As the spring semester draws to a close, Tennessee athletics director Phillip Fulmer took the time to pen a letter to Vol fans on Tuesday. He addressed the hire of Kellie Harper to lead the Lady Vols into a new era, plus Tennessee’s current standing of 25th in the Directors’ Cup.
He did not mention Rick Barnes or the UCLA situation, but he did nod to the team for one of the most memorable seasons in school history.
Here’s the full letter from Fulmer.
It’s an exciting time here on Rocky Top and one of the most beautiful times of year in East Tennessee. As we enter the final stretch of the Spring semester, we have several sports in the championship chase.
With our basketball and swimming & diving programs having recently completed their seasons, we find ourselves positioned well in the Learfield IMG Directors’ Cup standings. Tennessee currently ranks 25th in the nation and fifth among SEC schools — that’s an improvement of 10 spots from our finish a year ago and a long way from finishing 46th back in 2016-17. Our goal is to continue to move up. As they say, you either get better or you get worse — you do not stay the same.
Six of our teams that have completed their 2018-19 seasons finished the year ranked among the top 25 of their respective sport. Of our nine teams that are still in-season, five are currently ranked in the top 25. The good news also extends to the classroom, as 41 of our student-athletes were recently named to the Winter SEC Academic Honor Roll. I’d like to thank our outstanding faculty who — much like our coaches — play an impactful role in the development of our Vols and Lady Vols.
Men’s basketball put together one of the most memorable seasons in program history — tying the school record with 31 wins, spending a month atop the national rankings and advancing to the Sweet Sixteen. Our senior class — led by Kyle Alexander and Admiral Schofield — laid the groundwork for a new era of excellence, and juniors Jordan Bone and Grant Williams raised their level of play to an elite level. In addition to earning consensus All-America honors, Grant also repeated as the SEC Player of the Year.
Our women’s basketball program has entered an exciting new era under the direction of new head coach Kellie Harper. A three-time National Championship-winning point guard under the legendary Pat Summitt, Harper has led three different schools, from three different conferences, to the NCAA Tournament during her head coaching career. We’re all eager to see our Lady Vols compete for championships under her leadership moving forward.
I’d like to congratulate head coach Matt Kredich and all of our swimming & diving student-athletes on another highly successful season. Our women finished eighth at NCAAs, while the men finished 11th. It’s the second straight year that both programs ended the season among the top 11. Meghan Small, Nicole Popov, Maddy Banic and Erika Brown won a national championship in the women’s 200 medley relay, and diver Colin Zeng won a national championship in the men’s 1-meter springboard and was named NCAA Diver of the Year for the second consecutive season. That capped yet another terrific year for longtime diving coach Dave Parrington, who is truly one of the best in the world.
Shifting to the diamond, here is one of the most impressive stats you’ll hear… our softball program under co-head coaches Karen & Ralph Weekly have played more than 1,000 games in a row as a ranked team. That stretches all the way back to 2004! They’ve occupied a spot in the top 10 nearly the entire season. I invite all Tennessee fans out to Sherri Parker Lee Stadium to watch our Lady Vols, led by Senior CLASS Award finalist Aubrey Leach and National Freshman of the Year candidate Ashley Rogers, compete for another berth in the Women’s College World Series.
Things are equally as exciting with our baseball team at Lindsey Nelson Stadium. Head coach Tony Vitello’s squad has climbed as high as No. 18 in the national rankings, powered by one of the best pitching staffs in the country. Our Vols lead the nation with nine shutouts and boast a top-10 RPI. Keep an eye on this team as the postseason approaches. They’ve given us much to be proud of thus far.
The season is winding down for our tennis, golf and track & field squads. Men’s and women’s tennis both are ranked in the top 20, earned the No. 4 seed and a double bye in the SEC Tournament and are now preparing for the NCAA Championships. The men are hosting this weekend, so come out to Barksdale Stadium and cheer them on.
Our golf teams are preparing to move into the beautiful, new Blackburn-Furrow Clubhouse. We are so grateful to the many Tennessee Fund members whose generosity helped to make this incredible facility come to life. Our women’s team has won two tournaments this season, while the men have three tournament victories to their credit. Both squads are poised for strong showings in postseason play.
On May 4, our track & field teams host the Tennessee Challenge at Tom Black Track. It will be their final tune-up before the SEC and NCAA Championships.
Our rowing team hosts the Big 12 Championships May 18-19 in Oak Ridge. It’s truly a great venue for spectators, and I hope to see a lot of orange along the banks supporting our student-athletes on the water. I’d also like to congratulate Kathryn Cosgrove on earning a $10,000 Women’s Enhancement Postgraduate Scholarship. Only 13 are awarded across the entire NCAA annually, and this is the fifth straight year that a UT rower has been a recipient.
Thank you to everyone who came to campus for our “All Vol Weekend” earlier this month. It was a wonderful celebration of our Vols and Lady Vols, with several sports in action. We had great crowds at baseball, softball, track and tennis, as well as at the Chevrolet Orange & White Game. By the way, the deadline to renew your football season tickets is upon us, so be sure to reserve your spot in Neyland Stadium so you won’t miss any of the action this fall.
Visitors to campus over the last several weeks may have seen the transformation taking place at the north end of the Neyland-Thompson Sports Center as work is underway on the Doug Dickey Hall of Fame Plaza. I can’t wait to see the finished project later this year so our students and fans can enjoy it in the fall, as we honor all that Doug Dickey did during his 18 years as our AD.
I appreciate each of you and your passionate support of Tennessee Athletics. We’ve got a good thing going here on Rocky Top. Let’s continue to carry the fight!