Will covered some of the basics on this earlier, but if you missed it: Tennessee's women's teams will wear a commemorative Lady Vols patch next season (2016-17), and after next season each women's athlete at Tennessee will have the option on whether or not they want to wear it, in perpetuity. Nobody bothered to ask the teams or coaches about this.
[Patches! The gold standard of participation awards! Also, my comments will be interspersed in italics. --Hooper]
This is how the stupidest saga of our time ends, with people who weren't even asked about the idea being given the choice on whether or not they want to wear a patch because adding $350,000 to a $100,000,000 budget was too much to ask for.
The list of things that went wrong between 2014 and now with the brand of Lady Vols is worth 5,000 words on its own. I wrote on this some last spring (there's some good work by Diana Moskovitz on the rebranding I used as a springboard I'd also recommend). While I get the idea behind consolidating names, I'm also pretty sure that Dave Hart and Jimmy Cheek weren't even remotely thinking about the implications of naming a team Lady when they asked Nike about ditching the Lady Vols brand. They saw a line item in the budget, and Cheek is nothing if not a slave to cost certainty.
Everything from there has been either mismanaged or not managed at all. The fact the legislature decided to get involved is insane on its face, but ...man, if the financial impact of enforcing the name change was $357,000 a year, you've got to think there are enough boosters in the women's basketball program to pay for that. The program isn't rolling in cash, but that's a rounding error against a budget over $100 million.
[For perspective, $357k would probably pay for one (ed. ed.: more than one, I'd guess--Pendley chiming in) mid-level admin type with aspirations of executive status someday, once you account for corporate overhead and so on. I'm not suggesting this happened, but it does place some perspective on the cost of selling off the Lady Vols name.]
This quote from Cheek is hilarious (from The Tennessean):
"We realize there have been differences of opinion with the choice to use the 'Power T' for all of our women's athletics teams, except for basketball," Cheek said. "A new branding effort and a combined athletics department, however, will never erase history and tradition. We want to focus on being stronger financially, improving facilities, and training and supporting all of our student-athletes and their programs."
We're all here to make the Tennessee athletic department stronger financially. All hail the mighty Power T wallet, now available from your friendly licensed Tennessee apparel outlet. Buy two!
In related news, if anyone from UT Alumni Donations is reading this, please don't call me until Cheek is gone. I'd be happy to do my part to cover this clearly severe budget shortfall. I don't need the Power T wallet, though. Other things that might cover this budget shortfall: selling Lady Vols apparel, possibly most of Cheek's salary less whomever you'd have to hire to replace him, fifteen grad assistants. (I was kidding about that last one. Even I'm not that insane.)
I can get cynical enough to understand why you don't ask the current athletes what they think about this; brass doesn't care about athletes' opinions in the first place so long as their opinions don't place the brass in hot water. Why bother asking them about this? If I told you nobody in this athletic department asked anyone on the court/pool/diamond/etc. what they thought about the name, how surprised would you be? Would you fall back on their pristine record of consensus seeking since they decided to pursue consolidation?
It's terrible, shallow, and cuts every corner they have left on the circle, but y'all ain't surprised.
[Now is a good time to remember that they based fan approval of the name change on a survey where they lumped the "no opinion" option with the "fine with it" option, then neglected to consider which respondents actually cared about any of the women's sports enough to, you know, pay money to watch or buy swag.]
Not asking the coaches... well, there's a small difference between not asking the grad assistants and not asking the most visible people associated with the women's programs at Tennessee. The former is time management; the latter is avoiding discussions you don't want to deal with. It's the coward's way out, and ...well, come on down, Cheek.
[It's also a matter of priority. Football and men's basketball are the prime cash cows in the department. Nike and the TV contracts are the prime cash cows outside the department. If you're only looking at that bold-faced number that can flip between red and black on your Excel spreadsheet, you don't even notice rowing. Women's basketball (and Summitt's shadow) do affect the bottom line, however, so they get taken care of.]
Not asking the coaches is at best arrogance, but again: we're dealing with Jimmy Cheek here, aka The Guy Who Couldn't Get Applause At Pat Summitt's Retirement Press Conference. Friggin' Geno Auriemma could've gotten a positive reaction in that crowd. John Calipari would've gotten polite applause. And yet.
[Chris isn't exaggerating. Start here if you want to see for yourself (opens in new window).]
I don't care that you didn't talk to me; I ain't that important. You might want to at least bounce the idea off of the coaches who carry the torch of Tennessee's women's programs what they think about this. I'm not even entertaining the idea anyone asked Pat Summitt; if you're too cowardly to ask Warlick, you're not gonna ask Summitt. Or you're gonna have some poor intern call her house when you know she's out running an errand and not leave a message, then claim you tried to reach her but couldn't get a comment in time.
Lastly: Don't you wear a patch for things that are dead? Don't you use a patch hoping that as time goes on incoming athletes forget how about many certifiable badasses didn't need to wear a patch since their jersey said Lady Volunteers? It puts the onus on carrying brand value on the people who were never asked about the name change in the first place.
It's over. Somehow, Cheek won this battle. I'd suggest banding together to cut donations by at least $357,000 in response, but at this point I'm not sure what would need to be done to get him to care. That ship's sailed; it's on us now.
[One last thought: whenever Warlick's tenure as head coach ends (and we're officially a full coach removed from Summitt), if this administration is still in charge, who would want to bet that they'd choose to keep the Lady Vols moniker with WBB if Nike offered them another $150k to scrap it altogether? (If you think Nike would be the one broaching that idea, you've got that flipped, Hoop.)]