By Alex Norman
At the present time, Tennessee Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Dave Hart is one of the most unpopular people in town.
Sure, his hiring of Butch Jones is starting to pay off, and when football “drives the engine,” that’s good for the bottom line in an entire athletic department.
But his decisions regarding the Lady Vols and the historic name which will go away for all sports except basketball have riled up a lot of people.
Back on November 10, 2014, the University of Tennessee announced that all sports other than women’s basketball would compete under the name “Tennessee Volunteers.”
“Following significant branding studies by both our University and the department of athletics as well as conversations with head coaches and student-athletes, we will implement the related changes that resulted from this collaboration on July 1, 2015,” said Hart in a press release.
There were also words of support for this move in then press release from UT Chancellor Jimmy Cheek, from women’s basketball coach Holly Warlick, and from Joan Cronan, the former long-time Lady Vols athletic director that now holds the title “Athletics Director Emeritus.”
With Tennessee switching from adidas to NIKE on July 1, and the school wanting to “utilize the Power T as the official mark of the flagship institution,” the timing was perfect.
Except for the fact that over the past four months, people have grown angrier due to the ending of a tradition.
On December 20, 2014, a rally was held protesting the decision.
“The women of this university have given their lifeblood, sweat. My daughter worked just as hard as any man to make herself successful at this university,” said State Rep. Roger Kane told WVLT-TV.
Former Lady Vols volleyball player Leslie Cikra started a website called bringbacktheladyvols.com.
By signing this petition, I do not support the Tennessee Athletic Department’s decision to put all sports under the Power T and eliminate the presence of the Lady Vol T in all women’s sports.
As of March 16th, the petition at change.org had been signed by 7,594 people.
Tennessee has made its share of Public Relations mistakes since Hart was hired in 2011. A major issue has been his inability, or unwillingness to explain the decisions he makes.
Whether it was Bud Ford or Debby Jennings or Jenny Moshak or Heather Mason or Collin Schlosser, the lawsuits brought more and more negative attention to the University and the athletics department.
Hart hasn’t held a press conference to talk about this topic, nor has he done many interviews on the subject, but on February 22nd he did speak with “The Nation,” a radio show that airs on the Vol Network. His comments didn’t show that there was any wiggle room with regards to his decision to eliminate the Lady Vols name for sports other than basketball.
As a matter of fact, Hart came out swinging at the people protesting the decision the loudest.
“Divisiveness brings out the worst in people, especially if you’ve got vindictiveness involved, and that’s present in this,” said Hart. “We’ve got some of that out there… some of that venom that’s being spewed is directly related to that. It’s one of the bad sides of human nature.”
If this move is indeed happening to bring everyone under the same banner… the entire “One Tennessee” thing…. Why leave basketball out?
Is it because basketball is the flagship women’s program? Is it out of respect for what Pat Summitt accomplished? Or is it simply because the public outcry would be too much to overcome?
Because if you really want everyone under that same banner… you shouldn’t be leaving one team out. The argument being, how can “One Tennessee” be all Vols sports, yet “One Tennessee” also be Lady Vols basketball?
Hart tries to reassure fans about the future.
“It will be good. I can assure you,” Hart said. “It will be good when all is said and done. When we’re in the transition with Nike, when all the new uniforms begin to roll out, it will be good for all parties concerned and we will not forget and we will continue to honor the tradition of the Lady Vols.”