Tiny Richardson makes big decision about professional future

His nickname was meant to be ironic.

The reality, of course, is that Antonio “Tiny” Richardson is a big man and it takes a lot to support his 6-foot-6, 327-pound frame. Too much, in fact, for his battered knees.

Saturday, the former University of Tennessee offensive lineman who attended both Ensworth and Pearl-Cohn High Schools announced his retirement from pro football after one season with the Minnesota Vikings.

“I’d like to take this opportunity to thank God, University of Tennessee and the Minnesota Vikings organization for the opportunity to live out my dream as an elite football player,” Richardson wrote on Twitter. “Second I’d like to thank my close ones for supporting me through this time. My love and passion for this game is Infinite, but I understand that football careers don’t last long and unfortunately mine has ended due to injury. I can truly say I left it all on the field. I am forever thankful for my opportunities and I look forward to life after football.”

Richardson was undrafted in 2014 because of concerns about his knees, which included surgery following his sophomore season at Tennessee. He signed with Minnesota as an undrafted free agent but was placed on injured reserve prior to the start of the regular season. He underwent surgeries on both knees.

The Vikings released him last week after they selected three offensive linemen in this year’s draft.

In high school he was the state’s top-rated 2011 college prospect, according to Rivals.com, and a participant in the 2011 U.S. Army All-American Bowl. At Tennessee, he was a two-time second-team All-SEC selection.

May 11, 2015 9:49 AM

A little more than a month after getting fired, Tyndall lists Knoxville home

Donnie Tyndall lost his job but still hopes to make a little bit of money.

The former University of Tennessee men’s basketball coach, who was fired in March because of his connection to recruiting violations at Southern Miss, has put his Knoxville home on the market.

The five-bedroom home on a lakeside lot is 8,556 square feet and is listed at $1,895 million, according to Realtor.com. He bought the place a year ago for $1.7 million.

From Realtor.com:

The place has plenty of fancy features. Out back there’s a pool with water flowing from decorative urns. There’s also a covered terrace overlooking Fort Loudon Lake, a popular spot for “fishing, paddling, and birdwatching.”

According to the listing, the European-style home with “old-world charm” has a Boral brick exterior, six fireplaces, and “arched doorways and flickering gas lanterns.”

May 4, 2015 10:39 PM

Another year, another SEC stop for former UT hoops assistant

Al Pinkins was not with Donnie Tyndall at Southern Miss.

Where he has been has a lot to do with where he is going.

After one season at the University of Tennessee he has joined Johnny Jones’ staff at LSU. It will be the third different Southeastern Conference program in as many seasons for Pinkins.

LSU announced the move Friday.

“His familiarity with the style of play of our conference opponents, plus his knowledge and ability to recruit the caliber of players that it takes to compete at this level will allow him to be an instant asset to our program,” Jones said in a release from LSU. “We look forward to him getting started on the recruiting trail and being a part of our summer workouts as we begin to prepare for the upcoming season.”

Pinkins, 42, was an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Ole Miss for three seasons (2011-14) before he signed on with Tyndall at UT last season. He also spent eight years as an assistant (2003-11) at Middle Tennessee State.

When Tyndall was fired in March for his connection to recruiting violations during his two seasons at Southern Miss, Pinkins was named interim head coach but ultimately was not retained by Rick Barnes, who brought in a completely new staff.

The fact that he was not connected to Tyndall’s time and troubles at Southern Miss no doubt made it easier for him to get another job.

(Photo: UTSports.com)

May 4, 2015 3:02 PM

UT shut out of NFL draft for first time in more than half a century

The 2015 NFL Draft offered a stark illustration of just how far the University of Tennessee football program fell under former coach Derek Dooley.

For the first time since 1963, the Volunteers did not have a player selected. There were 256 total selections over the seven rounds and not one of them came from UT.

Thus ended the sixth-longest active streak in college football. Michigan and Southern California (76 years), Michigan State (75), Florida (63) and Nebraska (52) were the only programs that consistently had sent players to the NFL for a longer period.

Cornerback Justin Coleman was considered draft-worthy by most analysts but settled for a free agent offer from Minnesota.

This year’s group of draft-eligible players primarily were recruited by Dooley and his staff.

Even without any contributions from the Volunteers, the Southeastern Conference had the most players drafted for the ninth consecutive year.

