I have withheld my thoughts on the issue of the removal of the Lady Vol logo/brand from all teams apart from the Lady Vol Basketball team, but have recently felt the need to voice my opinion. I graduated from the University of Tennessee recently in May this year. I was a Vol on the men’s swim team and was a leader for three years. I supported the decision of combining the Men’s and Women’s swim team and did my best as a leader to help facilitate that change. However, I do not support the rebranding and removal of the Lady Vol logo. I disagree for a variety of reasons. One, we are destroying a part of the history and tradition of the Tennessee Lady Volunteers. Second, we are taking a big part of the culture and identity away from past Lady Vols, present Lady Vols and future Lady Vols. Third, it does not make sense to remove all but one Lady Vol brand. It is not equitable and does not make any sense in terms of a marketing or rebranding decision.
Firstly, there is a huge part of history and tradition associated with the Lady Vol logo/brand. As I know you are fully aware the brand is reflective of the work of Coach Pat Summit in the early years of her career as well as many years after that. She built this framework and structure to allow the Lady Volunteers to become a legacy and a tradition. However, Pat Summit and her players, in the greatest respect, were not the only the ones that held the Lady Vol brand high. As I’m sure they would agree the brand is not fully reflective of their efforts but the efforts of all Lady Vol teams. All the Lady Vol teams hold the brand high and continue to do so. For example, the success of Ralph and Karen Weekly and the Lady Vol Softball team and the breakout success of Matt Kredich and the Lady Vol Swimming team. All Lady Vol teams have carried this brand with grace, dignity and a fiery passion to win championships. They have created history and tradition and built a powerful brand. Why destroy a powerful brand? Big businesses like Coca Cola would never remove any of its brands like Sprite, Dasani or Fanta.
Secondly, we are ripping apart the identity of past Lady Vols, present Lady Vols and future Lady Vols. Many Lady Vols deeply associate themselves with the Lady Vol logo, and rightly so. They have given their all to the logo, grown because of the logo and moved on to change the world because of the logo. It is part of their identity. They would bleed orange for that logo just as I would bleed orange for the Power T. This can be illustrated in the overwhelming response from the Lady Vol Alumni to protect their identity and the Lady Vol logo. Equality among men and women is a sensitive but important subject. We watch the extremist views in some Middle East countries. Their law is prejudicial. It does not promote equality amongst men and women. I believe that we as a society have not come from that level of inequality. We have as a society built towards a more equal society, but I cannot help but think that by removing the Lady Vol logo we are disempowering women as a whole. We are destroying something that women built. Furthermore, during WW2 women took a large role in maintaining industry and the nation, whilst men were at war. Women were empowered by this. Posters came out that spread the message that women could do it themselves. A brand was created. However when the men returned, this empowering brand was replaced with the more masculine brand of the “stay at home” wife. We had taken a step backwards. We destroyed an identity because we destroyed the brand. Let us learn from history and not repeat the same mistakes.
Thirdly, and lastly, it does make sense to remove the Lady Vol logo from all but one women’s team. It is not equitable. Furthermore, the rebranding and marketing decision has a specific goal: to build unity under one brand. I fully understand the goal. However what I fail to understand is how the marketing decision is not equitable towards everyone. Why can one woman say she is a Lady Vol and another cannot? We all understand that the Lady Vol logo cannot be taken away from the Lady Vol Basketball team because of its rich history in Knoxville and around the globe. Nobody at Tennessee would want to disrespect Pat Summit’s lifelong career by taking the Lady Vol logo away from the Basketball team. But the ironic thing is that we are still disrespecting Pat Summit’s legacy. Her legacy was not that of winning championships but the legacy of empowering women in sports. The University of Tennessee should be proud of that fact and should do everything in its power to protect that image.
I write this letter on the set of values that Matt Kredich bestowed onto me. The three pillars of any successful individual and more importantly of any successful team are: Respect, Project and Protect. Let us respect the image of the Lady Vols, let us project to the world that our institution empowered women in sport. And finally let us protect the rich history of the Lady Vol logo and all that have served under it.
Volunteer Swim 2011-2015