University of Tennessee sets annual athletics fund-raising record

The University of Tennessee athletics department set a record for financial donations and membership in the Tennessee Fund reached its highest level in five years, the school announced Thursday.

UT said it received $48.4 million in cash and support in the fiscal year, which ended June 30. That broke the previous high of $47 million set in 2008.

The Tennessee Fund, the athletics department’s fundraising arm, currently has 12,954 members, the most since 2010.

From UT’s athletics website:

Annual giving to the Tennessee Fund accounted for $28.3 million (58 percent) of the total figure, an increase of $3.65 million from 2013-14. Gifts given specifically to support capital projects totaled $12.6 million. The remaining dollars raised, approximately $7.5 million came in the form of endowments, planned gifts and gift-in-kind contributions.

Since launching the Campaign for Comprehensive Excellence in the fall of 2013, the Tennessee Fund has raised more than $112 million in cash and pledges, including over $31 million for capital projects, over $21 million in planned gifts, and $5.3 million to fund educational initiatives including the SouthEast Bank Renewing Academic Commitment program.

“This is another illustration of the tremendous passion and generosity of our donors,” Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Dave Hart said in a release. “Their generosity directly funds scholarships for the young men and women in our athletics program and affords us the ability to continue to enhance the student-athlete experience at the University of Tennessee."

Jul 30, 2015 2:02 PM

Tennessee ranked in coaches preseason top 25

Any question about the degree to which Butch Jones and his staff have restored the reputation of the University of Tennessee football program was answered Thursday.

The Volunteers made it into the preseason Amway Coaches Poll top 25. Barely.

Coming off a winning season and its first bowl victory since 2007, Tennessee starts the season ranked 25th, one of two teams that went 7-6 in 2014 in this season’s poll. The other was Arkansas at No. 20.

“You’re not used to an SEC team being down that long,” senior linebacker Curt Magitt said during the recent SEC media days. “My thoughts during the recruiting process when I was being recruited was being a part of bringing it back.”

The Volunteers earned 166 points, two more than Mississippi State, in a vote of 64 college coaches. They are one of eight SEC teams among the top 25. Mississippi State and Texas A&M are the top two among “others receiving votes.”

To view the complete coaches preseason poll, released Thursday morning, click here.

Jul 30, 2015 10:56 AM

Jones happy to be second smartest guy in UT football program

Typically, no one on a football team knows more than the head coach.

That’s not true at the University of Tennessee, where Butch Jones readily admits he ranks no higher than No. 2 when it comes to his program. The smartest guy in the huddle, on the sideline, in the meeting rooms – maybe even on campus – is quarterback Josh Dobbs.

“First of all, it’s a great, comforting fact to know that your quarterback is smarter than you,” Jones said Wednesday during an appearance on WGFX-FM 104.5 (The Zone). “I promise you that – he’s smarter than all of us. He has a cerebral approach to the game. He takes pride in his performance.

“The biggest thing about Josh Dobbs is you only have to tell him once. So if you correct him on the field you’re never going back re-teaching because all it takes is one time and then he works on it.”

Jones was in town to speak at a Nashville Sports Council luncheon at the Wildhorse Saloon. Afterward he sat in with the Midday 180 to discuss the coming season, the first for which Dobbs enters preseason camp as the unquestioned starter. recently published its list of the top 15 smartest college football players. Dobbs (pictured), who majors in aerospace engineering, was No. 2 on that list.

He spent his summer in West Palm Beach interning at aerospace manufacturer Pratt and Whitney. As an intern, Dobbs was permitted to test and collect data from aircraft engines including an F-135 and the F-35 Lightning II.

Many fans are counting on Dobbs to deliver a breakout season for Tennessee. In his six games last season, Dobbs passed for 1,335 yards and nine touchdowns to go along with his 469 rushing yards. With Dobbs at the helm, UT reached its first bowl game since 2010 and earned its first bowl victory since 2008.  

Jones has referred to Dobbs numerous times as his CEO quarterback. What he means is simple: a CEO quarterback owns the team, owns the offense, and solves problems.

So just how smart is the UT quarterback?

“You try to do different things in the recruiting process,” Jones said. “The one story with Josh is when he was on his official visit I was meeting with him in the recruiting room and I drew up a play, talked really fast … and then I erased it really fast. Then I sat down and I carried a conversation on with him for about five, seven minutes and then I said, ‘Oh yeah, here’s the grease pen. Can you get up and re-draw what I just spoke about? He re-drew verbatim – everything.

“Right then and there we knew he was special.”

(Photo: Getty Images)

Jul 30, 2015 6:55 AM

NCAA paints ugly picture of Tyndall's two seasons at Southern Miss

Donnie Tyndall did not simply allow NCAA violations to take place during his two seasons as coach at Southern Miss.

