Tag Archives: athletics

Haslam lobbies sports league for Memphis

Gov. Bill Haslam said Friday he contacted Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby and several university presidents in the Power 5 league to speak on behalf of the University of Memphis and its campaign to become an expansion member, reports the Commercial Appeal.

Memphis is among several top candidates seeking one of two – and possibly four – invitations to the league, which is considering adding to its 10-team conference.

U of M president M. David Rudd has been leading the Memphis drive and enlisted Haslam’s help. Haslam said he spoke to presidents on the Big 12’s composition, or expansion, committee.

“Dr. Rudd had called and said we would really like to make this happen, can you help?” Haslam told a reporter from The Tennessean. “I doubt I was a persuasive factor in it, but I tried to help any way I could.”

Haslam briefly discussed his involvement with the Memphis bid following an education event in Nashville. He said if the U of M were to receive an invitation, it would be a “step up.”

Haslam’s comments came on a day an ESPN report revealed the Big 12 will conduct video conferences with representatives from 17 schools that have contacted the league regarding expansion. The U of M is one of the 17 schools that reportedly will be contacted by Bowlsby, who was given instructions last month by the league’s board of directors to “actively evaluate” expansion.

Memphis, BYU, Cincinnati and Houston have emerged as top candidates to join the more lucrative Power 5 league, but South Florida, Central Florida, UConn, Colorado State and Boise State also are campaigning

Congressional Gold Medal for Pat Summitt will have to wait

U.S. Rep. John J. Duncan Jr. says he has ended his campaign to award Pat Summitt the Congressional Gold Medal medal because of a lack of support among fellow congressmen before her death and a law requiring a five-year wait for posthumous honor, reports Michael Collins.

Legislation to award the Congressional Gold Medal must be sponsored by two-thirds of Congress — 290 House members, 67 senators. Duncan’s bill to honor Summitt had just 142 co-sponsors — 73 Republicans and 69 Democrats.

Summitt’s death last month further complicated matters: To qualify for the award posthumously, a recipient must be deceased at least five years.

While it won’t be possible to award Summitt with the gold medal right now, Duncan said he intends to see if there are other ways for Congress to honor her life and career.

“She has been honored about every way she can,” he said.

Duncan nominated Summitt for the Congressional Gold Medal back in 2014, just a couple of years after she ended her reign as the head coach of the UT women’s basketball team.

Obama, TN politicians join in tributes to Pat Summitt

Statement of President Barrack Obama, as issued by White House press office

Nobody walked off a college basketball court victorious more times than Tennessee’s Pat Summitt. For four decades, she outworked her rivals, made winning an attitude, loved her players like family, and became a role model to millions of Americans, including our two daughters. Her unparalleled success includes never recording a losing season in 38 years of coaching‎, but also, and more importantly, a 100 percent graduation rate among her players who completed their athletic eligibility. Her legacy, however, is measured much more by the generations of young women and men who admired Pat’s intense competitiveness and character, and as a result found in themselves the confidence to practice hard, play harder, and live with courage on and off the court. As Pat once said in recalling her achievements, “What I see are not the numbers. I see their faces.”

Pat learned early on that everyone should be treated the same. When she would play basketball against her older brothers in the family barn, they didn’t treat her any differently and certainly didn’t go easy on her. Later, her Hall of Fame career would tell the story of the historic progress toward equality in American athletics that she helped advance. Pat started playing college hoops before Title IX and started coaching before the NCAA recognized women’s basketball as a sport. When she took the helm at Tennessee as a 22-year-old, she had to wash her players’ uniforms; by the time Pat stepped down as the Lady Vols’ head coach, her teams wore eight championship rings and had cut down nets in sold-out stadiums.

Pat was a patriot who earned Olympic medals for America as a player and a coach, and I was honored to award her the Presidential Medal of Freedom. She was a proud Tennessean who, when she went into labor while on a recruiting visit, demanded the pilot return to Knoxville so her son could be born in her home state. And she was an inspiring fighter. Even after Alzheimer’s started to soften her memory, and she began a public and brave fight against that terrible disease, Pat had the grace and perspective to remind us that “God doesn’t take things away to be cruel. … He takes things away to lighten us. He takes things away so we can fly.”

