Bud Ford announces retirement, will have new role in Tennessee athletic department

Former Tennessee coach Johnny Majors once said of Bud Ford, “He never has an opinion. He won’t get to the point.”

Of course, Majors burst out laughing after uttering those words because they couldn’t have been further from the truth when describing Ford, the longtime UT Media Relations Director who announced his retirement this week effective at the end of December.

A Knoxville native and 45-year veteran of his profession, Ford always let it be known that he stood for integrity, passion and tradition when it came to his beloved University of Tennessee. And he displayed those traits every day to head coaches, student assistants, media representatives and fans alike.

Bud Ford, UT Associate Athletic Director for Media Relations

Bud Ford, UT Associate Athletic Director for Media Relations

“Bud Ford loves Tennessee with a passion that shows through in the way he does his job,” UT legend Phillip Fulmer said. “He was always helpful to me as a player, assistant, and especially as the head coach. Whatever the situation, you could be sure he always was protective of the integrity, tradition and image that makes Tennessee football special.”

Ford, 66, is moving into the position of Athletics Department Historian beginning Jan. 1, 2012, and plans to keep serving as a mentor to those in the UT family.

“The history of Tennessee athletics has always intrigued me.” Ford said. “During my whole career, I have constantly gathered historical facts and figures to preserve this ongoing picture in my mind of what UT athletics was. I’ve certainly enjoyed the opportunity to work with a lot of great athletes, student workers and employees through these many years.”

Included in that group is Peyton Manning, who from 1994-97 became an iconic figure in the Volunteer State.

“Bud is simply the best in the business,” said Manning, who leaned on Ford for advice during his celebrated UT career. “I will always be indebted to Bud Ford, and I am honored to call him my friend.”

Ford, who was hired straight out of college by athletics director Bob Woodruff, also worked under Doug Dickey and Mike Hamilton. He advised and supported six UT football head coaches -- Dickey, Bill Battle, Majors, Fulmer, Lane Kiffin and Derek Dooley.

Majors leaned on Ford and Haywood Harris for 17 years, and the Tennessee bond was strong between coach and publicity men from the start.

“Bud Ford is one of the most valuable people to an athletics department I have ever known,” Majors said. “I’ve worked with some mighty good people, and Bud Ford is as good as they come. You just can’t beat him.

“He is honest and loyal to the highest degree and has great integrity. He is extremely efficient and knowledgeable about his profession, and has been invaluable to me and to anyone else who worked with him at the University of Tennessee. He also was invaluable to the many sportscasters, writers and media around the country.”

Majors appreciated Ford’s frankness when it mattered most, and wasn’t afraid to joke around with his publicity man after the crisis had passed.

“Bud is one of the most straight-forward people I have ever known, and I’ve often kidded him by saying, ‘Bud, why don’t you ever get to the point? Why don’t you just say it like it is?’ He will give you the answer he believes in and he will shoot straight from the hip as much as anybody I’ve ever known.

“You never had to read between the lines of what he said because he was very plain-spoken.”

Ford was promoted to his current position of Associate Athletics Director for Media Relations in April 2000. Before that, Ford served as primary men’s basketball contact from 1966-85, during the Ray Mears and Don DeVoe eras, spent 13 years as UT’s Sports Information Director, and then was promoted to Assistant AD for Sports Information.

Those positions were just rewards for the work Ford began when he was named the school’s first full-time Assistant SID under CoSIDA Hall of Fame member Haywood Harris.

“I was privileged to work under one of the most respected men in the sports information field and also be part of a time in collegiate sports history that will most likely never occur again,” Ford said of Harris, who died last June and with whom he teamed for 35 years.

“Since 1950, the job of the Sports Information Director promoting men’s sports has been held by a graduate of the University of Tennessee. Lindsey Nelson, 1950; Gus Manning, 1951-60; and Haywood Harris, 1961-2000 -- if you add in the 11 years I have been privileged to serve in that position, that is a total of 61 years at one school by alumni who totally dedicated themselves to their University in every way,” Ford said.

