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This Week in UT Sports History – April 29th-May 5th

Photo credit: Anne Newman/RTI

This Week in UT Sports History is a weekly column written by RTI contributor Lexie Little

Exam weeks like this week remain trying times for University of Tennessee students, and Tennessee Athletics has faced many a test of its own during its history. Take a moment to reflect on Tennessee trials and tribulations in “This Week in UT Sports History.”

April 29, 2006

Ole Miss 21, Tennessee 13. One may think looking at the score that the Rebels scored three touchdowns and Tennessee scored two, missing a point-after in some sort of spring scrimmage.

One would be wrong.

Tennessee Baseball (25-18, 7-12 SEC) traveled to Oxford, Mississippi, with hopes to beat its well-matched Southeastern Conference foes (29-15, 12-8 SEC). However, Ole Miss clinched the series victory in the 21-13 win despite an 8-4 Vol lead in the fifth inning.

Tennessee starting pitcher James Adkins gave up 11 runs, nine earned, on 12 hits. Adkins walked two batters and struck out seven.

The Vols pulled within one run in the seventh inning, 14-13, before the Rebels loaded the bases in the bottom of the seventh and tallied six more runs. Three Tennessee relievers allowed 10 runs on nine hits with five walks.

Officials ejected Tennessee head coach Rod Delmonico, paving the way for assistant Larry Simcox to coach against his alma mater on his 47th birthday.

The game remains one of the highest-scoring in Tennessee history, but it pales in comparison to two leading match-ups in the NCAA record books. Air Force and Denver combined for 62 runs in a 1968 contest, while Farleigh Dickinson and Coppin State combined for 59 in 2016, with Fairleigh Dickinson winning 35-24 in a seemingly defenseless match-up.

 May 3, 2009

The Tennessee Theatre has played host to performing legends like Fanny Brice, Roy Acuff, Lawrence Welk, Diana Ross, and Johnny Cash. However, the historic theater on Gay Street in Knoxville welcomed a sporting legend one decade ago this week, inviting Lady Vol fans to enjoy a “Day of 1,000 Stories” celebrating the wins earned by the late Pat Summitt.

Summitt earned her 1,000th career win as head coach against Georgia on Feb. 5, 2009 by a 30-point margin, 73-43. She took the stage adorned with memorabilia and eight national championship trophies to reminisce about her illustrious career with fellow coaches and former players at the event in her honor.

“I thought about what we could do, and it’s hard to think of something to do for somebody who has everything and for something this significant,” Lady Vols athletic director Joan Cronan said. “To me, everybody here is a part of history.”

UT officials invited players like Dianne Brady Fetzer, who played on Summitt’s first team in the 1974-75 season, to tell stories about their fabled coach and their first wins on her road to 1,000. Fetzer remembered a van ride home from a road game on which she debated defense with her young head coach.

“Me telling Pat what defense to play is like telling Moses how to part the Red Sea,” she said.

Current Tennessee head coach Kellie Jolly Harper, who had just taken the helm at North Carolina State, also showed up to celebrate her former coach. Summitt credited her former players with making 1,000 wins possible.

“To all the players that wore the Lady Vol uniform, this night should be a special night for you,” Summitt said following the milestone victory. “It wouldn’t happen without all of them.”

Summitt earned 1,098 total wins as head coach in her 38-year career with the Lady Vols, only losing 208 contests. She announced her early-onset dementia diagnosis in 2011 and ended her coaching career after the 2011-2012 season. Summitt died June 28, 2016 at age 64. Her NCAA win record sits second only to Duke men’s head coach Mike Krzyzewski, who has 1,132 wins. Krzyzewski passed Summitt’s record March 17, 2018.

“She would have won hundreds of more games. Pat could have coached men,” he told reporters at an NCAA Tournament press conference. “She was as good a coach as there was in the country. She really was a pioneer and set up the glory that the women’s game has right now.”

May 3, 2017

Epistolary stories often include drama. That of former athletic director John Currie proved no different.

Two years ago this week, Currie drafted a letter to Vol Nation early in his tenure as AD to update fans on plans for the conference’s future following his first meeting with other SEC athletic directors.

“I am writing this update during a (hopefully!) short flight delay as I connect in Charlotte on my way back from Jacksonville and my first SEC AD’s meeting,” Currie wrote. “Over the last two days, Commissioner Sankey led us in robust discussions about lots of ‘routine’ topics including, but certainly not limited to athletic and academic performance of our teams, fan experience, officiating and future football schedules.”

Currie relished his new role, saying he felt great walking into a room filled with SEC staff and fellow ADs with whom he had “longtime relationships.”

“I’m looking forward to hearing that S-E-C chant at our football opener in Atlanta vs. Georgia Tech September 4th!” he wrote, noting the collective focus on collaboration and collegiality as a league.

Currie detailed several events from that week in his letter including an update on Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia, which remained under construction at the time. The now home of the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United FC, which played host to Super Bowl 53 in February 2019, staged the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic in 2017. Tennessee beat Georgia Tech in overtime, 42-41, Sept. 4, 2017 in what would be head coach Butch Jones’ last season opener at Tennessee – and Currie’s first and last.

Currie, hired in February 2017, spent only eight months on Rocky Top. Following a dismal football season, head coach dismissal, and a botched coaching search, former UT Chancellor Beverly Davenport fired Currie on Dec. 1, 2017 and named famed former Vol football player and head coach Phillip Fulmer as his successor.

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