Tennessee Athletics Mourns Passing of Gus Manning; In Memoriam Photos and Video

In Memoriam: Gus Manning Photos  |  Video: Gus Manning Remembers Gen. Neyland

Updated with funeral arrangements

Tennessee Athletics has lost the last remaining administrative link with direct ties to Gen. Robert R. Neyland, as the beloved Charles A. “Gus” Manning passed away Sunday in his hometown of Knoxville. He was 99.

Manning, who retired in 2000 after close to 50 years of full-time service to UT, maintained an office in Thompson-Boling Arena until 2017 and held the title of Consultant Athletics Director until his passing. He served eight ADs and 11 head football coaches during his career at UT.

The impact Manning made on the evolution of Tennessee Athletics’ internal operations—much of which was done behind the scenes and away from the spotlight—was no less significant than the contributions of iconic names such as Neyland, Nathan W. Dougherty, Joan Cronan, Doug Dickey and Pat Summitt.

“This is a tremendous loss,” longtime friend and former Tennessee football coach and administrator Phillip Fulmer said. “We’ve lost a major piece of Tennessee history. Gus Manning is an icon. His personality and humor made him a pleasure to be around. And his historical knowledge about all that makes Tennessee Athletics special was second-to-none. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.”

Manning’s legacy extends beyond Rocky Top to the entire Southeastern Conference, throughout which he earned a reputation as a sharp administrator and a symbol of East Tennessee charm and hospitality. He was a longtime fixture at SEC functions and championship events and provided trusted counsel to several league commissioners.

“Gus Manning leaves behind a legacy that not only touched the University of Tennessee, but also the entire Southeastern Conference,” SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said. “Gus was involved in every area of Tennessee Athletics over the decades with his array of responsibilities and developed relationships throughout the SEC that made him an icon, not only on Rocky Top but throughout the Conference. He was a fixture for many years at the SEC Men’s Basketball Tournament and a regular presence at other events. Condolences to his family, the University of Tennessee and his many, many friends across the SEC and the country.”

Former SEC Commissioner Roy Kramer was a close friend to Manning.

“Gus was and will always be a remarkable brick in the foundation of the proud history and rich tradition of Tennessee Athletics, from the days of Gen. Neyland to the present,” Kramer said. “His warm smile and friendly greeting touched everyone who ever entered Neyland Stadium and the other sports venues on campus.

“While that famous Cushman vehicle he used to drive around campus is permanently parked, his life will always be a most memorable part of the heritage of Rocky Top, or wherever the Big Orange flag may wave. All of us who were privileged to know him as a longtime loyal friend will consider that friendship a rare treasure.”

Manning was hospitalized in 2017 and subsequently moved to a rehab center and then a skilled nursing facility that summer. The 2017 Tennessee football home-opener against Indiana State on Sept. 9 ended Manning’s streak of consecutive home games attended at 455 and was the last game he ever saw in person.

Manning attended an incredible 608 consecutive Tennessee football games—home, away and neutral-site contests—until an accident while en route to see the Vols play at Kentucky in November 2003 caused him to return to Knoxville and miss that UT victory.

From 1960-2016, Manning co-hosted “The Locker Room” radio show which aired on The Vol Network on UT football gamedays and is the longest, continuous-running sports radio show in the country. He first co-hosted the show with Haywood Harris, and later with Bud Ford after Harris’ passing in 2010. Harris (1961) and Ford (1966) both were hired on Manning’s recommendation as full-time members of the UT Sports Information Department (now known as Athletic Media Relations), and both were later inducted into the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) Hall of Fame.

Manning and Harris also co-authored two books on the history of Tennessee football: Six Seasons Remembered: The National Championship Years of Tennessee Football (published in 2004) and Once a Vol, Always a Vol!: The Proud Men of the Volunteer Nation (published in 2006).

“No doubt Gus Manning was a true legend—not only at Tennessee but also throughout the Southeastern Conference and national athletic circles,” Ford, now Tennessee Athletics’ official historian, said. “He was a principal figure in the growth of Tennessee Athletics as we know it today.

“For me personally, Gus was bigger than life and responsible for me being hired at UT. I had the great privilege to witness his ability as an administrator firsthand and spent many hours traveling with him to Tennessee sporting events all across the South. His recall of Gen. Neyland and stories of UT football and basketball games was amazing. I will always be grateful to have had a career opportunity at UT and to be mentored by two great men in Gus Manning and Haywood Harris.”

