Longtime Tennessee athletic official Gus Manning watches in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game between Tennessee and Pikeville on Monday, Nov. 3, 2014, in Knoxville, Tenn. Manning wasn't at Tennessee's football game Saturday with Indiana State after attending the Volunteers' last 71 home openers. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)

 

For the first time in over seven decades, longtime Tennessee athletic official Gus Manning was unable to attend a Volunteers home football opener.

Tennessee found a way to make his presence felt anyway.

A spot in the Neyland Stadium was reserved for Manning and even included a photo of the longest-serving member of Tennessee's athletic department.

 

Manning, 94, also was honored as a Tennessee "legend of the game" in a pregame ceremony.

He had attended 71 consecutive Tennessee home football openers before health issues prevented him from going to the 25th-ranked Vols' game Saturday with Indiana State. School officials say that Manning was believed to have attended 457 consecutive Tennessee home football games overall.

Manning was hired at Tennessee by legendary football coach and former athletic director Robert Neyland in 1951. He has remained with Tennessee’s athletic department ever since in a variety of roles that have included sports information director and associate athletic director.

Gate 16 at  Neyland Stadium was renamed the Gus Manning Gate two years ago as part of a $3 million gift made to the school by former Tennessee quarterback and five-time NFL Most Valuable Player Peyton Manning, who isn’t related to Gus. Peyton Manning said at the time that “Gus Manning defines what being a Tennessee Volunteer is all about.”