He was an active participant in more than half of the seven significant violations investigators say took place, according to a notice of allegations sent to Southern Miss on Friday.

Tyndall, fired by the University of Tennessee in March because of the investigation, and Southern Miss will have 90 days to respond.

From The Associated Press:

Tyndall said in a statement he was "very disappointed and saddened at the allegations of NCAA violations." He also said he "did not knowingly violate NCAA rules, nor did I encourage or condone rules violations by anyone on the coaching staff" and that he cooperated with the NCAA's review.

He apologized to the "Southern Miss community for any harm caused by violations that occurred."

A rundown of what NCAA investigators say he did:

• Tyndall and staff members were involved in fraudulent completion of online course work for seven prospective student athletes from June 2012 through May 2014. Five of those seven later enrolled at Southern Miss. This is a Level I allegation.

• Tyndall provided roughly $8,000 in impermissible financial aid to two student-athletes who were ineligible but competed anyway from the 2012-13 through 2014-15 academic years. One player received roughly $6,000 in cash and prepaid cards and the other received roughly $2,000 in prepaid cards. This is a Level I allegation.

• Tyndall deleted pertinent emails and provided false or misleading information to NCAA investigators between August 2014 and June 2015. He also contacted others and attempted to influence what those others would say to NCAA investigators. This is a Level I allegation.

• Tyndall did not promote an atmosphere of compliance and failed to adequately monitor the actions of staff members and administrators who reported directly or indirectly to him. This is a Level I infraction.

A Level I allegation is for conduct that “seriously undermines or threatens the integrity of the NCAA Collegiate Model.” It is considered a “severe” infraction, the worst of four-level violation structure implemented in 2013.

Thus far there has been no indication that any similar conduct occurred during Tyndall’s one season at Tennessee.

Jul 27, 2015 5:20 AM

Defense motions filed in case of former UT player accused of rape

The lawyer for former University of Tennessee football player A.J. Johnson filed numerous pre-trial motions, some of which are designed to shape the dialogue during and the basic nature of the trial.

Johnson (pictured) was dismissed from the team last November when he and another former player, Michael Williams, were accused of sexual assault. Both have been charged with four counts of aggravated rape – two based on each individual’s action and two for aiding and abetting the other.

Separate trial dates were set for the pair this week. Williams’ was set for Aug. 29 and Johnson’s for Sept. 24.

One motion filed by Johnson’s attorney, Stephen Ross Johnson, argues that the four charges are too many for what, if anything, was a single criminal act.

From the Knoxville News Sentinel:

Four separate allegations give the prosecution four chances to try to prove consent either was not given or was withdrawn.

Defense attorney Johnson also wants to bar both the state and the judge from calling the woman a victim and calling the alleged crime rape. Instead, he is asking Judge Bob McGee to order the state to refer to her as “a complaining witness, an accuser or by her name” and to use the state law code number in place of aggravated rape in his instructions to the jury.

“This would ensure that counsel for both sides are polite, proper and content neutral and that they are perceived to be so by the jury,” he wrote. “A jury instruction that refers to the individual as a victim may create a presumption that a criminal act, in fact, happened.”

Jul 23, 2015 6:13 AM

NCAA to formally charge Tyndall with rules violations

Former University of Tennessee basketball coach Donnie Tyndall formally will be charged with NCAA rules violations when a notice of allegations is sent to Southern Miss within the next week.

That, according to a report Wednesday.

UT fired Tyndall in March when it determined that the NCAA likely would find wrongdoing on the part of Tyndall during his two seasons as coach at Southern Miss. The 45-year-old replaced Cuonzo Martin in 2014 and coached the Volunteers for one season.

He is currently unemployed.

From the report:

Sources have told the NCAA will allege violations involving improper benefits and academic misconduct happened on Tyndall's watch. Southern Miss and Tyndall will then have an opportunity to contest whatever allegations they'd like to answer. Then the NCAA will eventually levy penalties, probably at some point in 2016.

Jul 22, 2015 1:34 PM

Tennessee to face Georgia Tech in second 2017 Chick-fil-A Kickoff

It won’t be the first game of the 2017 college football season.

It will be the first time in a long time that the University of Tennessee and Georgia Tech have played one another, however, and that will add excitement to the event that already is certain to draw interest.

Officials confirmed Monday that the Volunteers and Yellow Jackets would play in the second of two Chick-fil-A Kickoff Games in 2017.The teams, which last played more than three decades ago, will play a prime time contest Monday, Sept. 4 in Atlanta. ESPN will televise the game.

That contest will be two days after Alabama and Florida State play in the first iteration of the 2017 Kickoff Game. It will be the third time the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game conducts two contests on college football’s opening weekend.

