KNOXVILLE – Here’s a post-holiday roundup of some news related to Tennessee athletics along with some accompanying thoughts:
News: Before the SEC announced last Friday that it was allowing member schools to reopen their campuses for athletic-related activities beginning June 8, the University of Tennessee published a lengthy post on its website, detailing best practices for re-opening system campuses for classes.
The post, which was dated May 20, was an extensive collection of recommendations from the task force appointed by UT President Randy Boyd.
The report’s introductory segment included the following observation: “The task force agrees with national experts that we will not return to campus life just as it was before but also that the on-campus experience offers significant value.”
Thoughts: Fans yearning for UT football this fall ought to be watching this process play out as closely as they are following anything associated with athletics.
My refusal to make any definitive statements or reach any sweeping conclusions during the COVID-19 era remains steadfast.
That said, it always will be hard to envision football games on Saturday without students on campus every day.
News: With Sara Puckett’s commitment on Saturday, the Tennessee Lady Vols’ recruiting class for 2021 is three players deep. Guard Kaiya Wynn and forward Karoline Striplin also have picked UT. Wynn is a five-star prospect while Striplin and Puckett average four-plus stars.
The Lady Vols hope to sign at least five players. Adding a point guard is a must and they’re believed to recruiting the following point-guard prospects: Brooklynn Miles (5-foot-6, Frankfort, Ky., 5-star, ESPN), Kayla McPherson (5-7, Hull, Ga., 5-star), O’Mariah Gordon (5-4, Bradenton, Fla., 4-star plus).
Thoughts: Having three commitments at this stage, considering the challenges created by the coronavirus pandemic, is significant for coach Kellie Harper and her staff after just 13 months of recruiting.
They’re not just trying to upgrade the roster’s talent either. Improving the team’s culture is being prioritized as well. Those two objectives sometimes are a tough match. So far, so good … or so it seems anyway.
News: Tennessee softball added transfer Ivy Davis from Arizona last week. She had played in 87 games during her three seasons with the Wildcats and had 61 starts at seven different positions.
Before this season was canceled, she had a .305 batting average with three homers, 13 RBI and a .508 slugging percentage.
“She is a natural middle infielder and will bring us much-needed experience there,” Lady Vols co-head coach Karen Weekly said in a school release.
Thoughts: This is good news for a program that frankly needed some.
Without injured starting pitcher Ashley Rogers, the Lady Vols were 14-9, which was underwhelming by their standards, when the season was stopped. SEC play might have done more damage to their record.
During the preseason, the Lady Vols’ 100-game win streak against in-state opponents ended with a 4-3 loss at East Tennessee State on March 1.
Since the season ended, senior outfielder Jenna Holcomb and sophomore utility player Kaili Phillips, who’s from Ooltewah, transferred to San Diego State and Chattanooga respectively.
Phillips was an SEC all-freshman team honoree in 2019.
Dan Fleser is a 1980 graduate of the University of Missouri, who covered University of Tennessee athletics from 1988-2019. He can be reached at email@example.com.