Braxton Bonds has been granted his release from the University of Tennessee men’s basketball program.
The 6-foot-1 guard from Nashville was a walk-on last season, when he was ineligible to play under NCAA transfer rules because he briefly attended classes at Liberty University last summer.
The Knoxville News Sentinel reported the move Tuesday.
Bonds averaged 15.3 points and 7.8 assists per game during his senior season at Christ Presbyterian Academy, where he played on two state championship teams. 247Sports.com rated him the eighth best 2014 prospect in Tennessee.
It’s popular to say that Butch Jones has energized the University of Tennessee fan base.
After all, the third-year coach is a ubiquitous presence on the recruiting trail and at fan events throughout the state. He led the Volunteers to a bowl victory last season and has made the team more competitive in general.
Now, however, there is empirical evidence that proves support for the football program has started to rise.
The Knoxville News Sentinel reported last week that season ticket sales already are at a four-year high and continue to climb. As of last week, 62,000 of the 72,500 available season packages, including a significant majority of premium seats, had been sold.
From the News Sentinel:
The Vols are already sold out of season tickets for the skyboxes and also out of seats in the club section on the west side of the stadium. He said they have about 30 season tickets available in the east club seats and about 20 season tickets available of the 1,800 on the Tennessee Terrace on the west side of the stadium below the club seats.
“This would be the first time we’ve sold the terrace space out,” Chris Fuller, Senior Associate Athletics Director/External Affairs, told the paper. “Eighteen hundred seats is a pretty good chunk of inventory. The only premium seating area that we might not sell out, or that we’re not all the way home with is the east club seats, and I still think we can sell those out.”
Fuller said it is realistic to expect season ticket sales could reach 65,000 by the first game.
The last time the school sold a comparable number was 2011, Derek Dooley’s second season as coach. That year season ticket sales were 63,362. Last year the number was 59,800.
Capacity at Neyland Stadium is 102,455. According to Fuller, beyond the 72,500 available season tickets are student tickets, room for the UT band, other athletes, opposing team allotments and other individual ticket sales.
“Just with Tennessee’s whole program right now and how Tennessee carries itself,” Fuller said. “I think our fans are getting the sense, we’re not saying we’re clearing out a space to put a trophy in yet, but we’re ready to compete. We’re ready to compete on a level playing field in the best league in the country.”
‘TaxSlayer Bowl” does not exactly have a ring to it.
Perhaps that’s why the commemorative rings the University of Tennessee football team received Wednesday evening for their victory over Iowa in that contest did not include the modern corporate name.
Above the Power T logo surrounded by diamonds is the words ‘Gator Bowl’ and below it says ‘champions.’ TaxSlayer.com is the title sponsor of the Jacksonville, Fla. contest that historically was known as the Gator Bowl.
UT defeated Iowa 45-28 in the 2015 version, the Volunteers’ first bowl appearance in four seasons and their first postseason victory in five years.
From the Knoxville News Sentinel:
Tennessee spokesman Jason Yellin said Thursday that the Vols used a bid process to find a ring manufacturer. Balfour, a company that specializes in commemorative rings and other materials, submitted the lowest bid and made 150 rings at $175 each for a total cost of $26,250.
Donnie Tyndall was fired as University of Tennessee men’s basketball coach for NCAA violations committed during his two seasons at Southern Miss.
That does not mean Tyndall did everything by the book during his one season with the Volunteers.
The Knoxville News Sentinel reported Tuesday that UT self-reported at least one Level II/Level III violation by the men’s basketball program. The report, sent the NCAA on May 15, mentioned Tyndall and one of his assistants.
From the News Sentinel report:
Tyndall and former UT assistant coach Adam Howard are mentioned in a self-reported violation UT sent to the NCAA on May 15. The violation stems from two impermissible phone calls made to a former Liberty University signee who briefly attended summer school before leaving the program, a description that fits UT point guard Braxton Bonds.
UT self-reported it and six other Level II/Level III violations in different sports to the NCAA since September 2014, according to documents the News Sentinel obtained Tuesday through a public records request.
Tennessee told the NCAA it became aware of a basketball violation when its compliance office was told UT did not have permission to contact the former Liberty signee who had been released from his National Letter of Intent.
The NCAA classifies violations in four different ‘levels’ with Level I the most severe breach.
Tyndall went 16-16 in his one season with the Volunteers. He was fired March 27 due to developments in the NCAA’s investigation of the Southern Miss basketball program.
To read the full UT report to the NCAA, click here.
The University of Tennessee football team is finished with cornerback Michael Williams.