“This will be the renewing of a long and beloved rivalry that's been off the board for far too long," Percy Vaughn, Peach Bowl, Inc. chairman said in a release. "And it's a great addition to the long-standing ACC vs. SEC rivalry games we have been able to put together.”

Tennessee and Georgia Tech will play at the Atlanta Falcons’ new stadium, which is set to open earlier in 2017.

Tickets for the contest will be divided equally between the participating schools and will be sold through their respective ticket offices.

“We are looking forward to and are very excited to open the 2017 season in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game in Atlanta," UT coach Butch Jones said in a release. "It will be a great opportunity for our program to play in a new state-of-the-art facility while playing on a national stage. The state of Georgia is very important to us in recruiting footprint, and that coupled with our alumni base and passionate fans, will make for a very exciting experience."

Jul 20, 2015 9:59 AM

After nearly half a century UT All Sports Picnic remains a big draw

It’s not a traditional picnic in that it won’t draw flies. It takes place indoors, after all.

The 49th annual UT All-Sports Picnic presented by St. Thomas  – as usual – will draw a crowd, though.

Football coach Butch Jones and new men’s basketball coach Rick Barnes will be the featured attractions at the event, which takes place Tuesday at Lipscomb University’s Allen Arena, is the country’s largest University of Tennessee alumni event.

Admission is $20 (cash or check) per person. Doors open at 5 p.m. Dinner, a silent auction and autograph signings will begin at 5:30 p.m. and the program starts at 7 p.m.

The UT All Sports Picnic benefits two endowed scholarships for students from Middle Tennessee who attend the University of Tennessee.

Jul 12, 2015 11:23 PM

Receivers among five UT players who did not receive bowl rings

Von Pearson and Vic Wharton have their memories of Tennessee’s victory in the TaxSlayer Bowl – and that’s about all.

The wide receivers each scored a touchdown as the Volunteers routed Iowa 45-28 on Jan. 2 but, according to a report by the Knoxville News Sentinel, neither received one of the commemorative rings given to players early last month.

Through an open records request, the newspaper obtained the ring distribution list and five players, including Pearson and Wharton, who were on the roster for that game were not included. According to the report, the university purchased 150 rings at a total cost of $26,250.

From the News Sentinel:

Pearson’s and Wharton’s names are two of the five players’ names that are redacted from the bowl ring distribution list obtained by the News Sentinel in a open records request. According to Tennessee spokesman Jason Yellin the players with names redacted did not receive rings. The other three are wide receiver Ryan Jenkins, defensive tackle Michael Sawyers and quarterback Mike Wegzyn.

The News Sentinel determined the names by comparing the bowl game roster to the ring distribution list.

All five players were on the roster for the game, but none of them are currently with the team.

Pearson has been suspended since April, when was named a suspect (he has not been charged) in a rape investigation. Sawyers was dismissed from the team in February and has a preliminary hearing Wednesday for a felony theft charge.

Wharton and Jenkins transferred and Wegzyn did not return to the program.

According to the list, three other players who also transferred after the bowl game received rings. Wide receiver Drae Bowles and linebacker Justin King, who both transferred to Chattanooga, are on the list, as is quarterback Nathan Peterman, who transferred to Pittsburgh.

Jul 6, 2015 5:05 AM

Tennessee debuts new uniforms to kick off apparel deal with Nike

It was Steve Jobs who once said, “Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”

Presumably, Nike and the University of Tennessee kept that in mind during the university’s recent rebranding effort.

In order to unite the University of Tennessee under the ‘One Tennessee’ slogan, UT has rebranded its athletic uniforms, colors, logos, and word marks to create consistency. The partnership aimed to take UT into the next step of its brand evolution by not only honoring the school’s athletics history, pride, and tradition but also developing a fresher, modern identity across all of it athletic teams.

Wednesday, the first day of the apparel deal, the result of that philosophy was revealed when UT previewed the new uniforms for its athletics teams.

Starting next season the basketball, baseball, and softball teams will have their own smoky gray uniform options, something they did not have in the past. The alternate football uniform features the gray color scheme from head to toe.

Traditionally the UT helmet has been white but the new alternate uniform features an all gray helmet with the orange checkerboard running down the back. A prominent new feature to the new helmet is the silhouette of the Smoky Mountains on the back of the helmet.

The Power-T symbol now is the primary logo for all athletic teams excluding women’s basketball. The women’s basketball team will keep the Lady Vols lettering and logo.


UT wanted to incorporate tradition, community, history, and pride to create a more modern brand. In conjunction with Nike, it stuck to what worked traditionally with the uniforms and incorporated something new to draw in the younger crowd as well.

Of course, the ultimate test will be whether the uniforms work on the fields and courts. Any team looks good when it wins.



Jul 1, 2015 2:21 PM