Fulmer is “Heartbroken” for Student-Athletes Amidst Postponements

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Photo by Anne Newman/RTI

This week has been a sad one for sports fans, athletes, coaches, and anyone else involved in professional and collegiate athletics. The whole sports world has been put on hiatus amidst the spread of the coronavirus in the United States, and health and safety has been pushed to the forefront of everyone’s minds.

To help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, all sporting leagues across the US have either been temporarily suspended or outright canceled. On Friday, more postponements were announced in the Southeastern Conference.

The SEC announced on Friday that all athletic activities — both team and individual — will be suspended through April 15th. That includes spring football practices, any team competitions, meetings, and any other organized gatherings.

Because of that and the cancellation of the NCAA Tournament in men’s and women’s basketball and the cancellation of all spring and winter sports championships, the University of Tennessee is in a holding pattern over the next month.

Tennessee’s football team will not be practicing until at least the 15th of April, and the Orange & White Game has been postponed. The baseball, softball, outdoor track and field team, and other spring sports have all had their seasons halted, and none of UT’s spring or winter sports will get to participate in postseason play at this time.

While the NCAA has announced that they will be giving all athletes in spring sports an extra year of eligibility due to the cancellations, it still doesn’t diminish the fact that most — if not all — collegiate athletes are seeing their seasons come to an abrupt end.

For Tennessee Athletics Director Phillip Fulmer — a former football player and coach at UT — it hits especially close to home to see Tennessee’s athletes not being able to compete and practice.

“I am heartbroken for our student-athletes who have poured their heart and soul into their training and now find themselves in a season of uncertainty,” Fulmer said in a statement on Friday after the announcement from the SEC about postponing activities through April 15th. “There are many lingering questions related to academics, eligibility, training schedules, housing, and various other internal operations for which we do not yet have answers. But I am focused on actively engaging in the dialogue that is to come as we work to support our young men and women — highlighting their physical, mental, and emotional wellness — to help them move forward.”

Fulmer also addressed Tennessee’s fans, donors, and alumni, stating that he knows they are frustrated and irritated about all the cancellations. But Fulmer hopes that once activities are allowed to resume, UT’s fans will turn out tenfold to support Tennessee’s teams.

“To our incredible fans, donors and alumni — I understand the frustration that comes along with canceled events, ticket refunds, and many lost opportunities to celebrate Tennessee wins and championships,” Fulmer added. “But I’m confident that these circumstances will stir the passion of the world’s most extraordinary fanbase, and that your love for the Vols and Lady Vols will shine through like never before when the action eventually resumes.

“Please take care of yourselves and each other as we navigate the days to come together, prioritizing the greater good.”

Tennessee also announced that refunds will be made available to any fans who purchased tickets through AllVols.com or through Tennessee Athletics directly.

“Single-game tickets for baseball and softball purchased directly through AllVols.com or Tennessee Athletics will be refunded in the form of the original payment,” the release states. “Fans will not need to request a refund; those purchases will be automatically refunded in seven to 10 business days. Refunds will be issued to the original purchaser of record. Tennessee Athletics will follow up with communication to baseball and softball season-ticket holders related to refunds based on the restriction duration.

“Refunds for ticket purchases made via cash or check could take up to six weeks to process.”

If any fans have questions about refunds or ticket purchases, Tennessee has asked them to contact the Tennessee Athletic Ticket Office at (865) 656-1200.

Nathanael Rutherford
Nathanael Rutherford is the managing editor and social media manager for Rocky Top Insider. Nathanael graduated from the University of Tennessee and cultivated a passion for the Vols while growing up in Knoxville a mere 10 minutes from Neyland Stadium. He's been a part of the RTI team since November of 2015 and has been the editor of RTI since June of 2017. If he's not talking or writing about Tennessee athletics, he's probably talking about Star Wars.