The Knoxville News Sentinel reported Tuesday that the team has “moved on” from the cornerback, who had been suspended since late last season when he was accused of sexual assault. He and former Volunteers linebacker A.J. Johnson were formally charged with aggravated rape in February.
From The Associated Press:
Tennessee officials didn't say whether Williams had been permanently kicked off the team, but when athletic department spokesman Jason Yellin was asked if there were any circumstances under which Williams could return, Yellin reiterated that, "We've moved on."
Williams, from Laurel, Md., competed as a member of the track team in 2012-13 and joined the football team as a walk-on in 2013. He played 10 games (five starts) and made 18 tackles before he was suspended in 2014.
Former Tennessee Titans quarterback Kerry Collins is on the ballot for the 2016 College Football Hall of Fame class, the National Football Foundation announced Tuesday.
Collins, a 1994 All-American and the Big Ten Player of the Year, is one of 76 players and five coaches from the Football Bowl Subdivision under consideration. The ballot also includes 92 players and 27 coaches from the divisional ranks.
Players from Tennessee, Middle Tennessee State and Austin Peay also are on the ballot.
A brief summary of the college careers of Collins and those of local interest, from the Hall of Fame release:
• Kerry Collins, Penn State-Quarterback-1994 consensus First Team All-American and winner of the Maxwell and Davey O’Brien awards…Led the nation in passing efficiency (172.9) as a senior and named 1994 Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year…Led Lions to 12-0 record, a Big Ten title and No. 2 final ranking in 1994.
• Bobby Majors, Tennessee-Defensive Back-1971 unanimous First Team All-American…Led Vols to wins in 1971 Sugar Bowl and 1972 Liberty Bowl…Holds school records for punt returns in a career (117 for 1163 yards, 4 TDs) and season (42 for 457 yards, 2 TDs).
• Larry Seivers, Tennessee-Wide Receiver-Two-time consensus First Team All-American in 1975 and 1976…Two-time First Team All-SEC selection…Currently ranks sixth in Tennessee history in career reception yardage (1,924) and seventh in career receptions (117).
• Jackie Walker, Tennessee-Linebacker-1970 and ’71 First Team All-American…Set NCAA record for career interceptions returned for TD by a linebacker (5)… Two-time First Team All-SEC selection who helped Vols to 1969 SEC Championship.
• Joe Campbell, Middle Tennessee State-Running Back-Two-time First Team All-America selection (1990-91)…A three-time First Team All-Conference pick, he was named OVC Player of the Year in 1990…Led the team in rushing all four years.
• Don Griffin, Middle Tennessee State-Safety-1985 First Team All-American and Ohio Valley Conference Defensive Player of the Year…Three-time First Team All-Conference selection…Recorded 210 tackles, 13 career interceptions, and held school record for interceptions in a game (3).
• Steve McAdoo, Middle Tennessee State-Offensive Lineman-Two-time First Team All-America selection (1991-92)…Earned Third Team All-America honors by the Associated Press in 1990…Three-time First Team All-Conference pick.
• John Ogles, Austin Peay State-Fullback-Named First Team All-American in 1966…Two-time First Team All-Conference selection (1965-66)…One of two players to have jersey retired at Austin Peay…Member of the Ohio Valley Conference and APSU Athletic Halls of Fame.
• Harold Roberts, Austin Peay State- Wide Receiver-1970 First Team All-American who boasts nearly every receiving record in APSU history, including career receptions (232) and reception yards (2,999)…APSU’s first four-time First Team All-OVC selection…Set NCAA record with 20 receptions in one game in 1969.
• Larry Schreiber, Tennessee Tech-Running Back-Named First Team All-American in 1969…Set an NCAA record for most career rushes with 877…Set six conference records…Currently ranks second on the conference all-time rushing list with 4,421 yards.
• Charles Murphy-Middle Tennessee State (1947-68)-Captured seven Volunteer State Athletic Conference Championships…Won seven Ohio Valley Conference Championships…Named Ohio Valley Conference Coach of the Year in 1965.
Ballots will be emailed this week to more than 12,000 National Football Foundation members and the 2016 class will be announced early in 2016.
From the NFF:
To be eligible for the ballot, players must have been named a First Team All-American by a major/national selector as recognized and utilized by the NCAA for their consensus All-America teams; played their last year of intercollegiate football at least 10 years prior; played within the last 50 years and cannot be currently playing professional football. Coaches must have coached a minimum of 10 years and 100 games as a head coach; won at least 60 percent of their games; and be retired from coaching for at least three years. If a coach is retired and over the age of 70, there is no waiting period. If he is over the age of 75, he is eligible as an active coach. In both cases, the candidate’s post-football record as a citizen may also be weighed.