From the Chattanooga Times Free Press:

During the 51-year streak, only twice have the Vols had just one player selected, but both of those instances came recently. Defensive end Robert Ayers, who went 18th overall to Denver, was the lone pick in 2009. In 2012, Malik Jackson was taken in the fifth round (137th overall) by the Broncos.

The Vols had nine first-round picks in five drafts from 1998 through 2002, but have had just nine first-round selections in the 13 drafts since that impressive run.

Entering the 2015 draft, Tennessee had 337 players drafted, the most in the SEC and the seventh-most among college football behind USC (487), Notre Dame (485), Ohio State (413), Oklahoma (367), Nebraska (350) and Michigan (345).

May 4, 2015 5:10 AM

Cheek maintains support for rebranding of UT's women's athletics programs

University of Tennessee chancellor Jimmy Cheek continues to stand behind the November decision to rebrand the university’s athletics program, except the women’s basketball team, under a single nickname and logo.

In a letter to the Knoxville News Sentinel, published Thursday morning, he classified the move as the continuation of a process that began nearly a decade ago and as part of a broader strategy to “be a top tier institution.”

From the letter:

“With these strategies came the opportunity to use a single mark or brand – the Power T – to connect all aspects of the university and to clearly state our One Tennessee message.

“The Power T is the brand of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. I know there have been differences of opinion with the choice to use the Power T for all of our athletic teams except women’s basketball.

“… The Lady Vols are a significant part of the traditions at our university. That will not end or change with the Power T. The continued contributions of our female athletes and our male athletes, as well as our students, faculty, staff and alumni, showcase the strength and pride that is the University of Tennessee.”

Criticism of the move was swift and has endured. The outcry has come from former athletes as well as others throughout the community and state.

UT administrators have been consistent and confident in their attempts to ease the dissatisfaction but seemingly have made little headway.

The move, of course, was not an act of whimsy on the part of Cheek or anyone else. It coincides with the university’s switch to Nike from adidas for its apparel and equipment sponsorship deal – and the kind of money involved with that sort of deal always wins, regardless of public opinion.

Apr 29, 2015 1:53 PM

UT wide receiver Von Pearson accused of rape, suspended

Von Pearson, the led the University of Tennessee with five touchdown receptions last season, was suspended indefinitely from all football activities Friday after a female student accused him of rape.

Two other members of the football team, wide receiver Alton “Pig” Howard and defensive end Dimarya Mixon, were among six witnesses named in the police report, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel.

It is the fifth time in two years a member of the football program has faced allegations of sexual misconduct.

From the News Sentinel:

Former linebacker A.J. Johnson and current cornerback Michael Williams await an August trial on aggravated rape charges stemming from an allegation in November. Both were suspended indefinitely after the allegations surfaced. Johnson has graduated and Williams remains suspended.

Former cornerback Riyahd Jones was named as a suspect in a rape investigation in February. The investigation was closed and no charges were filed after the accuser told authorities she did not wish to prosecute, according to KPD. Jones had left the team after last season and was considering a transfer.

An unidentified walk-on football player was accused of sexual assault in September. The accuser in that case pursued university student conduct charges but not criminal charges. The university eventually dropped the student conduct charges because it didn’t believe it could meet the burden of proof. The player, who was suspended during the investigation, is still on the team.

Former running back Marlin Lane was accused of rape in April of 2013 after an incident that involved an 18-year-old female high school student and former defensive back Geraldo Orta. Lane was never charged and returned to the team after a suspension.

“It’s not an illustration of our football program,” coach Butch Jones said. “We have tremendous, tremendous kids in our football program. I’m disappointed, but we have to move forward. We have a lot of great kids, and a lot of great things going on here. I know people try to use that against us. But we have great kids. I think that’s been proven, with our community service, with our academic excellence, and we will continue to move forward. But there are consequences for actions.”

Apr 27, 2015 5:15 AM

Barnes' recruiting reach extends beyond national borders

Some of Rick Barnes’ recruiting trips require a passport.

The Knoxville News Sentinel reported Thursday that the new University of Tennessee men’s basketball coach intends to continue a Canadian connection he forged in his last job.

At the University of Texas, Barnes recruited two Canadian players who ultimately made it to the NBA and he intends to do the same with the Volunteers.

