the idea of a bad omen on the brink of a new season.

After all, hadn’t the Vols already sunk as low as they could go this past decade? Hadn’t Vol fans stepped up on that fateful Sunday in late November 2017 and declared themselves the true saviors of the program, canceling the hire of Greg Schiano and eventually running athletics director John Currie out of town so that championship-winning coach Phil Fulmer could ride in and restore the Big Orange glory of two decades ago? With Saint Phil and his hand-picked coach Jeremy Pruitt now in charge, wasn’t it about to feel like 1998 all over again in Knoxville?

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