To Whom This May Concern,
My name is Bryttany Curran and I am writing you in hopes you will reconsider the impact of losing the Lady Vol logo at the University of Tennessee. I would like to address 3 main topics: 1.The University of Tennessee values – the Volunteer Spirit. 2. The athletic department’s mission and history of tradition. 3. Business principles in efforts to become a great university and athletic department.
The University of Tennessee prides itself on embodying the Volunteer Spirit. You can see the Volunteer Spirit defined on their website here: http://www.utk.edu/aboutut/vision/. UT’s first value is “broad diversity, including people of all races, creeds, ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations, gender identities, physical abilities, and socioeconomic groups; “This alone lends itself to supporting two different logos – recognizing that there is value in diversity (including gender as it is specifically mentioned). The value comes from meeting people (in this case women athletes) where they need to be met in order to empower them to use their platform and skills to be successful.
Sticking with UT’s values, another one is “transparent and data-informed decision making;” I don’t see the athletic department being transparent about their “data informed decision.” To me, it is unclear the value of ridding the Lady Vols logo for all women sports except women’s basketball. Outside of me disagreeing, it also appears inconsistent.
Second, part of the athletic department’s mission is “…honoring and fulfilling the Volunteer Spirit.” This demonstrates that there is alignment between the school and the athletic department in supporting the Volunteer Spirit, which the Lady Vol logo (and all it represents) does so well. They have also clearly stated that their mission is to have one brand. But the reality is, they will continue to have two brands as the women’s basketball team uses the Lady Vol logo. And any value UT would get from having one brand is intrinsically lost.
Another great pride of the University of Tennessee is the weight they put on Tradition. Any student or person who has ever stepped on UT’s campus knows this. But if you haven’t had the chance to talk to anybody from UT or spend any time there, the athletic department shows this value by making a webpage called “Tennessee Traditions.” It is easily accessible on their website for the world to read about. There, right alongside of the Power T, origins of ‘Volunteers,’ school colors, Smokey (mascot), and many more sits the Lady Vols. This tradition is equally as embedded in the fabric of UT’s tradition as the Power T. In fact, the Power T was only created a little over 10 years prior. Even more interesting, the Power T as we know it today was created by a football coach (Johnny Majors) the same year as the Lady Vol logo was created. From that, we can conclude that the Lady Vols logo has just as much history as the Power T.
With that in mind, I have a hard time understanding how removing the Lady Vols logo from the women athletic teams (except basketball) aligns with UT’s values, the athletic department’s values, or the value of Tradition. As I’ve spoken with different people about the Lady Vol logo being replaced, one person mentioned, “Just because something is tradition doesn’t mean it should be changed.” I agree. Traditions should always be questioned for the greater good of the school, staff, students, and athletes. But what exactly is the greater good here? After racking my brain, I concluded that maybe it comes down to business – because as we all know, universities and athletic departments are a business.
Jim Collins is one of the most respected business researchers in the country – if not world (side note: The University of Tennessee defines itself as a research institute, and has a goal of being one of the top 25 research institutes in the country. This goal is clearly displayed on their About UT/Vision page on their website. This infers that UT finds value in research, and would like to be great). In Collins book Great by Choice, he discusses something called the SMaC recipe. This principle talks about a recipe of values and processes used by businesses as guiding principles during good and bad times. The great companies, he found rarely, if ever, change these basics principles. On the flip side, the comparison companies (failed companies) changed these principles often based off the times. Collins makes a “data-informed decision” that sticking to core concepts – which I argue Lady Vols is – is one of the 6 most important reasons a company becomes great. With this in mind, I do not see removing the Lady Vol logo as a good business practice.
I swam for the University of Tennessee as a Lady Vol from 2006-2010. I understand I am a Lady Vol, and that creates a bias. But isn’t that bias the reason why the Lady Vols need to stick around? This bias is created by a group of people – coaches, former athletes, current athletes, the athletic department, the school, the professors, the students, the fans, the community… – urging me to be empowered. The Lady Vol “bias” is one that encourages women to use our uniqueness as a woman to change our life for the betterment of ourselves, our team, our community, and the world. It teachesthat each women has value, and this value is needed in the world of athletics, in academics, in our families, and in our workplace. It gives permission to women – whether they be young girls, teenagers, college students, or adults – to fight for what is right and good. It reminds us that diversity is important, and that we have individual gifts that only we can use to make the world a better place. That we have the power to make change when necessary, or the power to fight to keep what is good. And for me, what is good, is keeping the Lady Vol logo in the University of Tennessee athletic department for all women sports as a symbol of just that.
Thanks for your time,