John Adams: Hart says track record with women's athletics 'speaks for itself'

John Adams

DESTIN, Fla. — A reporter prefaced his question to Dave Hart by saying he had received emails from Tennessee fans concerned that Pat Summitt's name might be taken off the Thompson-Boling Arena court.

"Why would we do that?" UT's first-year athletic director said at the SEC Spring Meetings. "That doesn't even warrant a response."

He's right. Why would UT remove the name of its legendary women's basketball coach from the floor that honors her?

As farfetched as the question might seem, it's reflective of the fear among some UT fans that Hart doesn't care about women's athletics.

It's expressed on message boards, and I've heard it in conversations with more than one fan of UT women's athletics. But there's no solid evidence to support it.

Still, the questions persist, in part, because Hart is overseeing the final stages of the merger between the men's and women's athletic departments. Some fans fear the Lady Vols' nationally prominent logo will be lost in the process as UT expands its Power T to cover all sports, regardless of gender.

Yet Hart said that has never been discussed.

Again, he might ask, "Why would we?"

One logo doesn't have to detract from another. The dominant color is still orange. The brand is still "Tennessee."

Another contributor to the fear factor could be Hart's background. He was a longtime athletic director at Florida State, which is known primarily for football.

He also had a prominent role in Alabama's athletic department before he took the athletic director's job at UT last fall. Do I need to mention that football comes first at Alabama?

In fact, with a couple of exceptions, like Vanderbilt and Kentucky, football comes first at every school in the SEC. An athletic director in this conference could lose his job over a dreadful football program, no matter how many other sports might be flourishing on his watch. That doesn't mean SEC athletic directors are content with failure elsewhere, as long as football is successful.

Hart was asked about the perception among some fans that women's sports aren't a priority with him.

"I can only tell you there's nothing in my background that would suggest anything but the opposite," said Hart, who increased the funding for women's athletics at Florida State. "I've always been a major proponent of women's athletics.

"I don't think I have anything to prove in that regard. I think the track record speaks for itself."

Holly Warlick, whom Hart hired to succeed Summitt in April, isn't worried about the athletic director's commitment to women's basketball.

"He's been very supportive of myself and the women's program," she said "He comes to practice and comes down to meet with our kids, just to say hey. I honestly think his priority is the student-athlete."

She has heard some of the concerns from fans, though.

"Everybody is concerned about the (Lady Vols) logo," she said. "He has never said we're getting rid of the logo.

"I definitely think they will keep the logo."

Warlick's relationship with Hart was strengthened this past season during which she assumed a leadership role while Summitt was battling early onset dementia. She also stresses how attentive Hart had been to her program's needs and how comfortable she felt expressing an opinion with him.

"I know he's in a tough situation as far as combining the two programs, but I have a lot of confidence in him," she said.

Hart admits the merger of the programs has created a "lot of apprehension," then offers reassurance to fans of UT women's sports.

"There will be no erosion in our commitment to women's athletics," he said. "If anything, it will be strengthened."

John Adams is a senior columnist. He may be reached at 865-342-6284 or adamsj@knoxnews.com.

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Comments » 11

ChurchHillVol67 (Inactive) writes:

And cue the trolls that think Hart forced Pat out before she wanted to go!!!!! In 3 2 1!!!!

Witch_Doctors writes:

Witch Doctor say more fodder for the "hurt feeling" AD trolls that are getting kick out!
Buh BYE!!
Bones never lie.

volspaws writes:

Hart seems up to the task, but he needs to back off the Just For Men products....60-somthing men don't have jet black hair...that's a personal habit that screams "Alabama"...what's next? a tank top, a mullet and gold chains?

AlexAndersonAAradio writes:

Take that haters!

Munsterlander writes:

All lies blah blah blah out to kill women's sports blah blah blah is actually the evil emperor blah blah blah just ask so and so that got fired for feeding the hungry and won a billion dollar law suit blah blah blah Alabama conspiracy blah blah blah.

Hopefully that covers it for the permanent cycle crowd.

orangeninja writes:

"One logo doesn't have to detract from another. The dominant color is still orange. The brand is still Tennessee."

And the most successful men's team on campus isn't even in the athletic department and isn't allowed to wear the Power T on their uniform - Men's Rugby.

CrankE writes:

"As farfetched as the question might seem, it's reflective of the fear among some UT fans that Hart doesn't care about women's athletics."

As farfetched as the question might seem, I as your Senior Columnist at KNS-God's Gift to GoVols will ask such ludicrous far-fetched questions because displaced career-long Athletic Department sponges, uh, I mean, "concerned" Volunteer fans like Debby Jennings ask me that all the time. (actually just twice.) Because as we all know, none of this would have happened with a healthy Pat Summitt. It's all Dave Hart's fault because he's the eeeeevil hatchet man at UT. Did I mention he's from Alabama? Too bad I can't work in a reference to Kentucky or Florida or Tebow in here somewhere.

CrankE writes:

"It's expressed on message boards, and I've heard it in conversations with more than one fan of UT women's athletics. But there's no solid evidence to support it."

More than one fan = 2 fans.

In regular conversations that I have with the orcs and trolls on GVX and our competitors, irrational, whiny, baseless charges that warrant no explanation from the AD are offered up and I, as your Senior Columnist-God's Gift To GoVolsXtra247365Infinity (free 30 day trial) will use my position as Senior Columnist-God's Gift To GoVolsXtra247365Infinity (free 30 day trial) to repeat the aforementioned baseless fears and twaddle from these chicken littles and treat it as a Very Serious Subject which is worthy of both my efforts and your time.

REGIME CHANGE AT KNS!
FIRE JOHN ADAMS!

butch31 writes:

When is Dave's last day at UT? SMDH

chuckfromwoodberry writes:

in response to RockyMountainVol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Best post I've ever read on GoVols.

GiveHim6TDTennessee writes:

in response to RockyMountainVol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Here, here! Well said! She stepped down on her own terms and anyone else saying other wise is thirsting for attention.

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