Thompson-Boling Arena rang with chants and cheers on Sunday night as members of the class of 2017 gathered for the annual Torch Night welcoming ceremony.
Animated chatter rose from the audience while freshmen filed in to their seats for an hour of Tennessee tradition, during which the seniors symbolically pass on the Torch of Preparation to a new crop of students.
As the program commenced, students were urged to "take a deep breath and relax," as the night's first speaker came to the podium. Student Government Association President Jake Baker encouraged the incoming class of Volunteers to seize the years ahead of them.
"These four years are something you'll never forget," Baker, a senior in political science said. "Take it for all it's worth."
Baker also expressed his excitement to be a part of 80 years of tradition at UT.
"It's a great opportunity for me to literally pass the torch on to you," he said.
Baker was followed by Chancellor Jimmy Cheek, who began by welcoming his audience to their new home.
"Isn't it great to be a Tennessee Volunteer?" he asked. "You are now part of the Big Orange family."
The address that followed was a plea to his listeners to take advantage of the opportunities that UT offers for the betterment of self and school, as well as praise for the incoming freshmen. With more honors students than ever before, Cheek said the class of 2017 shows great promise.
"I encourage you to dream, and dream big," Chancellor Cheek said. "You will have big ideas that will change the world."
Immediately following the Chancellor's speech, Baker took his place at the podium once again to conduct the ceremonial passing of the torch.
Due to the unexpectedly large turnout for the event, many students stood empty-handed as their classmates held battery powered flames aloft, reciting a pledge of loyalty to the university.
The ceremony concluded reverently with the singing of the Alma Mater.
As the lights came up in the arena, the night transitioned to the next scheduled event, Night in Neyland.
Normally held on the field in Neyland Stadium, Sunday festivities were held in Thompson-Boling due to threat of inclement weather.The enthusiastic freshman class roared out a rendition of "Rocky Top," as well as endless chants of "It's great to be a Tennessee Vol."
The school spirit of the audience was rewarded with an appearance by UT football coach Butch Jones and members of the 2013 team.
"You made the best choice you could ever make, and that's to be a Tennessee Vol," Jones said. "You are the future of the University of Tennessee."
Entering the arena playing a selection of pep music were representatives from the Pride of the Southland Marching Band."It was really cool," said Summer Earnest, a freshman in architecture. "I liked all the cheering and how everyone was peppy."
The newest members of the UT family enthusiastically enjoyed their first taste of school spirit. Paire with an introduction into the ranks of the Volunteer family.