Michelle and I send our condolences to Pat Summitt’s family – which includes her former players and fans on Rocky Top and across America. Continue reading

Memphis refunds $2.38M in ‘jock tax’ collections

As the clock runs out this week on Tennessee’s infamous “jock tax,” the city of Memphis is about to turn over $2.38 million to more than 900 professional basketball players as part of a 2015 settlement, according to the Commercial Appeal.

The city will return its portion of the money — a third of the $7.27 million it’s collected since Tennessee’s professional privilege tax was approved in 2009 — within the next three or four weeks, said Brian Collins, the city’s chief financial officer.

“(The money) was reserved a long time ago, and it won’t have an impact on the city’s budget this year or any year,” Collins said. The city set the funds aside in fiscal year 2015.

The flat tax of $2,500 per game up to $7,500 for NBA and NHL players was widely criticized for eating up most — and in some cases all — of the income lower-paid athletes received from basketball games in Memphis and hockey games in Nashville.

Gary Kohlman, general counsel for the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA), which sued the state over the tax, said “dozens” of players earning the legal minimum paid more in the tax than they earned from the games.

“That was not an isolated event,” he said.

A spokesman for the National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA), which also sued the state, said its players lost money playing against the Nashville Predators too.

Kohlman said some NBA players were also charged the tax just because they were on the team’s roster — even if they didn’t play.

The Tennessee General Assembly voted in 2014 to repeal the tax, effective immediately for hockey players and June 1, 2016, for basketball players.

TN public universities spent $50M on coach salaries in 2015

Public universities in Tennessee spent $50.7 million on coaches’ salaries in 2015 with the University of Tennessee and the University of Memphis leading the way, according to data compiled through a USA TODAY national investigation.

Further, as reported by the Commercial Appeal:

The University of Tennessee, with an operating budget of $126.6 million, spent $18.2 million on salaries, or 14.3 percent of its budget. The University of Memphis, with an operating budget of $43.4 million, spent $11.2 million on salaries, or 25.8 percent of its budget.

Only one of the other seven public universities in the state — Middle Tennessee State — spent more than $5 million on coaching salaries. Middle Tennessee paid its coaches $5.3 million, or 16.8 percent of its budget.

At Tennessee, the athletic program’s spending on coaches salaries hasn’t increased as quickly as it has at Memphis, but the $18,160,180 the Vols spent in 2015 is almost $7 million more than the Tigers’ $11,191,649 and the highest total in the state.

The gap between Tennessee and the other schools in the state is much larger in support staff and administrative compensation. Tennessee spent $20,470,689 in that category in 2015. No other state school spent more than $6,075,765.

Tennessee has been able to spend more in compensation in part because it has had to pay less money in severance packages. Tennessee has spent a total of $21,087,757 on severance pay since 2005 including $7,969,849 in 2013 when football coach Derek Dooley and his staff were fired. Tennessee also spent $3,719,285 in severance in 2011 when basketball coach Bruce Pearl, baseball coach Todd Raleigh and athletic director Mike Hamilton were fired and $6,953,625 in 2009 after football coach Phillip Fulmer was fired.

On Peyton Manning mention in UT sex assault lawsuit

By Steve Megaree, Associated Press
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The lawyer for six women suing the University of Tennessee on its handling of sexual assault complaints by student-athletes is focused on the school’s systemic problems he believes exist and is surprised at the attention the complaint’s brief mention of Peyton Manning generated.

“It’s certainly unanticipated,” attorney David Randolph Smith said.

Smith said he included events from the last two decades — one involved Manning in 1996 — to show how Tennessee has handled reports of misconduct.

“We included one small paragraph about the Manning situation in the complaint, just as part of the overall background and history,” Smith said. “… Peyton Manning is not a party to our lawsuit. All these reports that say he’s in the lawsuit, well he’s referenced, but it’s part of the historical” background.

The lawsuit that was filed last week in federal court in Nashville states Tennessee has violated Title IX regulations and created a “hostile sexual environment” through a policy of indifference toward assaults by student-athletes.
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Lawsuit contends UT created ‘hostile sexual environment’

By Steve Megaree, Associated Press
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — A lawsuit filed by a group of women alleges that the University of Tennessee has violated Title IX regulations and created a “hostile sexual environment” through a policy of indifference toward assaults by student-athletes.

