Mike Strange: Top 10 UT stories not involving football, basketball

Mike Strange
Saul Young/News Sentinel
Dave Serrano is introduced as Tennessee's new baseball by interim athletic director Joan Cronan during a press conference on June 16 at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.

Photo by Saul Young

Saul Young/News Sentinel Dave Serrano is introduced as Tennessee's new baseball by interim athletic director Joan Cronan during a press conference on June 16 at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.

Todd Raleigh

Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess

Todd Raleigh

Quite a year it's been for University of Tennessee sports and primarily not in a good way.

If UT fans want to find much to crow about they have to look beyond the football and basketball headlines. There was good news and bad among the other sports that exist outside the bright spotlight.

Here's a look at the top 10 UT stories not involving football or basketball:

1. Baseball Changes: Todd Raleigh was fired on May 23, his four-year record 108-113. Dave Serrano was hired June 15, exciting a fan base with his history or guiding both Fullerton and Cal-Irvine to the College World Series.

2. The Merger: A sidebar to Mike Hamilton's resignation as men's athletic director in June was the official word that the men's and women's athletic departments are merging and Joan Cronan, women's AD, is retiring. New AD Dave Hart heads a combined department as UT gets in step with virtually every other college athletic department.

3. Track Controversy: Track and field, already merged, had a rocky summer when director J.J. Clark fired two men's assistant coaches, one of them longtime aide and former Vol runner George Watts. A number of men's track alumni went public with criticism of Clark's stewardship. To make matters worse, the men's best young athlete, sprinter Derrick Locke, transferred.

4. Men's Tennis: Another banner year for Sam Winterbotham's men on the tennis courts. The Vols were briefly ranked No. 1, were SEC co-champs and made it to the NCAA semifinals. Senior J.P. Smith was the SEC tennis player of the year and the SEC male athlete of the year. Sophomore Rhyne Williams at one point held the No. 1 ranking, advanced to the NCAA singles title match and then turned pro.

5. Volleyball Title: The Lady Vols won the SEC regular-season title outright, clinching with a dramatic win over Kentucky on the final day. Sophomore Kelsey Robinson was named SEC player of the year, Rob Patrick the coach of the year and Mary Pollmiller the freshman of the year. The freshman-and-sophomore-dominated Lady Vols fell in the second round of the

NCAA tournament, finished 28-4 and ranked No. 19.

6. Kelly To Texas: Soccer coach Angela Kelly left for Texas after 12 years in which she took the program from fledgling status to a SEC contender. Kelly was a three-time SEC coach of the year. Her final team lost its NCAA tournament opener to Ohio State.

7. Hendee Dies: Long-time men's swimming assistant coach Joe Hendee lost his battle with brain cancer in April. Hendee was an inspiration both to the swimmers he coached and everyone in the athletic department. His boss, John Trembley, was named SEC coach of the year.

8. Softball Falls Short: As usual, Tennessee was among the nation's elite programs in softball. The Lady Vols began the season No. 4 and reached as high as No. 3, winning the SEC tournament behind first-team All-SEC hitters Raven Chavanne and Lauren Gibson. The goal of a College World Series was missed, however, when the Lady Vols were upset by Oklahoma State in NCAA regional at Lee Stadium.

9. Popson's Titles: Lady Vols golfer Erica Popson had a year to remember. She won three tournaments — the Bryan Invitational, the SEC and the NCAA West Region. She cooled off in the NCAA tournament, finishing 14th, but was a first-team All-American.

10. Connolly Is Golden: Jenny Connolly enjoyed a terrific year swimming for the Lady Vols, and one especially golden day. She won three events in one day at the SEC meet, the 100 fly, the 100 back and a leg of the 400 MR. In August Connolly won gold and silver for the USA at the World University Games in China.

Mike Strange may be reached at strangem@knoxnews.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/strangemike44 and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/strange

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Comments » 7

Formervol88 writes:

#3-Glad to get our alumni voice heard one more time before the end of the year. You'll hear it again come spring time.

Sir_Spanky writes:

Why is Clark still coaching track?

LJS1984 writes:

I'm pretty sure that there weren't any top ten stories involving Football and Basketball? The number one story on here should be Major Mismanager Mike Hamilton FINALLY FIRED!

budd#207344 writes:

Thanks for the story Mike. Happy New Year

frblalack writes:

Great story, Mike! Happy New Year to you and even the rest of the KNS crew...ha!

Thanks to the News Sentinel for allowing us Vol fans to have a forum to express our opinions!

Hoping the New Year brings good things for all of Vol Nation!

Go Big Orange!

volcraze writes:

I cant wait for Spring..............

SserPrun95 writes:

Clark is an egoist and a self centered pr1ck. The UT track alumni despise him. I doubt he knows the name of every guy on his team. What a terrible choice, the last work of Mike "the Destroyer" Hamilton. So glad that snake in the grass was fired, hopefully the majority of his decisions will be too.

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