My name is Tiffany Baker, and I am a former Lady Vol Volleyball player. My connection with the University of Tennessee is a little different from others who have voiced their concerns about recent decisions that have been made in that I am not alumni, but rather a transfer.
I spent two seasons proudly wearing Tennessee across my chest before I made the decision to transfer to the University of Texas. However, you are mistaken to think that my decision was an easy one, and you are certainly mistaken if you think this discredits how significant it meant for me to be a Lady Volunteer.
This is the very reason why it sickens me to hear that the Lady Vol symbol and Hall of Fame are both being removed. As many before me have explained, this unique and prestigious symbol and what it now stands for was hard-earned and graciously upheld by the legendary Pat Summit. Not only did she bring the Tennessee Women’s Basketball program to national prominence in an era where female sports was often over-looked, she paved the way for hundreds, thousands, millions of young girls and women. They may or may not be affiliated with the University of Tennessee, but it is world-renowned what Summit has done for females in athletics. This especially includes all female student-athletes who were inspired by what she has done whether it be myself, my former teammates, the softball team, the tennis players, or the little girls that have big dreams of competing in their sports on the biggest stage. This includes our counterparts that came before us and those that will come after us in all sports that gave and will continue to give their all for the University of Tennessee. Why? Because that is what being a Lady Volunteer is all about: competing at the highest level on the court, field, track, and classroom with poise, respect, honor, and pride. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe Pat Summit would expect and take pride in knowing that ALL of her Lady Vols of the past and present do this whether they are in basketball shorts, spandex, cleats, spikes, or dresses. This is why I find it so unreasonable and even hurtful to remove the logo from all women’s sports but basketball. All sports proudly represent what it means to be a Lady Volunteer and do so with their blood, sweat, and tears.
I also find it unreasonable that all of a sudden the Lady Vol logo represents a lack of unity. Having our special identity as “Ladies” did not mean lack of “One Tennessee” historically, and it certainly does not mean that now. In my personal opinion, that is just a poor excuse to remove something so powerful and meaningful to so many people who have been a part of it, whether they were competing or in the stands cheering on the Lady Volunteers. This symbol is one that reflects UNITY in a university that proudly acknowledges the importance, hard work, and success of female athletics. It reflects unity in a university that unlike many others, proudly recognizes and expects excellence in all aspects from its female athletes and its male athletes. The Lady Vol symbol and what it stands for is powerful, historical, and a substantial element that raises that University of Tennessee above and beyond other universities. It IS a brand in itself and is a huge factor that drew me to play volleyball in Knoxville.
Despite my decision to transfer from the University of Tennessee, a big part of my heart will forever and always be a Lady Volunteer, and I will not forget the countless experiences, lessons, friends, and memories it has blessed me with. Please do not take something so valuable away from so many people and reconsider this change.
A Longhorn and LADY Volunteer for life