Ford himself was inducted into the CoSIDA Hall of Fame in 2001 and later received the prestigious Arch Ward Award in 2006 for outstanding contributions to the field of sports information.

“For more than four decades, Bud Ford as much as anyone has embodied the spirit of the Tennessee Vols -- loyal student and staff member, man of integrity, gracious host, and sports information professional whose daily decisions were always based on what he believed was in the best interest of his alma mater,” said Georgia’s Claude Felton, Ford’s longtime associate and friend in the SEC media relations field.

Ford and longtime UT women’s media relations director Debby Jennings helped build the Tennessee brand and worked with an expanded staff of full-time and student employees in meeting the needs of the media who covered the Vols and Lady Vols.

“Just like the Orange and White checkerboard in Neyland Stadium, Bud Ford has been woven into the fabric of the University of Tennessee athletics department his entire life,” Jennings said. “For more than 40 years, he has had an amazing lifelong impact on UT athletics in ways that can never be quantified.

“Bud is a Tennessee man through and through and a walking encyclopedia of UT sports. During his career in sports information, he will tell you he always put the success of the Vol student-athlete first and foremost.”

Also a member of the Tennessee Sports Writers Association Hall of Fame and Knoxville Sports Hall of Fame, Ford in 2005 was made an honorary member of the UT Lettermen’s T-Club for his faithful service to the athletics department.

“Derek Dooley may have coined the term Vol for Life, but Bud Ford exemplifies it,” said Hamilton, who took over as UT men’s AD in 2003. “No one has been more loyal to their alma mater or fought harder for it than Bud Ford. His wealth of knowledge and institutional culture have been invaluable, and we look forward to him continuing to lead us in that area in his new role as historian.”

Ford’s primary duty as historian will be to reorganize all existing records of athletic competition in all sports in preparation for moving them into the archive storage area of the media relations office in the new Football Training Center. He also hopes to compile, edit and produce an all-time sports records book for the UT athletics department.

“For the last 45 years, I have seen it as my duty to make sure history was chronicled and properly catalogued in a way that it can be useful for many future years,” he said.

In addition, Ford will serve as the contact for historical questions regarding teams, coaches and student-athletes, and be available to answer inquiries and correspondence received by the athletics department.

“The job is ever-changing, and that presents new challenges,” Ford said. “Even though I have grown older with each passing sports season, the athletes I work with still remain the same age, 18-21. They keep you on your toes and forever young in your thinking.”

Ford graduated from West High School in 1962 and from UT in 1966. He and his wife, Sandra, reside in the Halls Crossroads community of North Knoxville and have been longtime members of Salem Baptist Church. They have two grown children -- Brent, a graduate of UT, and Julie, who completed her teaching degree at Carson-Newman College and master’s at Lincoln Memorial University.

What they are saying about Bud Ford:

Doug Dickey

“Bud Ford was typical of the heart and soul of Tennessee Athletics. He bled orange, wore orange, and probably sang Rocky Top in the shower. His work ethic for UT was amazing. Bud stayed ahead of the media curve and was always available to lend a hand to anyone who needed it. He knew his role and his business and did both with extraordinary passion.”

Charles Bloom, SEC

“Bud’s commitment to the principles of honesty, loyalty, fairness and hard work has made him one of the most respected people in athletics media relations. He has also taught these principles to the many people who have been under his tutelage and have gone on to outstanding careers themselves. Because of this, Bud’s impact has been felt not only at the University of Tennessee but in the Southeastern Conference and all across the nation.”

Charlie Fiss, AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic

“The influence Bud has had on me and thousands of others in collegiate athletics has been immense. For me personally, he has been a guiding light. Whenever a question arises about a certain situation, the first person I turn to for advice is Bud Ford. There is no other person in our profession that I respect more than him. Bud is one in a million.”

© 2011 govolsxtra.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Comments » 30

burpee_von_rotweiler_IV writes:

The gushing accolades in this article don't mesh with the pompous, arrogant guy seen in the Lane Kiffin resignation video. Must have been having a bad day then.

