Dear Mr. Hart and the UT Athletic Department,
As a senior on the golf team at the University of Tennessee, I have had the opportunity to see the University grow and develop the past few years. The athletic department for one has become almost unrecognizable since my freshman year, and even more so from the school I saw while being recruited. It’s been an amazing four years, and I consider myself lucky to be able to say I’ve been at Tennessee through these years of growth. However, the recent dissolution of the Lady Vol logo has been a dim spot in my otherwise fantastic senior year.
There are multiple reasons I think it’s been a mistake that the athletic department is choosing to do away with the Lady Vol logo and name. As a male, I don’t think you can comprehend what it means to be a Lady Vol. To have our own name as female student athletes is empowering, it makes us feel like we are just as important as the male athletes that surround us daily and motivates us to represent the brand well. I’ve played 93 collegiate rounds of golf with the Lady Vol logo on my golf ball, on my uniforms and on my golf bag. I’ve worked tirelessly to be a good example to incoming freshman, to teach them what it means to be a Lady Vol, to continue our legacy, and it gave my 4 years at Tennessee a purpose. In a blink of the eye, without a whisper about it among the female athletes, without a word about it at our biweekly SAAC meetings, without any consultation with us at all, you took away my purpose. You took away an intrinsic part of who I have been the past 4 years, you took away something that has motivated us and pushed us to become a better team. Rounds of golf didn’t always go my way and I kept fighting for the team, for my Lady Vol family. We have a sisterhood, something we will always share. And now, what have we worked for? To be again melded in with the male teams, which happened with the sharing of training rooms and workout facilities? When I came on my visit to Tennessee, I chose Tennessee because the athletic departments were separate. When you have your pick of SEC schools to attend, making the decision is hard. They all have excellent facilities, excellent trainers and campuses. I chose Tennessee BECAUSE it was different. If I wanted to attend a school that had a good practice facility? I could have chosen Florida. If I had wanted a school with a great indoor practice range? I could have picked Auburn. Maybe I wanted a school with a beautiful campus? Then Alabama would have worked.
But I chose Tennessee so I could be a Lady Vol.
And instead of respecting that decision, instead of realizing that us being different, that us having a Lady Vol logo makes us better, you chose to make us completely undistinguishable from other SEC schools. When one tries to become great, to become the best in any chosen field, you must choose to distinguish yourself, to rise to the top. We’ve just done the opposite of that. We’ve tipped our hat to other schools and said “You’re right, why should we be any different than you, we certainly are no better than you.”
I made the life changing decision to become a Lady Vol when I was 17 years old, and that’s something that can never be taken away from me. All I ask is that future female athletes at Tennessee have the same opportunity I did, to know what it is like to be apart of something greater than yourself.