Manning also hired, mentored and shaped the careers of several other longtime Tennessee staffers such as recently retired Associate Athletics Directors David Elliott, Contract Coordinator David Woodall, Event Management Director Bill Whitesell, Football Director of Equipment & Apparel Roger Frazier, Assistant Ticket Manager Danny Burnley and longtime Thompson-Boling Arena Manager Tim Reese.

“If there’s been anyone who has embodied the slogan ‘I will give my all for Tennessee today,’ it was Gus,” Elliott said. “He held so many important roles over the years, and he never sought any credit for the work he did. He just wanted Tennessee to be the best it could be. I’m proud to have worked with him and to have had him as a friend.”

Born in Knoxville on July 8, 1923, Manning first started attending UT games at Shields-Watkins Field in the 1930s. He graduated from Knoxville’s Rule High School in 1943 before enlisting in the Marine Corps and serving three years in the Pacific during World War II.

Neyland—who, in addition to serving as head football coach also served three stints as AD and occupied that post until his passing in 1962—remembered Manning as a T-formation quarterback at Rule High and hired him as a practice-field guard in 1946 upon.

Already a young war veteran, Manning enrolled as a student at UT in 1947 and walked on to the football team. He earned a varsity letter with the baseball Vols in 1948 and graduated from the university in 1950.

Manning was promoted to Director of Sports Publicity in 1951 (making him the athletic department’s first male, non-coach, full-time employee), and from there he quickly ascended to become Neyland’s top aide as his duties steadily expanded to include oversight of the ticket office, business office, event management, facilities and more.

A two-page memo from Neyland to Manning following yet another Manning promotion in 1960 outlined the following “direct responsibilities”:

  • Ticketing
  • Security
  • Gameday traffic and parking
  • Band and cheerleaders
  • Visiting locker room
  • Programs and concessions
  • Public address and scoreboard
  • Halftime festivities
  • Stadium cleanup
  • Stadium and fieldhouse seating
  • Ushers and janitorial staff
  • Faculty advisor
  • Track, baseball diamond and tennis courts maintenance
  • Broadcasts originating from stadium
  • Sunday TV program during football season
  • Stadium store (East and South Stadium Hall dining facility)
  • Practice-field maintenance and groundskeepers
  • Public relations program
  • Speakers for high school banquets, civic clubs, etc.
  • Purchasing, receiving and accounting for athletics
  • Team travel
  • And finally: “Accept and carry out any extra duties assigned by the Athletic Director, as he sees fit.”

Manning’s job titles through the years ranged from administrative assistant, to assistant, associate and senior associate athletics director. He was named 1989 Business Manager of the Year by the College Athletic Business Managers Association.

After officially retiring from full-time service in 2000, Manning negotiated an advisory role with compensation to include one meal per day at the athletics dining facility, use of his famous, mid-1990s model Cushman vehicle—in which he amazingly logged more than 15,000 miles and an annual salary of $1. The arrangement, first agreed upon by Director of Athletics Doug Dickey, was honored by every Tennessee AD since.

Manning served as president of the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame from 1987-89 and was honored as an inductee in 1994. He is also a member of the TSSAA Football Officials Hall of Fame and received the organization’s 50-Year Award in 2002. Manning also was a member of the inaugural class of the Tennessee Sports Writers Association Hall of Fame in 2006.

He joined the selection committee of the Greater Knoxville Sports Hall of Fame in 1985 and was twice honored by that organization—earning special recognition in 1998 and receiving the Pat Summitt Ignite Greatness Award in 2018. He also received a service award from the UT Letterman’s T-Club in 2015.

In 2019, he was inducted into the University of Tennessee Athletics Hall of Fame.

On June 22, 2015, Gate 16 at Neyland Stadium was officially named “The Gus Manning Gate” thanks to a gift in his honor by Peyton and Ashley Manning (no relation).

“My thoughts and prayers are with Gus’s son, Sammy, and the entire family,” Peyton Manning said. “I was honored to call Gus Manning my friend. No one has served the University of Tennessee better than Gus. He was the ultimate Volunteer, and he will be missed dearly. What a life! May he rest in peace.”

Arrangements are being handled by Rose Funeral Home/Mann’s Heritage Chapel. A funeral mass will be conducted Monday, Feb. 20, at 10 a.m. ET at The Cathedral of The Most Sacred Heart of Jesus (711 S. Northshore Drive, Knoxville, TN 37919). The family will receive friends after the mass in the Cathedral hall. The family plans a private burial.

-UT Athletics

Gus Manning / Credit: UT Athletics


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