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

Berry back on field after eight-month battle with cancer

Eric Berry was in bed, but it wasn’t a nightmare.

The effects of chemotherapy to battle Hodgkin’s Lymphoma diminished his physical capabilities to the point that even the most basic of daily rituals became a challenge.

“It was a battle everyday,” the former University of Tennessee star said Wednesday. “I mean it came to a point where I had to set goals to just get out of bed. ‘Today I’m going to get out of bed, I’m going to make sure I get out of bed and I’m not going to stay in the bed all day,’ but I literally would stay in the bed all day.”

That was just months ago but it some ways it seems like a distant memory. Diagnosed last November, Berry began treatment almost immediately.

He was cleared Tuesday to practice with the Kansas City Chiefs when the opened training camp this week.

“Football carries over to life,” Berry said. “Whatever you learn in football it carries right over to life and it is vice-versa so the things that you learn in life you carry onto the football field. So I just tried to use all those experiences and everything that I have gone through in the past on and off the field and all of my experiences, I just tried to use it to get through this.

“To be honest, it felt good to get back onto the field, but in my mind, I still feel like I have work to do.”

Physically, he is one pound heavier than he was when the diagnosis cut short his 2014 season.

It remains to be seen whether he once again can be the player who made three Pro Bowls in four years, the first of which came after his rookie season. That’s not what it important at the moment, though.

“This experience has been a roller coaster, but I wouldn’t change it for the world,” Berry said. “I’m just so thankful that the training staff when the whole situation happened, they didn’t just sweep it under the rug because they easily could have done that, because at first we couldn’t find anything in the x-rays and the MRI kind of showed some things. I mean it could have been so easy for them to say, ‘you are okay – get back out there,’ but they did the proper protocol, proper procedure and

“I’m just very thankful for that because without that I don’t know where we would be right now.”

(Photo: Getty Images)
 

Jul 30, 2015 10:12 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.

NFL.com 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

Manning establishes fund to assist Chattanooga shooting victims

Peyton Manning could not pass up the opportunity to help.

One of the most prolific passers in NFL history announced Thursday that he established the Chattanooga Heroes Fund to provide continuing support for those directly affected by last week’s shooting in that city.

From the Chattanooga Times Free Press:

Manning made an initial contribution to the Chattanooga Heroes Fund, according to a news release.

"Our family has enjoyed a long-standing relationship with the great city of Chattanooga, and it has a very special place in our hearts," Manning said in the release. "But on July 16th, 2015, this strong, welcoming community was forever changed. … The five servicemen who gave their lives, the police officer who risked his life in order to protect others, and the actions of many other first responders were truly heroic."

The Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga will administer the fund. Donations can be made online at CFGC.org or by mail to: Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga, Attn: Chattanooga Heroes Fund, 1270 Market Street, Chattanooga, TN 37402

(Photo: Getty Images)

Jul 23, 2015 10:01 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 CBSSports.com 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 CBSSports.com report:

Sources have told CBSSports.com 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

Hoops star culls college options; list includes Vanderbilt, Tennessee

Braxton Blackwell has options. Lots of them.

Tuesday afternoon, though, the former Christ Presbyterian Academy basketball star limited his choices.

Blackwell, who over the weekend announced he would transfer to Oak Hill Academy (Va.) for his senior season, cut his list of college choices to six Tuesday afternoon. That group includes Vanderbilt and Tennessee.

The 6-foot-8 forward announced the effective finalists (the other four are Alabama, Kansas, Texas and Virginia) via social media.

 

ESPN, Rivals and 247 Sports all rate Blackwell a four-star prospect and one of the country’s top 100 recruits for the 2016 signing class.

He was the 2014-15 Class AA Mr. Basketball after he averaged 20.7 points, 10.5 rebounds and 4.9 assists and helped CPA to 32-5 record and a spot in the TSSAA state tournament semifinals.

“Going to Oak Hill, I’m excited to mature,” Blackwell told The Tennessean. “Not only on the court but off the court as well, being in a college environment a year before I’m supposed to go to college. I’ll also have an opportunity to play in front of my grandparents, my godparents and other family members that live in Virginia.”

With Virginia on his list of six it seems fair to wonder whether he considers the chance to play in front of family a one-time only thing or the first of several seasons in which he will get to do so.

 
(Photo: Rivals.com)

Jul 21, 2015 4:32 PM

UT All Sports Picnic draws record crowd despite weather, no Jones

Last week’s 49th Annual UT All Sports Picnic drew more than 1,000 people, a record crowd for the event, to Lipscomb’s Allen Arena and raised more than $12,000 to help fund scholarships for local students, according to figures released Tuesday.

Organizers considered the event a success despite severe weather in the area that night and the absence of football coach Butch Jones, whose travel plans were disrupted by the atmospheric issues.

Attendees still had the opportunity to interact with men’s basketball coach Rick Barnes, women’s assistant basketball coach Dean Lockwood, and UT vice chancellor/director of athletics, Dave Hart. The event included autograph sessions with Barnes and Lockwood.

A silent auction accounted for the fund-raising. One of the most notable items was a fiddle autographed by Charlie Daniels, which sold for more than $1,000.

“It was an inspiring night,” Dan Schlacter, president of the Nashville Region Chapter alumni board said in a release. “We set an attendance record in the middle of a severe storm system that would have kept lesser alumni and fans at home, and we raised $12,000 for local scholarships through the auctions alone. Of course, we missed Coach Jones, but he’ll be here in September to open the football season at Nissan Field.”

In addition to being the largest national event for University of Tennessee alumni, the All Sports Picnic serves as the primary fund raising event for UT. Contributions from the event help fund two scholarship endowments for students from the Middle Tennessee area attending a UT campus.
 

Jul 21, 2015 1:24 PM