Good Afternoon Big Orange Nation:
We are a just a few days away from the DISH Orange & White Game – even for an exhibition contest, pulling onto campus on a gameday morning is a special feeling! I can’t wait to see the Volunteer faithful lining up to get into Neyland Stadium for a look at Coach Jones’ fifth edition of Tennessee football. You can read more about all the events of the day surrounding the game and information you need to know. And remember that in appreciation for the unwavering support of Big Orange fans, every admission is FREE!
Of course we are already well into a full week of competition, including baseball hosting UNC Asheville tonight at 6:00 in Lindsey Nelson Stadium, while our 23rd-ranked women’s tennis team is in Nashville, where they shut out #14 Alabama 4-0 earlier today in the opening round of the SEC Tournament and will face Mississippi State Thursday morning. Check out the full women’s tennis SEC bracket, and remember that we’re hosting the men’s tennis SEC Tournament starting next Wednesday right here in Knoxville at the recently upgraded Barksdale Stadium. Both tennis teams finished their regular seasons with great wins over LSU!
Our baseball and softball teams are on the road in SEC play this weekend, traveling to Texas A&M and LSU, respectively. Live SEC Network + streams of all three baseball games will be available via the WatchESPN app, with first pitches set for 3 p.m. ET on Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Friday (7 p.m. ET) and Saturday’s (4 p.m. ET) softball games also will be streamed on SEC Network +, while Sunday’s showdown will be televised on the SEC Network starting at 2 p.m. ET.
The men’s and women’s golf squads both take to the course for their SEC Championships this weekend. The men tee off at the Seaside Course in St. Simons Island, Ga., with stroke play on Friday and Saturday and match play on Sunday and Monday. Our women are playing Greystone Country Club in Birmingham, Ala., Friday through Sunday.
Let’s also be sure to show our support this weekend to the rowing team (competing at the Clemson Invitational Saturday and Sunday), soccer team (Saturday spring scrimmage doubleheader at home against West Virginia [11 a.m.] and Wake Forest [4 p.m.]) and cross country runners (competing at the Virginia Challenge Friday and Saturday).
Big Orange Caravan Update
During my eight years away from Knoxville, I carried fond memories of meeting the Tennessee faithful across the state and around the country at Big Orange Caravan functions. In fact, one of my original duties with the Volunteer Athletic Scholarship Fund way back in 1997 was helping to organize that spring tour – I remember loading up that Chilhowee RV (we even packed extra dry socks) early in the morning to head out for multiple stops for meals and golf and opportunities to say thanks to our fans across the state for a week at a time.
When I arrived to officially start my new duties 19 days ago, I learned that we didn’t yet have any caravan events planned for 2017. Certainly the nature and purpose of the traditional “spring tour” at universities all over the country has evolved and changed – especially with instant (24/7, right?) access to information and news that used to only be available at live events, year-round recruiting demands on our coaches and, of course, the multiple activities (youth sports, etc.) which fill many family calendars.
However, be assured that we are committed to Tennessee Athletics being visible and accessible to our fans throughout Big Orange Country, and I appreciate our staff working hard over the last two weeks to plan three 2017 BOC events immediately, including the traditional Nashville All-Sports Picnic, now set for July 10, along with a return to Memphis and a Chattanooga event on dates we will announce soon. One of our department priorities for the 2017-18 year will be to develop and implement a revitalized and modernized 2018 Big Orange Caravan, which will remain a collaborative effort with UT’s award-winning national alumni association, along with input from our fans.
Beamer, Durham to be Honored Saturday
The East Tennessee Chapter of the National Football Foundation and Hall of Fame hands out its prestigious Neyland Trophy and Lindsey Nelson Broadcasting Award every year during the Orange & White Game weekend. This year’s recipients are legendary Virginia Tech football coach Frank Beamer and longtime North Carolina play-by-play announcer Woody Durham.
I have always admired Coach Beamer and enjoyed getting to know his son, Shane, as a graduate assistant on Coach Fulmer’s Tennessee staff years ago. And, as a little kid growing up in Chapel Hill, I looked up to Woody Durham and revered his voice just like folks in Tennessee “grew up” listening to the legendary John Ward – and now for 18 years, Bob Kesling.
Remembering Bill Anderson
Broadcasters play such a critical role in our memories of thrilling games, winning plays and great victories, so it’s with much sadness that we mourn Tuesday’spassing of former Vol Network analyst – and Tennessee standout and Super Bowl champion – Bill Anderson. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Anderson family as we celebrate Bill’s contributions to the history of Volunteers football.
Sacks Salute Saturday
Speaking of our storied football history, Tennessee’s new all-time sacks leader, Derek Barnett, will be attending the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft next Thursday night (televised on ESPN and NFL Network). We’ll be sending a crew from VFL Films to document Derek’s experience in Philadelphia as he officially begins his NFL career. He is one of several Vols projected to hear his name called during the three-day draft – further proof of the outstanding player development taking place in our football program under Coach Jones.
We’ll also be honoring Barnett on the field during halftime of Saturday’s DISH Orange & White Game.
40+ Student-Athletes Earn SEC Academic Acclaim
From an academic perspective, I was proud to see that 41 of our student-athletes were named to 2016-17 Winter SEC Academic Honor Roll today. Each honoree posted a GPA of 3.0 or higher, and I encourage you to check out the list of names representing our swimming & diving and basketball programs.
Rocky Top Rocket Scientists Land $10 million NASA Grant!
It’s always important to remain aware that athletics is just one part of what makes the University of Tennessee such an extraordinary institution. With that in mind, did you see last week’s announcement that a UTK-led team of researchers has been awarded a nearly $10 million grant from NASA for the development of breakthroughs in flight dynamics, communications, speed and propulsion? Right here on Rocky Top, our incredible UT professors and students are working to design better, more efficient aircraft wings!
Softball Thrills with Wins Over No. 9 ‘Bama
Before I sign off I want to send a big shout-out to Coaches Ralph and Karen Weekly, as Tennessee softball extended the nation’s longest active win streak to 18 games last weekend with two big triumphs over then ninth-ranked Alabama in sold-out Sherri Parker Lee Stadium! I had made the jaunt back to Kansas to spend Easter with my family, and since we are trying to keep our house clean for showings to prospective buyers, we found ourselves eating a late Sunday dinner in one of my favorite “Little Apple” establishments – where at my request the TV was tuned to the SEC Network just in time for the last couple innings and Brooke Vines’ clutch, walk-off homer!
Thanks again for all you do for Tennessee student-athletes. Go Big Orange!