Still Volunteers After All These Years: Brumfiel and Warmath

Still Volunteers After All These Years: Brumfiel and Warmath

In a retirement center near Minneapolis, three residents–all with a UT connection–get together to cheer on the Vols every time a UT Knoxville game is televised. They might not do the wave, toss Nerf balls around the room, or belt out “Rocky Top” after a touchdown, but their spirit and enthusiasm are always in high gear.

Of course, Vol football is more than a sport. It’s a social event enjoyed by more than 100,000 people in Neyland Stad­ium and millions of fans all over the world. The Tennessee trio in the land of the Golden Gophers–Murray Warmath, Marion “Brum” Brumfiel, and his wife, Julie–have their own UT mini-fan club.

Although both men have strong ties to the University of Minnesota, there has never been a question of college loyalty: “UT has always been, and remains, the best,” says Brumfiel. At 90, he recalls his UT days with fond memories. The 1940 alumnus received a degree in mechanical engineering and later an MBA from Minnesota. Warmath, 95, was renowned as the coach of the Minnesota Golden Gophers. He took the Gophers to a national championship in 1960 and a Rose Bowl win over UCLA in 1962. He played for UT’s Robert R. Neyland and graduated from UT in 1934 with a bachelor’s degree in education. Julie Brumfiel, a home economics major and member of AOPi sorority, attended UT from 1937 to 1939, transferring to the University of Illinois when Brum Brumfiel entered the army.

All three live at Friendship Village, and Brum Brumfiel frequently joins Warmath for meals in the dining room. Warmath, who zips around the facility in his motorized wheelchair, has a new reputation to uphold now that his glory days on the football field have passed. “I’m referred to as ‘hell on wheels’ in the village,” he admits.

“Murray and I never met at UT,” Brumfiel says. “The first time we got to know each other was here. Of course, I knew of Murray because he was a line coach for Bob Neyland and coached a number of my close friends, including the late Bob Woodruff and Bill Luttrell.”

Mr. All-Around

In the 1940 Volunteer yearbook, the list of activities for senior Oscar Marion Brumfiel is extensive. Besides memberships in a number of academic and military organizations including the secret Scarabbean Society and Scabbard and Blade, Brumfiel was vice-president of Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity and chaired several formal dances, including the prestigious Military Ball. Throughout college he was a co-op student, working winter and summer quarters at the Aluminum Company of America (ALCOA).

During his senior year, he achieved the rank of lieutenant colonel in the army’s ROTC. After graduating, he received an honor-graduate appointment as an officer in the U.S. Army. The next year Pearl Harbor was attacked, and the U.S. responded immediately by joining the Allies against the Axis powers in the Pacific Theater of Operations, where Brumfiel served a tour of duty.

In 1943 Brumfiel married Julie, and they later had a son and a daughter. After tours in Europe and Korea, Brumfiel was assigned to the Army General Staff in Washington, D.C., for 3 years. “I was scheduled to go overseas for the fourth time without my family, so I requested early retirement in nineteen-sixty,” he says. At that point he had attained the rank of lieutenant colonel.

The next stop in 1960 was Minneapolis, where Brumfiel accepted a job in engineering management at Honey­well. While he and Julie were raising their children, he earned an MBA from the University of Minnesota in 1963. “As a student, I had tickets to football games. Murray was the first coach to take Minnesota to a national championship. Julie and I sat on the fifty-yard line with the kids and cheered the team on.”

Mr. Football

“My major at UT was football,” says Warmath, who’s recognized as one of the greatest coaches ever in the Big Ten Conference. “I loved the game and learned from one of the best,” he says, referring to UT’s Neyland.

Warmath was born and raised in Humboldt, Tennessee, and wanted to play college football after graduating from a military high school. “Since Tennessee was my native state, I decided to go to UT. I didn’t have a football scholarship, and I did not know Coach Neyland. So I worked hard to make the team as a lineman. “Neyland believed the only way to win at anything was to work hard, play harder, and fight as hard as you can to cause the opponent to make mistakes and then take full advantage to win.”

During his senior year, Warmath made the All-Conference team and began to think about a career in coaching. “Neyland wanted me to stay on as a line coach, which I did. We both stayed at UT until World War II, when we both went into the service. “While I was coaching at UT, I was lucky enough to marry Mary Louise Clapp in 1939,” he says. Mary Louise was the 1934 Barnwarmin’ Queen and a “UT Beauty” in the Volunteer yearbook. She graduated from UT with a degree in home economics in 1937. Together, the couple had three children.

After the war, Warmath coached at West Point and Mississippi State, and in 1952 he was named head coach at Minnesota, a post he held for 18 years. NFL Hall of Famer Carl Eller recalled recently that Warmath routinely made the players run up and down the stadium aisles, which ascended about 60 rows above the field. Warmath rounded out his gridiron career with the Minnesota Vikings as an assistant coach and recruiter.

“After my coaching career ended, my wife and I retired, and Minnesota became our permanent home.”

More recently, the Gopher great has been involved with the University of Minnesota in recruiting and fundraising and has established a scholarship in his name for a senior linebacker.

“I tried to instill in every player the same approach that had been so successful at UT,” he says. “That fighting spirit that I learned at UT and practiced through the years paid off in many ways afterward.

“The only coach I kept in touch with until he died was R. R. Neyland,” he says. “Coach Neyland taught me never to let the critics get me down and to believe in myself and my team. He also taught me many life lessons about the importance of relationships.”

Warmath was named to the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame in 1980 and received the Robert R. Neyland Memorial Trophy in 1991.

His daughter, Carol Dillow, comes from Kansas City each month to visit her dad. “She follows UT athletics even more than I,” Warmath says with pride. Grandson Bill Dillow graduated from UT in 1990. Mary Louise Warmath passed away in 2002.

Today Warmath and Brum and Julie Brumfiel form a small pocket of orange-and-white in a sea of maroon-and-gold at Friendship Village. They might be outnumbered, but that’s okay. “Everybody here knows where we stand,” Brumfiel says with a twinkle in his eye.