Currie, UT Athletic Director, Says Lady Vols Brand Is Back

Welcome News To Many Tennessee Women's Sports Fans

Thursday, September 14, 2017 - by special to The Chattanoogan.com
UT AD John Currie
UT AD John Currie

John Currie, Tennessee’s athletic director and Beverly Davenport, the school’s chancellor, have committed to restore visibility of the iconic "Lady Vols" name, logo and brand.

Currie spoke at length about the enhanced branding measures during a press conference on Thursday afternoon. In a prepared statement, Currie acknowledged the pain resulting from the 2014 decision to minimize the official use and visibility of Lady Vol branding.

"While the 'Power T' is the official mark of the University of Tennessee, we are committed to restoring the visibility of the Lady Vol brand and showing it the reverence it deserves so our Tennessee family can move forward, more united, to blaze new trails of excellence," Currie said.

"We understand that people are very passionate about the Lady Vol brand, and the Chancellor and I have been diligent about seeking perspective from various constituencies since each of us were appointed.

"We will not allow for the Lady Vol brand to disappear from our athletics department or university."

Measures to restore the prominence of Tennessee's Lady Vol presence include:

  • Reaffirming a commitment to restore visibility of the Lady Vols name, logo and brand.
  • Continuing to honor and celebrate UT's legacy of incredible national leadership and accomplishments in women's athletics.
  • Affirming the freedom for our student-athletes to refer to themselves, and their teams, as "Lady Vols" while competing under the official mark of the university – the "Power T."
  • Restoring Lady Vol branding and signage to athletic facilities such as Sherri Parker Lee Stadium and Regal Stadium.
  • Providing apparel options that include Lady Vols branding and color scheme.

More From Currie:

"Today's announcement serves as official confirmation that the Lady Vol name, logo and brand will continue to stand prominently as marks of excellence in intercollegiate athletics," Davenport said. "As I have said on multiple occasions, I deeply value the Lady Vols legacy and what it represents to the University of Tennessee and women athletes.

"As I visited with student-athletes, they used words such as respect, commitment, honor, tradition and progress for women when articulating what the Lady Vol brand meant to them."

In October 2014, university leadership announced that the "Power T" logo—which had previously been utilized solely by the athletics department—would stand as the official mark of the entire UT Knoxville campus.

"Yes, our university has decided on one official mark and brand," Currie said. "But that does not mean that all other brands iconic to our history and tradition must cease to exist.

"I do believe it's important to preserve and celebrate the Lady Vol brand and logo, which has for decades—and still does—possess great meaning and evoke incredible pride among many supporters of this university.

"Since I returned to Knoxville last spring, hardly a week has passed that someone has not asked me or shared their personal feelings, insight or opinions on the 2014 decision to minimize the use of the Lady Vols logo and moniker in favor of an emphasis on the official logo and symbol of the University of Tennessee, the 'Power T.'

"Since our respective appointments, chancellor Davenport and I have been very deliberate about finding opportunities to listen to the different perspectives and opinions on the subject while also endeavoring to understand the reasons for, and ramifications of, that decision on all UTAD constituencies.

"I wanted to gauge the feelings of current Tennessee students and student-athletes as well as the university community and alumni, Lady Vol alumni athletes, donors, fans, colleagues throughout intercollegiate athletics and gender equity experts. I sought perspectives from local and national media who closely follow women's athletics.

"What I've learned is that this topic isn't nearly as simple as I thought it might be, and that it certainly can't be addressed in a 140-character tweet. I appreciate you bearing with me today as I share with you background on the thoughts and process that have led to the actions the Chancellor and I are proud to announce today.

"First, for those who don't understand why this was such a big deal to many upset by the 2014 announcement, it's important to try to see this issue through their lens and realize that for some, the Lady Vol name and logo is just as meaningful and sacred as the checkerboard end zones are for others.

"How would the most passionate Tennessee football fan react to a drastic diminishment of our checkerboard end zones? What emotions would be felt if the checkerboards were removed from Neyland Stadium?

"My guess is that they would be similar to the emotions felt these past few years, for instance, by a former Tennessee swimmer who competed with the Lady Vols logo on her swim cap, or a women's golfer who was part of our inaugural Lady Vol team 25 years ago.

"We will not allow for the Lady Vol brand to disappear from our athletics department or university. And today, chancellor Davenport and I reaffirm our commitment to restore the official visibility of the Lady Vol name, logo and brand.

"Because I was living and working almost 1000 miles away in 2014, the Lady Vols never really went away for me. And on my second day on the job, as I was chatting on the phone with my wife about my plans for the day, I told her, 'I'm going to the Lady Vol softball game.' It was the first of many games I attended at Sherri Parker Lee Stadium this past spring. I loved the energy and enthusiasm of the 'Locos' and the interactive Lady Vols chant between our student-athletes and fans.

"Several years ago, the 'Power T' became the official mark of our entire campus. Yes, our university has decided on one official mark and brand. But that does not mean that all other brands iconic to our history and tradition must cease to exist. Similarly, while the achievements of our current student-athletes are what we focus on today, we'll never stop honoring the legacy of those who were once in the spotlight our current student-athletes now occupy.

"Over these last five or six months, a few themes have emerged in regards to how people feel about the decision to dramatically reduce the visibility of the Lady Vol brand. Perhaps the most disconcerting is the impression among some of our most passionate supporters that the history and heritage of the incredible national leadership and accomplishments of UT in women's athletics had been intentionally erased from our department and culture. While I don't believe that was anyone's intent, I understand that the perceived devaluation of the Lady Vol brand caused pain.

