I knew that Tennessee is in the process of abandoning its long-held “Lady Vols” label for its women’s sports teams except basketball. I didn’t know the decision was tied in as part of the process of changing suppliers from Adidas to Nike.
Tennessee’s path to Nike hasn’t been entirely smooth, though.
The university’s decision, announced in November, to unify all sports except for women’s basketball with the Power T logo and “Volunteers” name as part of the university’s rebranding structure initially didn’t create much of a backlash, but it’s received more attention and more criticism the past six months.
The response to the perceived elimination of the Lady Vols logo and brand has included some informal protests, petitions to state representatives in Nashville and the creation of websites and social media accounts aimed at “saving the Lady Vols.”
Hart has been the target of most of the criticism, though the decision wasn’t solely his.
“I’ve never, ever — my entire career — been offended by people’s opinions,” he said during an interview with “The Nation,” a statewide Vol Network show, in late February. “It’s part of it. When you make tough decisions, then you’ll get that type of reaction, because everyone’s not going to be in agreement with those decisions.”
In its announcement of the decision, Tennessee cited an internal audit, done with consultation from Nike representation, that determined the Power T logo was the university’s primary mark.
This isn’t meant as a knock on the Vols in particular. College athletics these days are, sadly, rife with similar examples of programs choosing money over tradition. (Although, strangely enough, UT is taking a pay cut in the move to Nike.) In fact, you could say that choice will be left as the only meaningful tradition remaining.