This Week in UT Sports History is a weekly column written by RTI columnist Lexie Little
Another week has passed, one again without sports. But Big Orange Country received good news this week when the University of Tennessee announced all spring sport seniors will be eligible for one more season in 2021 after the NCAA Division I Council voted on March 30th to allow schools the option to offer an eligibility extension. The extension applies to seniors on the baseball, softball, golf, tennis, rowing, and outdoor track and field teams.
As these seniors await their final season, take a look back at past moments in Tennessee spring sports in “This Week in UT Sports History.”
April 13, 2002
Senior Day. The No. 8 Tennessee Tennis team took to the courts as more than 300 fans looked on, watching the Vols prepare to play in Knoxville. Jitters ran high as the opponents – the No. 1 Georgia Bulldogs – warmed up. The Southeastern Conference rivalry match-up came as the Vols rode a hot streak. And Tennessee ended Georgia’s hot streaks, a 17-match overall win streak and 25-match SEC streak, with a 4-3 win in the final round of the SEC regular season.
Following wins in the No. 2 and 3 doubles matches to take an edge, the Vols took four of the six first sets in singles. Senior Adam Carey earned his 105th match victory with a three-set win against Georgia’s formidable Bo Hodge.
“This shows us that we can beat anyone in the nation,” Carey said. “This is definitely one of the best matches I have been involved with since I have been here. It just can’t get any better than beating the No. 1 team in the nation on senior day.”
The Vols had lost to the Bulldogs in the NCAA final round the year prior, making the win all the more sweet at home, sweet home. Tennessee head coach Michael Fancutt echoed his senior star’s comments, calling the win over the No. 1 team in the nation “just amazing.” Preparing to host the SEC Tournament the upcoming weekend, the Volunteer spirit took hopeful hold.
“Our goal all season has been to win the SEC and NCAA tournaments,” Fancutt said. “This [win] makes us know that we can do it. I definitely believe we are peaking at the right time.”
Eight days later, the Vols beat Auburn, 4-1, to earn the SEC Tournament title in Knoxville, the first since the last time they had hosted in 1990. That season, Tennessee lost in the NCAA semifinal round to Southern California to close out the year with a record of 15-4 overall.
When the 2019-20 season ended abruptly in March, the No. 19 Vols held a 14-2 overall record (2-1 SEC) with losses only to Columbia and No. 10 Georgia.
April 17, 2005
Ironically, another Tennessee win over Georgia gave the athletic program an additional title to add to the record books for the first time since 1990. Senior David Skinns edged past Richard Scott of Georgia to claim the SEC individual golf championship title at the Sea Island Golf Club (where Scott would later work) on April 17, 2005. Skinns became the first Tennessee individual titleholder since Mike Sposa in 1990.
The fourth in Tennessee history to claim the SEC individual championship, Skinns won by one stroke over Scott after starting the day in a tie for second with Alabama’s Gator Todd. Scott had led the first two rounds, but he came up to even par as Skinns emerged with three consecutive birdies to enter the back nine 2-under-par. The birdies flew again on the back nine, also three in a row on Nos. 13-15 to give Skinns the edge.
Skinns ended the day with a scorecard of 72-70-68—210 while Scott barely missed a tie for the title at 68-73-70—211. The team competition proved disappointing for both Tennessee and No. 2 Georgia. No. 18 Kentucky won the tournament, followed by Auburn in second and Georgia in third. Tennessee finished fifth.
David Skinns, originally from Lincoln, England, earned All-SEC and Academic All-SEC honors in 2005. He earned a distinction as a 3rd team Ping All-American the same year. Skinns helped the Vols to the final day of the NCAA Championships where they finished 11th in the country.
Bert Greene became the first Vol to win the individual SEC Golf Championship title in 1964, followed by Mickey Mabry in 1972 and Sposa in 1990.
April 15, 2001
Bottom of the ninth. Two outs. Tied at seven. Runner Justin Parker on second. Jeff Christensen steps up to the plate. The pitch comes hurling toward him, and…it’s an RBI single to pull off an 8-7 win against Alabama.
The Tennessee Vols (31-9, 11-7 SEC) pull off a 2-1 series win against conference rival Alabama (24-16, 10-8) in a late-game save from Christensen. Parker picked up the win on the mound with one inning of relief.
Bama held a 5-1 lead in the fourth inning, but Tennessee came back to tie in the bottom of the fourth, sending eight men to the plate. The Sunday win came after another close game, which Tennessee won 7-6 on Saturday. Few might have thought the Vols would win the series after the Friday opener. Alabama put on a show in Knoxville in Game 1, winning 11-3.
With the win, Tennessee picked up its 16th come-from-behind victory on the season to that point. With a sacrifice bunt in the eighth, the Vols brought the score to 7-7. Parker struck out two of the final three batters in the ninth to keep hope alive before scoring the winning run off Christensen’s single, handing Bama its 10th road loss of 15.
Tennessee finished that season 48-20 (18-12 SEC), making it to the College World Series where they lost to the No. 2 Miami Hurricanes in the semifinal round on June 14th. The Vols seemed on track to make a long run again in 2020 before the season ended. Tennessee earned a record of 15-2, just short of starting conference play.