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

Tickets for Tennessee-Virginia Tech game at Bristol moving full throttle

Ticket sales for football game between Tennessee and Virginia Tech, set for Sept. 10, 2016 at Bristol Motor Speedway remain brisk.

It’s not just the fans the teams that are buying them either.

Race fans also are eager to see one of that sport’s most unique venues transformed, according to a report Tuesday from the Knoxville News Sentinel.

Bristol Motor Speedway Executive Vice President Jerry Caldwell told the paper that sales to BMS season ticket holders have exceeded expectations. Wednesday, the next phase of the sale begins when anyone who attended a Sprint Cup or NHRA event this year can make a ticket deposit.

“Obviously, Tennessee fans and Virginia Tech fans are really enthusiastic and excited about this and they've been clamoring for tickets," Caldwell said, according to the News Sentinel. "But what's really blown me away is that we have some fans that are so enthusiastic that don't have an allegiance to one team over the other. They know this is going to be an epic event that people are going to be talking about 50 years from now. A lot of (BMS) season-ticket holders from other states — Florida, Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, California — they want to be here for the event."

From the News Sentinel:

Tennessee sold out its 40,000 seat allotment by January of 2014 for the game scheduled for Sept. 10, 2016. Caldwell said Virginia Tech is ahead of schedule selling its 40,000 tickets.

Ticket sales to the general public will begin sometime next spring or summer. Caldwell estimates, though, that only a limited number of seats will remain at that point.

Jun 30, 2015 10:36 PM

Despite protests, UT proceeds with plan to rebrand women's teams

It was William Shakespeare who wrote: “What's in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”

Shakespeare clearly was not a fan of the University of Tennessee’s softball team. Or its volleyball team. Or any of the other women’s programs about to be called something different.

Those teams have a lot of supporters who think the pending change stinks.

On Wednesday all University of Tennessee women’s sports teams, with the exception of the women’s basketball team, will be known as the Volunteers. Only the women’s basketball team will continue as the Lady Vols and use the familiar logo, a tribute to former coach Pat Summit to reflect her legacy and continue its association with the program she built over her 38 years of coaching.

The name change was prompted by the school’s decision to switch apparel providers from Adidas to Nike. Nike conducted a branding audit for the University and recommended the school consolidate its logos and wording to create a better branding consistency.

The Power-T now will serve as the primary symbol for the school and its athletic program. Nike believed the use of Lady Vols divides the university and inhibits the goal of being united as “One Tennessee.” Nike also has faced some heat for the name change controversy prompting their consumer affairs department to respond stating, “Nike has no decision making capabilities whatsoever regarding the University’s choice to phase out the Lady Volunteers nickname for all women’s sports.”

Several dozen Lady Vols supporters protested the name change at the annual Board of trustees meeting on campus and circulated a petition to save the nickname, which gathered over 25,000 signatures. Fans and former players are not the only ones joining the fight to save the Lady Vols. Forty-five state lawmakers, including Tennessee Rep. Roger Kane, R-Knoxville, wrote a letter to the school’s board of trustees urging them to reconsider the name change. A website was started by former UT volleyball player Leslie Cikara called The site posts letters from both former and current athletes urging the University to keep the Lady Volunteer name.

The university, though, has turned a deaf ear to all complaints and its athletics website is promoting the official launch of the rebranded athletics department, 11 a.m. (CDT) Wednesday.

Jun 30, 2015 12:11 PM

Current, former UT basketball coaches focused on what's ahead

University of Tennessee basketball coaches – former and present – discussed their current situations, disparate as they are, Monday.

Donnie Tyndall talked with a reporter about what comes next having been fired after one year on the job (he’s not sure). Rick Barnes, Tyndall’s replacement at UT, looked back on his 16 seasons at Texas with the Knoxville News Sentinel and the possibility that he might have been connected to academic fraud (he’s certain he did not).

Questions about Barnes surfaced earlier this month when The Chronicle of Higher Education published a report that alleged a series of academic incidents involving the men’s basketball players while Barnes coached there, including that a member of the 2013-14 team cheated on a test but was not punished for it.

Barnes told the News Sentinel that he thought the report had “no legs to it.”

“If I did make a statement, it would have been that I hate for everything that has happened here at University of Tennessee, for even something like that to pop up,” Barnes said. “But from where I stand, and where I sit and what I know, and the people that I'm close to back there, everyone said, ‘Hey, you know there's nothing to it. There's no legs to it. So why get involved?' And I'm not.’

