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Vol Fans Want to Win More than Just Press Conferences

Photo Credit: UT Athletics

When asked about winning titles at Tennessee during his introductory press conference, new Tennessee athletic director John Currie first brought up academics. Currie explained the importance of a great education and how being a student athlete and succeeding in the classroom is most important. Currie mentioned focusing on giving student athletes the tools to succeed once they take off their uniforms and how important that is.

But he didn’t shy away from discussing the importance of winning on the field and court either.

“You’re either playing for the title or biting the butt of the guy who is,” Currie stated, quoting former Tennessee head football coach and athletic director Doug Dickey. “And that’s what Tennessee is all about.”

Currie would go on to add that Tennessee doesn’t have “100,000 seats (in Neyland Stadium), 21,000 seats (in Thompson-Boling Arena), a beautiful baseball stadium, or the Allen Jones Aquatic Center just for intramurals.” Currie claimed Tennessee has those facilities because “we should be representing intercollegiate athletics at the highest level and winning championships.”

It’s great that Currie believes in winning and wants Tennessee athletics to compete for and win championships. But it’s one thing to say those words and quite another to actually go out and make those words a reality. And Vol fans are tired of just winning press conferences and not titles.

I wrote an article earlier this week about the challenges Currie faces across the board for all of Tennessee’s sports teams. The Vols haven’t won a national title in any of their major sports (football, men’s basketball, women’s basketball, baseball, or softball) in nearly a decade. The last national championship game any of those teams won was the Lady Vols’ 2008 title. Since then, only the softball team has even come truly close to winning a championship.

Since Tennessee’s last championship in 2008, the Vols’ five major sports teams have won nine conference titles (tournament and regular season titles both), and all nine of those have been by the Lady Vols basketball and softball teams. Tennessee’s football, men’s basketball, and baseball teams all have the same amount of conference and division titles in that span: zero.

In fact, it’s been a while since those three teams have even won at a high level.

Men’s basketball has been floundering since the Bruce Pearl era. In Pearl’s six seasons as head coach, the Vols were a sterling 145-61 with six consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances and the school’s only Elite Eight appearance. In the five full seasons since, the Vols have gone 94-76 with one NCAA Tournament appearance. This season’s squad is currently 15-15, which would make the basketball program a paltry 109-91 since Pearl last coached the team.

Tennessee’s baseball team has been historically bad over the last nine seasons. Since parting ways with Rod Delmonico, the school’s winningest baseball coach, after the 2007 season, the baseball team has yet to finish better than fifth in the SEC East and hasn’t had a winning record in conference play. Delmonico led Tennessee to three conference titles and three appearances in the College World Series. Since then, however, Vol baseball has remained in the basement of the SEC.

In the nine full seasons since the Delmonico era, Tennessee baseball has gone 238-250, including just a 90-177 conference record. Compare that to Delmonico’s 699-396 overall record in 18 years, and it’s easy to see how far baseball has fallen.

The recent struggles of Tennessee’s football team, the top sport at Tennessee, have been well-documented. The Vols’ back-to-back 9-4 seasons have been the program’s best consecutive seasons since the 2006 and 2007 teams went 9-4 and 10-4 respectively. But even the last two seasons have been disappointments considering how close the Vols were to winning the SEC East and competing for a conference title.

After winning 151 of their 204 games under head coach Phillip Fulmer from 1992-2008, including a national championship in 1998, Tennessee football has gone a somber 53-48 under Lane Kiffin, Derek Dooley, and Butch Jones in eight seasons since. And the Vols haven’t even won their division in that time.

Throughout those years, many coaches, players, and administrators have “won” press conferences at Tennessee despite the teams themselves not winning many actual games. Vol fans are tired of victories behind a podium. They want to see the results where they matter most.

John Currie got off on the right foot when he said winning championships is one of the main goals at Tennessee. But words mean little unless they are backed up by actions, and Currie will have to prove he means what he says during his tenure at Tennessee’s AD.

Vol fans have heard those words before, and they’ve turned out hollow. It’s time the Vols started giving them reasons to believe again.

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