CoverOrange writes:

I assume Mike Hamilton is organizing the search committee and warming up the jet to fly all over the country for interviews until Cheek tells him which Florida grad to hire. Yes I'm being cynical.

volbike writes:

I hope they can get a first class person who is a superb communicator and up to the modern day requirements of the job and the guy's name isn't Robert Gibbs.

MidTennVol writes:

in response to burpee_von_rotweiler_IV:

The gushing accolades in this article don't mesh with the pompous, arrogant guy seen in the Lane Kiffin resignation video. Must have been having a bad day then.

Haven't even read the article and those accolades yet, Burp, but that's the first image that popped into my head just reading the headline. Mr. Ford should have "retired" or been redeployed to a far pasture within hours after that astonishing performance that night.

Good luck, Mr. Ford, thanks for your service and enjoy your retirement.

BillVol writes:

Hey, why didn't they mention the part when Bud Ford told the media, "You're in our building"?

Chartervol writes:

Yep, the pompous, arrogant guy you saw in the Kiffin video was indeed Bud Ford. I particularly bristled when he told the assembled press,"You are in our building."

No, Bud, YOU were in OUR building. He never understood that.

I notice this story didn't quote any actual newspaper people, mostly just Tennessee AD insiders.

Chartervol writes:

Well no wonder. I just looked and saw the thing is a puff piece from John Painter over at UTAD.

Let's do a roundup of every newspaper or television guy who loved Haywood Harris, and tolerated his officious jerk of a second banana.

foosballer writes:

in response to Chartervol:

Yep, the pompous, arrogant guy you saw in the Kiffin video was indeed Bud Ford. I particularly bristled when he told the assembled press,"You are in our building."

No, Bud, YOU were in OUR building. He never understood that.

I notice this story didn't quote any actual newspaper people, mostly just Tennessee AD insiders.

I do not know Bud Ford personally, but I DID see that video...and I also saw a very chaotic, tense situation that was relatively brand-new. I saw a man trying to run a last-second optional press conference and keep angry, demanding journalists in check.

I would have hated to been in his shoes that night...

Mansonlamps writes:

"Ford himself was inducted into the CoSIDA Hall of Fame in 2001 and later received the prestigious Arch Ward Award in 2006 for outstanding contributions to the field of sports information."

Who knew there was a Hall of Fame for sports information directors?

MidTennVol writes:

in response to Mansonlamps:

"Ford himself was inducted into the CoSIDA Hall of Fame in 2001 and later received the prestigious Arch Ward Award in 2006 for outstanding contributions to the field of sports information."

Who knew there was a Hall of Fame for sports information directors?

Indeed. And who cares? For what it's worth, I think it's the last booth on the right at the Waffle House at exit 19 on I-75.

KevinMark writes:

I can describe how I feel about him in two words:

Buck Fud.

KevinMark writes:

in response to Chartervol:

Well no wonder. I just looked and saw the thing is a puff piece from John Painter over at UTAD.

Let's do a roundup of every newspaper or television guy who loved Haywood Harris, and tolerated his officious jerk of a second banana.

Put me down as Pro Haywood / Anti Bud.

something_strange writes:

I watched that video and saw a media relations person doing the best he could with a volatile, unprecedented situation. PR people are paid to think, speak and take care of people in conditions like that. Congratulations Bud on a job well done! Sometimes in not the best of times.

orangecountyvols writes:

Vols,

First of all, I have read the various accomplishments and do not doubt Bud Ford has served U T very well.

There is one thing that has bothered me a lot the past 2 football seasons and it has to do with game day programs. For years you could always buy a program at the game which of course included up to date stats, history, comments and photos of both teams, etc.

Then, U T came out with an $8.00 "yearbook"
which is not a program. However, each week, the vendors sold them and yelled "programs" which was incorrect. I mentioned it to several of the vendors and they said they knew it was wrong but did what they were told.