Of course, what happened at UT was that athletics director Dave Hart had to fire Tyndall earlier this year because of NCAA violations Tyndall and his staff committed while at Southern Miss.

Since then Tyndall has not stepped away from basketball to regroup. Far from it, in fact.

According to the report, he has strengthened his network of contacts within the game and has talked to coaches in the NBA and colleges as well as college athletics directors. He said all have been encouraging, none more so than another former UT coach, Bruce Pearl.

“The biggest thing he said was, 'Donnie, I know you're sitting there thinking your career is over and you'll never coach again; I had the exact same thoughts,’” Tyndall recalled. “‘But I'm telling you, you'll be back.' That's the best thing he told me. He told me I'll be back.”

That is certainly his goal.That and a national championship.

"I was the youngest head coach in the SEC last season," Tyndall said. "So I'm not giving up on my hopes and dreams. My dream has always been to play on a Monday night and win a national title, and that's still my dream. So people may say I'm delusional. But my dream is still to get back into coaching and coach on that Monday night."

Jun 30, 2015 6:38 AM

Manning likes what Butch Jones has to say about UT, how he says it

Butch Jones’ message has been consistent from the moment he took over the University of Tennessee’s football program.

Peyton Manning believes that Jones’ current attitude speaks volumes, though, about the third-year coach’s belief that the best is yet to come.

The NFL’s all-time leading passer and former UT great was in Knoxville on Monday for the Peyton Manning Golf Classic, which benefits both the East Tennessee Children’s Hospital and the PeyBack Foundation for disadvantaged youth. There, he addressed the media and said he sees a difference in Jones when the two speak these days.

From the Knoxville News Sentinel:

“I can tell he’s excited,” Manning said. “Butch Jones is excited when he talks to me about his team, about the recruits coming in. He’s always had that passion in his voice, but you can really hear it now when he’s talking. He’s excited. He’s determined to get Tennessee football back to where it belongs and where it should be. I believe he’s the guy to get us there.”

According to the newspaper, Manning also will “present four full scholarships to the Manning Scholars, and will be part of a ceremony unveiling the Gus Manning Gate at Gate 16 at Neyland Stadium, honoring the long-time UT administrator” while he is on campus.

(Photo: Getty Images)

Jun 22, 2015 1:54 PM

Saint Preux always looking for another fight, aims for UFC title

The mixed martial arts world has seen a lot of Ovince Saint Preux in the couple years.

The 32-year-old Knoxville-based light heavyweight believes his next appearance only will make people want to see him again – in a title fight.

Saint Preux, a former University of Tennessee football player, will face Glover Teixeira. The matchup of top 10 fighters will serve as the main event of UFC Fight Night, Aug. 8 at Bridgestone Arena.

“This is the fight that is going to have people talking about me getting in line for a title shot,” Saint Preux told the Nashville Post on Tuesday during an appearance in Nashville to promote the fight. “… The UFC is probably one of the only organizations I know that give the fans the fight they want. If the fans ask for a particular fight, that’s the fight they’re going to want to put on and they’ll make that fight happen one way or another.”

Saint Preux is currently No. 6 in the UFC light heavyweight rankings and Teixeira is No. 5.

Four of the top five, including Teixeira, have fought for the title within the last three years.

Saint Preux has fought just about everyone else. Since he was added to the UFC roster after the demise of Strikeforce, he fought seven times in just under two years, including four bouts in a seven-month span last year. He is 6-1 under the UFC banner and 18-6 overall as an MMA professional. Four of his last five wins have come in the first round, three by knockout and one by submission.

“It felt good keeping that active,” he said. “If you feel good, why not? You just keep on going. I try to get a little bit of rest but if I feel really good, I’m just right back at it.”

His last fight was April 18 in Newark, N.J. Teixeira has fought just once in the last 14 months, a unanimous decision defeat last October.

“Fighting is different,” Saint Preux said. “You’re fighting for a purpose. And my main two purposes for fighting – I tell myself all the time – is to better myself and my family financially, but also to have a belt around my waist.”

Staying busy might just result in both.

Tickets for UFC Fight Night in Nashville are on sale as of Friday.

