The conference championships are over and now all that remains is the bowl season which unfortunately will not include a favorite team clad in orange. In what has become a recent theme – the Vols have failed to become bowl eligible once again. 

Just how bad is it with Tennessee’s season over? The topics of discussion at Mitchell’s Drug Store earlier in the week waffled between Jim Petty’s Auburn Tigers headed for the national championship game and a long-time Vol fan that bleeds orange, wondering if the Alabama head coach would be leaving the SEC for an anticipated opening at Texas.

Not too long ago Petty would have been listening to his father-in-law talk about his beloved Vols’ next bowl victim while others cheered him on. 

While Butch Jones continues to add to a crowded, but talented recruiting class, there will be plenty of football to occupy Vol fans. One such game will be played tomorrow when Army and Navy square off for the 114th time.

Anyone that has followed this column over the years knows that I consider this game as one of the special events in all of sports. Besides having great pageantry and a heated rivalry, it will have the entire student body from both institutions in attendance. 

This game will not showcase the most talented college football players; although, a few previous participants have gone on after their military six-year commitment to have professional careers. What you do get in this game is a 100 per cent effort from every student athlete that has the privilege to participate in this classic. 

This is the one game played each year that captures the interest of just about everyone. Whether it is an individual link to either Army or Navy, a relative’s service or just a personal preference, there will be millions tuning in to enjoy this game on a cold afternoon in Philadelphia. CBS has the coverage tomorrow at 2:10 p.m. CST. 

Hopefully, this is the last year the Big Orange fans will be left on the outside looking in when bowl season rolls around. For now, it is waiting for the SEC basketball season to start and hoping that Butch Jones can get his early enrollees on campus to get a jump start on the 2014 season. 

It will be different this coming year without my friend and Big Orange agitator Jim Butler. The friendly banter between us will be missed. I wish Jim and his Vanderbilt Commodores the best — well, at least in all their endeavors that don’t involve any team from Rocky Top. Thanks for the memories Jim; enjoy your life away from the weekly deadlines. 

I will be taking a small break, but wanted to wish each of you and your families a very Merry Christmas.  And for this week – Go Navy beat Army!!!!

(Frank Gale is a Chronicle correspondent and his column appears regularly.)