Why Tennessee Sports Were Elite in 2021

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Make no mistake about it, from an overall perspective, Tennessee sports was elite in the unpredictable year that was 2021. In fact, Tennessee athletics was able to achieve an accomplishment that no other collegiate program in the nation was able to achieve.

Don’t believe it? See for yourself.

In the 2021 year, Tennessee was the only University in the nation to make a bowl game in football, be selected to the March Madness tournament in both men’s and women’s basketball, and play in the men’s baseball College World Series in Omaha.

While many other teams were able to achieve two or three of the four achievements, Tennessee was the only one to hit all four on the head.

None of the postseason appearances ended up in championship wins for Tennessee, but it does show one thing in particular. The Vols are trending – no, maybe even skyrocketing – in the right direction on all fronts considering the past.

Starting from the beginning of the year, the Tennessee men’s basketball team was able to secure a No. 5 seed in the NCAA tournament after an overall record of 18-9 on the year. On the women’s side of things, the Lady Vols had a No. 3 seed in the NCAA tournament after jumping out to a record of 17-8 during the 2020-2021 schedule.

See Also from RTI: How CBS Sports Graded Josh Heupel & Tennessee’s Year One

Then, in the summer of 2021, Tennessee baseball was one of the great stories of the collegiate baseball world. The Vols advanced to the tournament in Omaha for the fifth time in program history and the first time since 2005 under the direction of head coach Tony Vitello.

And lastly, coming up in less than a week, the Tennessee Volunteers football team will play in the Music City Bowl in Nashville against Purdue. In head coach Josh Heupel’s inaugural season at Tennessee, the Vols achieved a regular-season record of 7-5 after a lowly 3-7 football season under Jeremy Pruitt in 2020.

To spotlight another Tennessee team, the women’s soccer team finished with its best record in program history in 2021 with a record of 20-3. Led by head coach Brian Pensky, the Lady Vols claimed the SEC East division title and the SEC Championship. In addition, the soccer team advanced to the Round of 16 in the NCAA postseason tournament, falling to No. 9 Michigan.

See Also from RTI: Tennessee Basketball’s Veterans Deliver In Nail Biting Win Over Arizona

Now, to address the elephant in the room, Tennessee men’s basketball and baseball did have a first-round exit in their respective post-season tournaments. Not to mention, the Vols’ football team will have a tough task at hand when they play Purdue. But even still, those losses came at the starting point of a new era at Tennessee. At the end of January in 2021, Tennessee brought in former UCF director of athletics Danny White. And with the direction that White is taking Tennessee Athletics, the Vols seemed primed and ready to continue evolving their athletics success as the years go on.

Regarding the sports that have been mentioned, Kellie Harper, Josh Heupel, Rick Barnes, Tony Vitello, and Brian Pensky have captured the faith of the Tennessee fanbase, which is starving for a championship in Knoxville.

As things stand now, it’s hard to argue that Tennessee sports aren’t heading in the right direction. Why is that the case? Because Tennessee was the only University in the nation to make a bowl game in football, the NCAA tournament in men’s and women’s basketball, and the College World Series in baseball in 2021. And that’s not even counting the best soccer season in Tennessee history.

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.