From the News Sentinel:

Canadian forward Kyle Alexander and his parents boarded a plane Thursday for his official visit to UT this weekend. The 6-foot-10 1/2, 200-pound prospect at Orangeville (Ontario) Prep said he received a scholarship offer from UT about two weeks before Barnes and associate head coach Rob Lanier visited him and his parents on Monday.

… Providing more proof Barnes is trying to move his Canadian connections to Knoxville, Alexander will join fellow Canadian Ray Kasongo, a College of Southern Idaho junior college forward originally from Toronto, who is also scheduled for a weekend visit.

Tristan Thompson and Cory Joseph were Canadians who played high school basketball in Nevada. After one season at Texas (2010-11) Thompson was the fourth overall pick and Joseph went 29th in the 2011 NBA draft. The next year he signed Canadian Myck Kabongo from a New Jersey high school and two years later Kabongo turned professional.


Apr 24, 2015 10:55 AM

Long removed from coaching rivalry, Fulmer takes opportunity to zing Spurrier

Apparently there is not statute of limitations on responding to insults.

It has been seven years since Phil Fulmer was football coach at the University of Tennessee but apparently he still feels the need to return fire to South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier, who as Florida’s coach had a lot of fun at Fulmer’s expense.

“I would say this to Steve,” Fulmer said Thursday during an address to the Chattanooga Rotary Club, according to WDEF-TV (Ch. 12). “In fact I have said it in front of him. Steve is a really good guy until you put a microphone in front of him. Then he becomes a jerk.”

Since he became coach at South Carolina, Spurrier has aimed his venom more often toward Georgia and Clemson, but at the start of his team’s spring practice last month set his sights on Tennessee once again. He called the fact that his team went 7-6 last season “decent” but then noted that “In Knoxville, they’re still doing cartwheels because they went 7-6 and won a bowl game.”

Some of his best stuff, though, came when Fulmer was the man in charge. To wit:

• "You can't spell Citrus [Bowl] without U-T."

• "I know why Peyton came back for his senior year. He wanted to be a three-time star of the Citrus Bowl."

• More recently was this one: “[This] will be the 14th time I’ve coached in Neyland Stadium. … I’ve coached there more than some of their head coaches.”

Apr 23, 2015 8:23 PM

Former Ensworth football star charged with UT campus theft

The University of Tennessee police department has issued a warrant for Michael Sawyers, a former Ensworth High School star who played four games for the Volunteers last season as a true freshman.

Coach Butch Jones dismissed Sawyers from the team in February for a violation of team rules.

Sawyers, from Antioch, was charged with theft, possibly in connection to an incident that involved UT offensive lineman Coleman Thomas, who was charged felonious theft. That charge was dismissed last week.

From The Tennessean:

After Thomas’ initial arrest, UTPD continued its investigation into the theft of a video-game system and several games from an on-campus dormitory and determined there was insufficient evidence that Thomas knew the items had been stolen at the time he sold them to a GameStop store.

[Cedric] Roach, the UTPD spokesman, did not confirm that Sawyers is being charged in connection to the case in which Thomas was previously arrested, though the police investigation into the theft continued after the dismissal of the charge against Thomas.

The newspaper reported that, as of Tuesday afternoon, Sawyers had not been arrested.

Apr 21, 2015 8:37 PM

Jones' assistants reap financial rewards for winning season

Winning – even modestly – is not necessarily its own reward for the University of Tennessee football coaches. There’s some extra money too.

Butch Jones’ assistants will make a combined $275,000 more in 2015 than they did last year. Their contracts were amended and extended through the 2016 season after the Volunteers went 7-6 and won the TaxSlayer Bowl last fall.

From the Chattanooga Times Free Press, which reviewed the contracts received through an open records request:

The eight returning coaches received $250,000 in raises, while the Volunteers are paying new offensive coordinator Mike DeBord $25,000 more than his predecessor

Receivers coach Zach Azzanni and running backs coach Robert Gillespie, who were awarded new titles as Tennessee shuffled their staff's roles after DeBord's hire, each received $50,000 raises and now make $350,000 each.

Gillespie is now UT’s recruiting and Azzani, the previous recruiting coordinator, is now the passing game coordinator.

Defensive coordinator John Jancek got the biggest bump, $40,000, and is the highest paid assistant at $515,000. DeBord’s salary is $500,000.

Jones received a pay increase of $650,000 (to $3.6 million) in December and negotiated the staff increases at that time.

Apr 15, 2015 5:53 AM