“We sought honest input from our current student-athletes. They are like other constituencies in that there is no unanimous opinion. Some female student-athletes do voice a desire to be known as Lady Vols. Others are vocal about wanting to be Vols—to compete under the same brand as their male counterparts. Some student-athletes, say they love wearing the 'Power T' but they want to be called Lady Vols, too.  Nearly all prefer to just focus on their sports and studies.

"We need to respect that, and as people and supporters of Tennessee student-athletes, regardless of our personal opinion on the subject, we need to get behind our student-athletes and support them in their competitions.

"As I stated earlier—and unlike my previous tenures here at Tennessee, when the old UT logo that incorporated the shape of the state was the official mark of the university—the 'Power T' is now the primary mark not just of Tennessee athletics, but of our entire campus. It is undeniably our most universally recognized brand image locally, regionally and worldwide.

"I do believe it's important to give our female student-athletes the freedom to compete wearing the official brand and logo of their university while also taking deliberate action to ensure the preservation and celebration of the Lady Vol brand and logo, which has for decades—and still does—possess great meaning and evoke incredible pride among supporters of this university.

"I'm proud that the University of Tennessee is viewed as a trailblazer and leader in women's athletics. I'm proud to have personally benefited from the mentorship of Joan Cronan, a Hall of Fame administrator in intercollegiate athletics who has provided visionary leadership here for more than 30 years.

"I'm proud of the legacy of the iconic Pat Summitt and consider it a blessing that I was able to work in support of her efforts during my previous UT tenure. She is a true Tennessee treasure. The Women's Basketball Hall of Fame is here in Knoxville largely because of what she and the Lady Vols mean to women in sport. The Hall will begin its 20th anniversary celebration next year, and we need to use that occasion to honor Coach Summitt and the Lady Vol legacy of excellence—that legacy of excellence, though, extends to all our sports.

"It includes names such as softball's Monica Abbott, swimmer Catherine Byrne, soccer standout Keeley Dowling and volleyball's Beverly Robinson.

"We will honor, celebrate and always remember what these women—along with so many others—accomplished under the Lady Vol banner. Several of our venues already have Lady Vol signage, and others that don't, will.

"Our female teams' apparel options beginning in 2018-19 will include items featuring the Lady Vol logo and color scheme.

"We also will continue to work to ensure that official campus Vol Shops, including the one at Gate 21 in Neyland Stadium, offer more Lady Vol retail items available for fans.

Questions for Currie:

(On what led to the decision to bring back the Lady Vols)
"This day has really not been just a day. It's been a process, and a thoughtful process. When the chancellor sat at my breakfast table back in Manhattan, (Kansas), she talked about this as one of the issues that we had to figure out the right way to move forward with. I'm really pleased that we've been able to have excellent conversations with lots and lots of people and arrived at a moment where we can move forward together."

(On whether or not all of UT's women's sports teams will now be officially known as Lady Vols)
"Well, we're the Tennessee Volunteers at the University of Tennessee – 27,000 students. What we're saying is that our student-athletes and our coaches have the freedom to refer to themselves as Lady Vols. And some of our student-athletes don't necessarily want to do that. So, for instance, our student-athletes can choose if they want their senior ring to have a Lady Vol insignia on it instead of a 'Power T,' then they certainly can do that. And I think you'll see great recognition of the Lady Vol brand and logos in our facilities. I was at the aquatic center the other day with my daughter—I'm trying to get her interested in diving—and there's already Lady Vol banners (in that facility); they never came down in the Allan Jones Intercollegiate Aquatic Center. There's Lady Vol signage in a lot of facilities, and you'll be seeing more."

(On potential changes in uniform designs)
"Most of our uniforms say Tennessee, and that's what we'll continue to be. The Tennessee (wordmark) and the 'Power T' continue to be the official symbols of the University of Tennessee, and that might be the most standard uniform. In terms of our student-athletes, they talked about wanting to put their hands in the circle and say, 'Go Lady Vols!' when they ran out on the field or the court. And they should be able to do that."

(On how important input from the current student-athletes was in making a decision)
"Well, certainly our student-athletes are at the center of everything that we do, and as we went forward deliberately, we really wanted to make sure that we were thorough in considering all the different perspectives. And there are lots of different perspectives. Ultimately, as I said earlier, there may be unanimity among certain groups, but there's not unanimity across the board. We think this is a great way to recognize and acknowledge and restore the visibility of our Lady Vol brand and move forward and give our student-athletes the ability to express themselves as Lady Vols."

(On the possibility of alternate uniforms with the words 'Lady Vols' on them)
"I suppose we might see some stuff like that."

(On when any potential uniform modifications may appear)
"We're always about 16 months ahead on uniforms and stuff like that, so (the 2018-19 academic year) is correct. But, you might go out to the Mercedes-Benz Intercollegiate Golf Tournament at Cherokee Country Club
on Monday and Tuesday and you might see our golf team wearing Lady Vol caps with a Power T on their shirt. The most important thing here is that we're moving forward."

(On the change having any impact on Tennessee's deal with Nike)
"Nike is a great partner for the University of Tennessee. We have great relationships, and obviously we've communicated and had a great dialogue. And this has no negative bearing on that partnership."

(Contact Larry Fleming at larryfleming44@gmail.com and on Twitter @larryfleming44)

 



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