Folks, it was the same yearbook every week, for every game. I know many of you don't care about this but some do. I have enjoyed collecting the real programs since the 1967 Auburn game.

Anyway, I wrote to Bud Ford about this and never received a reply. I just assumed Bud with media relations would have some knowledge about this.

It just always seemed part of a football game if you had a game day program which Tennessee no longer provides. What they do give you is a little lineup you can insert inside your "yearbook"...........which is about something you'd see at a high school game.

I'm through..........just going to have to enjoy my Marcus Allen, Hershel Walker, Johnny Musso, Bo Jackson, John Capeletti, Franco Harris, Bret Fvave , Dan Marino, Nolan Cromwell, etc programs.

Sorry for taking your time.............

macon_volfan writes:

I do know Bud Ford personally. There is NOT a better guy than Bud Ford. Well, that's probably not exactly true, but Bud is about as good as they come. So is Sandra. Brent was a character at HHS back in the day.

They way Bud treated the media the night Lane left was awesome---that's the way they (the media) treat everyone else. Bud, I'll miss our chats at the SEC Tourney. Hope to see you around!

rivieravol writes:

There is only one Vol Historian and it ain't Bud Ford!

jrc25 writes:

Was Bud the last Tennessee person left in the athletic department?

FWBVol writes:

I worked for both Bud and Haywood Harris as a SID student assistant in the late 1980s. I do know Bud and have seen him handle things up close and personal on a daily basis. There isn't a better man in the business than Bud.

Some people are judging him by one no-win press conference when Kiffin bolted rather than his whole body of work at Tennessee. I'd dare say none of us would want our entire body of work that covered 45 years to be judged by one event, that, in many ways was a boiling volcano before it started.

I appreciate the opportunity Bud and Haywood gave me almost 25 years ago and I'm honored to call him my friend. He is one of the best.

Randy Dickson aka FWBVol

murrayvol writes:

in response to FWBVol:

I worked for both Bud and Haywood Harris as a SID student assistant in the late 1980s. I do know Bud and have seen him handle things up close and personal on a daily basis. There isn't a better man in the business than Bud.

Some people are judging him by one no-win press conference when Kiffin bolted rather than his whole body of work at Tennessee. I'd dare say none of us would want our entire body of work that covered 45 years to be judged by one event, that, in many ways was a boiling volcano before it started.

I appreciate the opportunity Bud and Haywood gave me almost 25 years ago and I'm honored to call him my friend. He is one of the best.

Randy Dickson aka FWBVol

Good post. No one should be judged based on their involvment in the meltdown that was FHCLK's departure.

BillVol writes:

I used to complain about the game programs, too. I remember the old Tennessee Tip-Off. Every basketball game program designed for each basketball game. The cover featured picture and logo of the opponent. Those days are gone, though. Bud Ford is as overrated as can be, but don't blame him for this. With the right smart phone app, you can get all the gameday info you want in seconds. The SID people know this, so they have come up with the yearbook, which is nothing more than a coffee table piece. This is why today's technology will never approach the Tennessee Tip-Off.

orangecountyvols writes:

in response to BillVol:

I used to complain about the game programs, too. I remember the old Tennessee Tip-Off. Every basketball game program designed for each basketball game. The cover featured picture and logo of the opponent. Those days are gone, though. Bud Ford is as overrated as can be, but don't blame him for this. With the right smart phone app, you can get all the gameday info you want in seconds. The SID people know this, so they have come up with the yearbook, which is nothing more than a coffee table piece. This is why today's technology will never approach the Tennessee Tip-Off.

Thanks Bill,

I forgot to say when I called U T they told me they "could not afford to print programs."

To me, that was strange. I wonder if other schools are in the same situation?

But to go to a game and buy a "yearbook" and then next week's game has the same thing seems pretty deceiving to fans as far as I'm concerned.

I wasn't trying to blame Bud Ford but just thought he could give me an answer, which he didn't have the time obviously, to do.

All those programs are like collectors items, some were very big games. I don't think most fans want to buy a yearbook for every game when it's the same darned thing you bought the previous game/games.

