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Tennessee’s success self generating as Vols win on

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Tennessee athletic director Danny White doesn’t need a cheerleader. That Big Orange conga line would circle Neyland Stadium. If he’s looking for kudos, timing is justly on his sideline.

In the midst of his spring sports having success, you may have missed the fact that pretty much all of the Vols’ athletic programs are having success or are thought to be pointed in the right direction.

Technically, White can’t claim the success that, say, Rick Barnes has had as Tennessee’s head basketball coach, which included the second run to the Elite Eight in school history last season. However, Barnes wasn’t hired by White. Does he get any credit for that? Well, sort of. There’s certainly a positivity pulsing through Tennessee’s campus and there has been since White walked through the door.

“Really proud of the culture we’ve built,” said White, who was hired from Central Florida in 2021. “In short order, I think it speaks to the student athletes that were already here on campus when we kind of got our our feet on the ground. And certainly a lot of head coaches that were already here. And we’ve sprinkled that in with new student athletes and new head coaches.

“And, uh, winning is contagious.”

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Indeed it has been. Following up the Vols’ success on the court, White has now landed one of the favorites in the College World Series and the Women’s World Series. Support from within, buoyed by a football team that is suddenly relevant, has had obvious repercussions.

“That’s one of the ways I define a championship culture,” White told Jimmy Hyams from SEC Spring Meetings for WNML in Destin, Fla., last week. “It’s one of the things that we’re looking for. We do a lot of things to try to nurture that. I think it’s important. I think it helps you to become a better version of yourself.

“If you feel like you’re part of something bigger than yourself – and every person that’s been an athlete or a coach knows that -accomplishing team goals and being committed to team goals is as important as an individual. But beyond that, for our student athletes to care not just about their team, but all the teams and care enough to get out there and support each other, celebrate their successes. Again, I think it becomes contagious and we’re seeing that happen every day.”

The Vols’ winning on campus is contagious alright. Tennessee has already won the SEC All-Sports trophy while games are still going on. That one is in the bag for White – for the third consecutive time – as Tennessee’s athletic director. Only Florida has matched that feat in the SEC – ever.

“Yeah, it’s pretty awesome,” White said of the three peat. “It’s awesome. And our fans, you know, we sold out the stadium the last two years…Our fans really stepped up and gave us the resources to make some smart investments, to give us competitive advantages. That part kind of happened first and is kind of fueling the success that we’re seeing.

“And what I’m most excited about is I don’t think we’re anywhere close to the ceiling. We can continue to get better. We have a lot of sport programs that are very much a growth stock. I think our entire athletic department is going to continue to grow, uh, as we work to compete for more championships, both in the conference and nationally.”

That might not be the stance that a suave public relations professional might take. Now is the time to talk about how great things are and how happy everyone should be. Now is the time for a leader to discuss how tough things are and set expectations lower by reminding everyone how bad things can be, as if they can’t remember. Nah. White will pass on the poor mouthing. That doesn’t suit his style.

“It’s just too early,” White said. “We’re in year two of our five year strategic plan. We’ve made a lot of strategic investments, whether it’s facilities or probably more importantly how we support our programs operationally. We have a lot of new head coaches that are in their first, second, even third year.

“It takes time for some of these things to mature. And a lot of them are growing quickly and improving year in and year out. I think that there’s the best of the best still ahead of us.”

That brings expectations. White isn’t just looking for someone to be a part of the parade. He’d like to hire coaches who can carry the baton from time to time.

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One Response

  1. And, uh yet no nattys in any sport. Yet other programs in the sec continue to rack up national titles! Somethings seriously wrong here!

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