By Mark Nagi
Is this a good time to be a fan of athletics at the University of Tennessee? Yes, my friend, it most certainly is.
Following the firing of Phillip Fulmer as the Vols head coach in 2008, Tennessee was in the darkness for over a decade. Football was a mess, but there was ineptitude throughout the Athletics Department.
But things finally began to change with the hiring of Danny White as Tennessee’s Athletics Director in January 2021. That was a big boy hire, and a sign that UT was finally ready to join the modern age of college sports.
White’s hiring of Josh Heupel was an unexpected success story. Under Heupel, the Vols are 18-8 over the last two years. Football drives the engine, but that is not the only team having success on The Hill.
Tennessee has just won its second straight SEC All-Sports title as the Vols, and Lady Vols finished first in both the men’s and women’s standings for the first time.
“I’m so proud of our student-athletes, coaches, staff and all the fans and donors who support us,” said White. “This is a team accomplishment, and everyone plays an important role. We are just getting started on Rocky Top, but this early success gives us the confidence to keep building!”
The Lady Vols softball team swept both the regular season and tournament titles. Teams like women’s swimming and diving placed second in the conference, while men’s tennis ended up tied for third. That’s just a sampling. Pretty much across the board, Tennessee teams in just about every sport are in the mix for championships.
Last year it was the men’s basketball team snapping a 43-year tournament title drought while the baseball team swept the regular season and tournament titles.
Folks, these are the good times.
Back to football. The Vols placed second in the Eastern Division this year. They snapped a 15-year losing streak to Alabama. They also beat rivals Florida and LSU, while winning 11 games, including the Orange Bowl. It was the first time the Vols won 10 or more games since 2001, and their first New Year’s Six Bowl win since 2004. They also finished the 2022 season ranked 6th in the nation.
So, it should come as no surprise that Tennessee sold out its allotment of 70,500 season tickets for the upcoming season.
“Vol Nation continues to show the entire nation why they are the best fan base in college sports,” said White. “To be sold out of season tickets for the 2023 season is a testament to their unbridled passion and support of Tennessee Football. We can’t wait to see all our loyal fans on Rocky Top this fall!”
96% of season ticket holders renewed, and 9,000 more season tickets were sold this year. And while Georgia, Texas A&M and South Carolina will come to Knoxville, there won’t be Alabama or Florida. That helps prove that fans are desperate to be a part of the excitement of football Saturdays at Neyland Stadium.
Every empire falls. Good times never last so enjoy them while they are here.
Can’t wait for September.