Tickets for the University of Tennessee’s season-opening football game at LP Field, Sept. 5 against Bowling Green, go on sale 10 a.m. Monday, the Nashville Sports Council announced Friday.
Prices range from $45-$100 and will be available through all TicketMaster outlets. Parking passes also are available at $25 each.
This sale is for the general public. An exclusive presale was conducted for UT season ticket holders and Nashville Sports Council members.
The last time the Volunteers opened at LP Field was 2002. That year they defeated Wyoming 47-7 in that contest and finished the season 8-5.
This year’s game originally was supposed to be against Alabama-Birmingham. Bowling Green stepped in when UAB discontinued its football program earlier this year.
Rick Barnes might be a new traveler on the Big Orange Caravan but the new University of Tennessee basketball coach already is sounding a familiar refrain.
In an appearance at LP Field on Wednesday, the final stop on this year’s five-city tour, Barnes talked about the importance of Nashville and Middle Tennessee to his program and the others at the school.
To emphasize his point, he said his team would play Gonzaga in Nashville during the 2016-17 season and raised the possibility that the Vols could play a game every season at Bridgestone Arena.
“I was in conversations (Tuesday) with some people about us possibly having a neutral-site game every single year,” Barnes said, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel. “Because this area, this town is important to us. (UT athletic director) Dave Hart told me that from the beginning. He said, if we can get into Nashville to play a game every year, it would be huge, obviously with the (SEC) tournament being here. And just for the fact that we want this to be all ours.”
It is the same school of thought already employed by the football program and Butch Jones, who also appeared. Jones’ team will open the 2015 season at LP Field against Western Kentucky.
“I know all of our players from Middle Tennessee are really looking forward to competing in this stadium, getting a chance to compete in an NFL environment,” Jones said. “We need to make this a great home-field advantage for us, which we will. I know our fans will.”
The Tennessee Titans continued to restructure their front office Thursday with the addition of a vice president and new roles for three longtime staff members.
Jimmy Stanton is now the VP of communications and oversees the team's digital media, media relations, broadcasting and production departments.
Ralph Ockenfels was promoted to VP of marketing and broadcast and digital rights while Gary Glenn was named senior director of digital media and Robbie Bohren was elevated to senior director of media relations.
Stanton (pictured) worked in the Titans’ media relations department for two years, 1999 and 2000. He comes back to the franchise after seven years at the University of Tennessee, where his current position is senior associate athletics director for communications. He also worked with the Houston Astros of Major League Baseball and at the University of Kentucky.
“As we continue to look at ways to improve our organization, this position will help integrate a number of departments that interact directly with our fans,” Titans Interim President Steve Underwood said in a release from the team. “I have known Jimmy for nearly 20 years, and he has a great deal of experience with our organization and with the media in the region. I know he will complement the great people that we already have in place, and I look forward to him joining our club.”
Ockenfels had been the team’s VP of marketing while Glenn was director of internet operations/publishing and Bohren was director of media relations. All three have been with the organization for close to two decades.
Highly ranked recruiting classes and a return to bowl eligibility have created an undeniable feeling that things are looking up for the University of Tennessee.
Good thing for third-year coach Butch Jones. That’s because his time in Knoxville already has included what he considers the worst experience he’s had as a coach.
Jones told 247 Sports that last season’s 10-9 loss to Florida — a game the Volunteers led 9-0 — “was probably the lowest moment I’ve ever had in my career.”
To their credit, the Volunteers did not let it keep them down long.
They lost their next two conference contests but finished the regular season with three wins in their last four games, beginning with a 45-42 overtime triumph at South Carolina. Then they crushed Iowa in the TaxSlayer Bowl 45-28 to finish the season 7-6, their first winning record since 2009.
“The South Carolina game was really the culmination of really learning how to win,” Jones told 247 Sports. “But I think the changing point was the Florida game, because obviously it was extremely disappointing for all involved. It was probably the lowest moment I’ve ever had in my career, and I had to put my tie on and go home and have 12 individuals at my house for an official visit.
“But our players, our young football team could have listened to all the clutter and distraction out there, and they didn’t listen to any of the noises. I knew if we could cross that hurdle that would make us a better football team by the end of the season. And you go 4-1, you win a bowl game — a great bowl game, a New Year’s Day bowl game, so to speak — and it propels you.”
Onward and upward, he hopes.
(Photo: Getty Images)
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