Rick Barnes Delivers Heartfelt Message about Tennessee, Leadership, and Culture

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    Rick Barnes Tennessee

    Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes on Tuesday. Photo by RTI.

    “I’ve said many times to a lot of people that our fanbase here is as good as there is in the country.”

    That was just the opening line to one of Rick Barnes’ answers during Tuesday’s SEC Media Day at Tennessee. Barnes, entering his eighth season as the head coach of Tennessee, spoke about the University of Tennessee in general. He references the leadership in the athletics program, the expansion of the Haslam School of Business for Tennessee’s students, and even the success of other sports teams, including Josh Heupel and the football program.

    “I think you talk to coaches in any sport they would pretty much feel the same way,” Barnes continued to say. “But to see what’s going on here at the University is exciting. Great leadership, from Randy Boyd to Donde Plowman and what Danny White has done with his staff. There is no question that what Josh Heupel has done is phenomenal. You look at the way we’ve improved as a team.”

    It may be small, but Barnes’ description of the football team stands out there. He isn’t referring to the football team as a separate entity under the Tennessee Athletics umbrella. He isn’t saying ‘they,’ as in a different group, even though it is a different sport. Instead, Barnes refers to the football program with ‘we’, showing the unity that binds Tennessee’s different programs together. And like fans have seen in the past, a unified Tennessee is often the most productive Tennessee – across the board.

    “I love the fact that being around Josh, he’s a confident guy that has focus on what he’s doing,” Barnes went on to say. “[He] has put a great staff around him. Chris Woodruff has become a terrific friend of mine and knowing what he did last year getting to the Final Four. So I go down the line, we’re going to talk softball, any program, I don’t want to leave anybody out. I’m just so proud of our University.”

    It’s no secret that Tennessee’s athletic department is battling many obstacles right now. Last week, former Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt and his lawyer threatened to reveal secrets about Tennessee, including about Barnes and the basketball program. However, Barnes immediately challenged Pruitt’s threat last week, saying that Pruitt’s downfall resulted from his own doing. But either way, that’s just one of the numerous stories Tennessee is dealing with or has dealt with this year.

    “Our athletic department, going through tough times, and I can tell you there is no better leadership at any University in the country than what’s going on here right now,” Barnes said on Tuesday. “I think just a great future ahead for us in so many different areas, not just as an athletic department but as a university the way it’s growing. Just hearing how the Haslam School of Business is exploding, how we need a new business school because it’s just exploding as a university. Watching downtown Knoxville grow, watching everything around campus grow… It’s a great time to be a Tennessee Volunteer.”

    After Barnes’ press conference, Tennessee did hold interview portions for the players on Media Day. Then, the team closed by going into their traditional practice routine.

    Additionally, a video version of Barnes’ heartfelt message about Tennessee is below.

    Ric Butler is a Knoxville based sports media personality who has covered University of Tennessee athletics since 2017. Most recently, he served as the lead writer for the website of a local radio station. Ric also helped create and host a daily radio show called “The Blitz." Ric’s passion for sports, smooth vocal, and infectious personality have made him popular with both his peers and Vol Nation. Originally from Dallas, Ric didn’t grow up riding horses to school. But he did dream of the big city lights. When not chasing down the latest Tennessee story, Ric can be found watching the WWE, often attempting their moves in an embarrassing fashion.