A state legislative subcommittee discussed a bill to force the University of Tennessee to reinstate the “Lady Vols” nickname to all of its women’s intercollegiate sports teams for more than 90 minutes Tuesday before deferring a vote to next week, reports the News Sentinel.
The House Education Administration & Planning Subcommittee bogged down on whether the estimated $221,000 cost to the UT athletic department to reinstate the nickname is “state” money. That estimate was made by legislative fiscal analysts and contained in the “fiscal note” — the official estimate of a bill’s costs — attached to the bill.
UT’s vice president for government relations, Anthony Haynes, urged the subcommittee not to get involved in what he said should be a business branding decision made by the Knoxville campus and backed by the university’s board of trustees.
“This is the first time in state of Tennessee history that this Legislature has been asked to put the long arm of the government into the operations of a university athletics department,” Haynes said.
But Rep. Roger Kane, R-Knoxville, the bill’s sponsor, said the Legislature involves itself in campus issues often, citing the student-led “Sex Week” controversies of the last two years and current legislative efforts to “defund” the UT diversity office.
Molly Graves Delozier, a UT graduate and former swim team member who is leading a petition drive to return the Lady Vols name and logo, told the subcommittee she believes UT officials have been unresponsive to backers of the Lady Vols name, despite meetings with them by UT President Joe DiPietro and UT Knoxville Chancellor Jimmy Cheek. She said the petitions now has over 28,000 names.
“It seems to me that when a public, state land-grant university is ignoring all these people, we have no choice but to come to the Legislature,” Delozier said. “The university has ignored us, they have belittled us, they have not treated us with respect.”