The federal suit filed Tuesday in Nashville states Tennessee’s policies made students more vulnerable to sexual assault and says that the school had a “clearly unreasonable response” after incidents that caused the women making complaints to endure additional harassment. The suit also states the university interfered with the disciplinary process to favor male athletes.

There have been several sexual assault complaints made against Tennessee student-athletes over the last four years, including former football players A.J. Johnson and Michael Williams. They were indicted on aggravated rape charges in February 2015 and have separate trial dates this summer.

The suit was filed by David Randolph Smith, a lawyer representing six unidentified plaintiffs, against the University of Tennessee and the director of the office of student conduct and community standards. No individual were named as defendants in the complaint.
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Patches provide compromise on ‘Lady Vols’ legislation

A bill forcing the University of Tennessee to reinstate the “Lady Vols” nickname for all of its women’s sports teams has been shelved in return for a Lady Vols commemorative patch on all women’s sports uniforms for the 2016-17 school year, reports the News Sentinel.

After the 2016-17 year, individual women athletes would be allowed to have the commemorative patch on their uniforms at their discretion.

UT Knoxville chancellor Jimmy Cheek released a statement Monday in anticipation of the announcement:

“We have worked diligently with members of our Knox County legislative delegation to reach a compromise that is in the best interest of all parties to continue to honor the Lady Vols.

“All Tennessee women’s athletics teams will wear a commemorative patch on their uniform, honoring the legacy of the Lady Vols during the 2016–2017 season. The patch will include the Lady Vol logo. Women’s basketball will not wear the patch because they have maintained the name Lady Vols as a tribute to Coach Pat Summitt. After that season, each student-athlete will have the option of wearing the patch on her uniform.

“We realize there have been differences of opinion with the choice to use the Power T for all of our women’s athletics teams, except for basketball. A new branding effort and a combined athletics department, however, will never erase history and tradition. We want to focus on being stronger financially, improving facilities, and training and supporting all of our student-athletes and their programs.”

…In Nashville, state Rep. Roger Kane and Sen. Becky Duncan Massey described the agreement as a compromise. Kane (R-Knoxville) said he will take the bill filed forcing reinstatement of the name “off notice” in House subcommittee where it ran into difficulty last week — effectively placing the bill on hold. Sen. Frank Niceley (R-Strawberry Plains), the bill’s Senate sponsor, had not advanced the bill and joined with Kane and Massey at their State Capitol press conference.

“My goal always was to keep the brand alive for decades to come, to continue honoring the legacy of Coach Pat Summitt and the women she inspired as a coach, as a mentor and as a lifelong friend,” Kane said. He said he believes UT’s agreement to maintain intellectual-property rights in the Lady Vols name and logo, achieves that goal.

Massey (R-Knoxville) said the compromise “is not the perfect solution” but is “the compromise we agreed to. It resolves most of it. Obviously with any compromise, there’s some give and take. We would like for the logo to have come back but it will have a presence. The Lady Vol logo will be present on every female athlete at UT next year,” through the commemorative patch, she said.

‘Lady Vols bill’ debated, delayed

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.”

Rep. Kane files his ‘Lady Vols’ bill

As planned, state Rep. Roger Kane, R-Knoxville, has filed his bill to require the name “Lady Vols” apply to all women’s athletic teams at the University of Tennessee.

It’s HB1451. Excerpt from The Tennessean:

“We’ve created two classes of women athletes at the university,” said Kane, whose daughter is a former UT track and field athlete. “There’s the Lady Vols (women’s basketball players), and then, oh yeah, there’s the other women’s sports athletes.”

Kane said he hasn’t heard from a single constituent or other supporter in favor of dropping the Lady Vols name. And he worried that the Lady Vols name could go away for women’s basketball eventually as well.

..In addition to the bill related to the nickname, Kane said he has prepared another bill that would require the university to hold a public hearing anytime a petition garnered at least 10,000 signatures. He said the Lady Vols debate drove home that the university needs to do a better job of answering from those who object to its decisions.

Note: A petition to bring back the Lady Vols nickname got 28,000 signatures. Most recent previous post HERE.