Jun 19, 2015 10:30 AM

UT freshman quarterback accused of assault, theft, property damage

Jauan Jennings, a freshman quarterback for the University of Tennessee, is one of three people accused of assault, theft and property damage following an altercation late last month in Lebanon.

No charges have been filed but an incident report obtained by the Knoxville News Sentinel said rocks thrown during a fight at a bonfire caused damage to a woman’s vehicle and that several items were stolen from the vehicle. The woman alleged that her two sons were assaulted during the event.

The report also stated that Jennings’ father brought his son to the sherriff’s office. He filed a complaint of his own that claimed his vehicle also sustained damage due to thrown rocks.

“We are aware of an alleged incident and are awaiting further facts from a fact-finding body,” UT spokesman Jason Yellin told the News Sentinel on Wednesday.

The UT football program has not taken any disciplinary action at this time. A high school star at Blackman in Murfreesboro, Jennings is 17. If he is charged, therefore, it will be as a juvenile and all legal proceedings will be closed.

He was the 2014 TSSAA Class AAA Mr. Football and an early enrollee at UT this January. He took part in spring drills and scored on a 45-yard touchdown run during the annual spring game.

Jun 10, 2015 10:43 PM

Tyndall turns to professional wrestling as tag team manager

Donnie Tyndall has gone from the sideline to ringside.

The former University of Tennessee men’s basketball coach will be a part of Global Force Wrestling show Saturday night at Smokies Park in Knoxville.

Tyndall will manage the tag team known as the new Heavenly Bodies (Desirable Dustin and Gigolo Justin) in the night’s main event.

Global Force Wrestling is a recently formed, Nashville-based promotion led by Middle Tennessee native and wrestling lifer Jeff Jarrett, who has used mainstream sports personalities to help promote shows with other organizations. When he was with TNA, Jarrett put former Titans tight end Frank Wycheck, Major League catcher A.J. Pierszynski and others in the ring.

Tyndall is not likely to step between the ropes but his presence and participation certainly will draw attention to the event, the second live card in the promotion’s history. Dubbed the Grand Slam Tour, GFW has scheduled shows in eight different states between now and mid-October.

“It will be nice to see some of the friends we made in the arena,” Tyndall said in a GFW press release. “As for diving into professional wrestling and managing the new Heavenly Bodies, coaching is coaching. Our young guys played hard for the Vols, and I’m sure these young guys will do the same.”

Tyndall was UT’s coach last season but was fired in March for his part in NCAA violations during his two seasons as head coach at Southern Miss.

Jun 10, 2015 10:24 PM

Report alleges academic fraud in Texas men's basketball program under Rick Barnes

It was not long ago that the University of Tennessee fired its men’s basketball coach because of something that happened at his previous school.

Now there are allegations of academic misconduct at the University of Texas while the Volunteers new coach, Rick Barnes, was in charge of the program there.

The Chronicle of Higher Education published a report Wednesday in which a teacher charged a member of the Longhorns 2013-14 team with cheating on a test. The teacher said she reported the incident to athletics department officials but that the student ultimately passed the class and was named to the Big 12 Commissioner’s Honor Roll, a distinction that goes to student-athletes with GPA of 3.0 or better.

From the report:

The incident is one of several accusations of academic misconduct under Rick Barnes, Texas’ head basketball coach from 1998 until this year. One former academic mentor in the athletic department told The Chronicle that he had helped write papers for J’Covan Brown, a former guard. A tutor for P.J. Tucker, another onetime Longhorns player, said Mr. Tucker had received impermissible academic assistance while he was preparing for the NBA draft.

Through a spokesman, Coach Barnes, who was fired in March, denied knowledge of problems at Austin. (Texas officials said his departure was not related to the cheating accusations.) But a new NCAA policy requires head coaches to demonstrate an atmosphere of compliance in their programs. If the NCAA were to find violations at Texas, Mr. Barnes — now head coach at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville — could face NCAA sanctions.

The article also looks into other incidents and policies and concludes that “a pattern of academic misconduct has been alleged over a period of time.”

Donnie Tyndall was fired in March after one season for his role in NCAA violations committed during his two seasons as coach at Southern Miss.

Barnes was hired March 31 to replace him.

A University of Texas administrator told The Chronicle of Higher Education that the school has begun an investigation into the charges.

Jun 10, 2015 2:08 PM