Friday, September 15, 2017

The Lady Vols*

Tennessee has announced the return of the Lady Vol name and logo for all women’s athletics teams. And while that is great news, what it actually means is still a bit of a mystery!

In his press conference, athletic director John Currie said:

Today’s announcement serves as official confirmation that the Lady Vol name, logo and brand will continue to stand prominently as marks of excellence in intercollegiate athletics. As I have said on multiple occasions, I deeply value the Lady Vols legacy and what it represents to the University of Tennessee and women athletes…

In October 2014, university leadership announced that the “Power T” logo—which had previously been utilized solely by the athletics department—would stand as the official mark of the entire UT Knoxville campus. Yes, our university has decided on one official mark and brand,” Currie said. “But that does not mean that all other brands iconic to our history and tradition must cease to exist. I do believe it’s important to preserve and celebrate the Lady Vol brand and logo, which has for decades—and still does—possess great meaning and evoke incredible pride among many supporters of this university…

We will not allow for the Lady Vol brand to disappear from our athletics department or university. And today, Chancellor Davenport and I reaffirm our commitment to restore the official visibility of the Lady Vol name, logo and brand.

First of all, we need to thank and acknowledge all the players and fans who launched the push to bring back the name and kept the issue alive over the past three years. There were many, but one of the first and most visible was former volleyball player Leslie Cikra. Her website,, collected stories from athletes about the impact of the original decision. Other people started petitions, organized protests, and made the rounds in the media. And many more just never stopped using the name! As Cikra said on her site:

A LOT went on behind the scenes to make this happen. A lot of young women bravely stood up and put themselves in scary positions to stand up for what they believe in. Those voices, the petitions you signed, the letters you wrote, the posts you shared and liked, the rallies you participated in they all played a part in making this happen. THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! We could not have done this without each and every one of your support. We will always be Lady Volunteers.

Now what this will mean in practice is a little more muddled at this point. If you watch the video or read the transcript, it seems that this is not a full return to the pre-2014 status quo. My reading is that they are going to allow teams to use the name “Lady Vols” if they want, put the logo up at facilities, and in general just tolerate what players and fans want to do with it.

But it appears there is still a bit of a divide. Currie noted, “The ‘Power T’ is now the primary mark not just of Tennessee athletics, but of our entire campus. It is undeniably our most universally recognized brand image locally, regionally and worldwide. I do believe it’s important to give our female student-athletes the freedom to compete wearing the official brand and logo of their university while also taking deliberate action to ensure the preservation and celebration of the Lady Vol brand and logo, which has for decades—and still does—possess great meaning and evoke incredible pride among supporters of this university.”

Based on this sort of equivocating announcement that seems to be trying to have it both ways, I think the university should have just taken a more decisive step, maybe like the one I mentioned back in 2014: keep the Lady Vols name but switch to the Power T. Honestly, I think it is the name that is important to most fans and players. And it’s the branding and logo that seems to matter most to the school. Then everyone would know what to expect going forward.

How this will actually play out is hard to say. I think the school will move slowly and then follow the course set by the players, teams, coaches, and fans.

Whatever the outcome, it appears the Lady Vols are (mostly) back and that’s a great thing. The biggest downside is they waited until I finally got around to redesigning this site — getting rid of the blue and embracing smokey gray — to do it!