TommyJack writes:

Gave long, loyal service. No reason to punk this cat.

stevefrommemphis writes:

in response to orangecountyvols:

Vols,

First of all, I have read the various accomplishments and do not doubt Bud Ford has served U T very well.

There is one thing that has bothered me a lot the past 2 football seasons and it has to do with game day programs. For years you could always buy a program at the game which of course included up to date stats, history, comments and photos of both teams, etc.

Then, U T came out with an $8.00 "yearbook"
which is not a program. However, each week, the vendors sold them and yelled "programs" which was incorrect. I mentioned it to several of the vendors and they said they knew it was wrong but did what they were told.

Folks, it was the same yearbook every week, for every game. I know many of you don't care about this but some do. I have enjoyed collecting the real programs since the 1967 Auburn game.

Anyway, I wrote to Bud Ford about this and never received a reply. I just assumed Bud with media relations would have some knowledge about this.

It just always seemed part of a football game if you had a game day program which Tennessee no longer provides. What they do give you is a little lineup you can insert inside your "yearbook"...........which is about something you'd see at a high school game.

I'm through..........just going to have to enjoy my Marcus Allen, Hershel Walker, Johnny Musso, Bo Jackson, John Capeletti, Franco Harris, Bret Fvave , Dan Marino, Nolan Cromwell, etc programs.

Sorry for taking your time.............

It seems that they could at least print a program for the Alabama and Florida games in even years and maybe Georgia in odd years. Maybe they'd sell enough of them to cover their costs if they charged something reasonable and didn't try to gouge $8 -- just like they gouge $4 for a tiny box of popcorn and $5 for a Coke.

I also wish the News-Sentinel would put the hometowns of the players on their lineup page, instead of the statistics down the center of the page. Hometowns are interesting information, and the first thing I thought of when they said "Joplin, Missouri" was "Alan Cockrell". I'm pretty sure he is a native of Joplin.

LiveFaith writes:

in response to burpee_von_rotweiler_IV:

The gushing accolades in this article don't mesh with the pompous, arrogant guy seen in the Lane Kiffin resignation video. Must have been having a bad day then.

I thot he was wanting to kick him in the rear as he followed him out of the room. That was my impression fwiw.

TKO writes:

whoever is the last one , turn the the lights out.

jpark001 writes:

Yet another guy in the UTAD being paid to do nothing...

rockytopatl writes:

I knew Bud (and Haywood) and worked with both back in the late '70. It's a little unfair to Bud to compare him with Haywood, because that fine gentleman was one of a kind. I will say of Bud that he was a pro and always treated me and other media members with respect. Forty-five years of faithful service is quite a run. And the dork who said SIDs do nothing does not have a clue. Particularly back in the old days when they didn't have a big staff, Haywood and Bud worked their tails off for UT.

orangecountyvols writes:

StevefromMemphis.

Thank you for your input. I see I wasn't the only one who was thinking this way.

I'm too much of a traditionalist I guess.
Get there early and hope to find a good parking space. Find people who are strangers but want to talk about the game.
Be there for the Vol Walk. ( Used to ) buy a program.........be in the stands for the warmups, and never miss the National Anthem.

Get all excited when guys in Orange and White take the field and yell like heck.

Nothing like it!

LJS1984 writes:

in response to KevinMark:

I can describe how I feel about him in two words:

Buck Fud.

That's just stupid. If you are older than 12 you understand what Bud Ford has done for Tennessee. I can remember watching countless Coach's shows and enjoying the Bud Stat of the game. Obviously some of you poeple wouldn't understand.

nashvol writes:

i am sure that the negative comments come from people who do not know Bud and have not worked with him.

i went to high school and college with bud and have dealt with him informally for years in the athletic department. i have always found him to be a pleasant, fair and honest person in all of his dealings. His professional standing is unchallenged.

give credence to the words of those who worked with him or have known him, not in the rants of the people who make themselves feel important by criticizing without knowing what they are talking about

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