Tennessee is retiring the jerseys of three Vols legends in three sports, part of a revamped recognition process that could open the door for other former players to receive a similar honor.
Abbott, who shattered nearly every Division I pitching record in her four-year career, will be honored before the UT softball game against Texas A&M on March 23 at Sherri Parker Lee Stadium.
Ellis, a two-time SEC player of the year in the early 1980s, and Parker, the leader of the Lady Vols’ back-to-back national title teams in 2007 and 2008, will be recognized before a home game in the 2013-14 season.
UT laid out detailed criteria for the jersey-retirement nominating and selection process on Thursday, emphasizing character, integrity and college-based accomplishments.
To be eligible, former players must have either earned a degree from UT or left school in good academic standing. Graduates can be nominated five years after their eligibility is complete. Players who leave before their eligibility is complete must wait eight years before receiving a nomination.
UT said candidates “must have demonstrated outstanding character, integrity, and commitment to the University of Tennessee during his/her athletic career.”
Additionally, a nominee has to meet three of five criteria:
*** SEC player of the year
*** National award (player of the year or similar honor)
*** First-team All-American
*** Career record holder in a significant category (as defined by the committee) at UT, SEC or the national level.
*** Part of a national championship team during his or her tenure.
Nominees from each sports will be evaluated by a committee comprised of UT’s athletic director, faculty athletics representative, the sport’s administrator, the media relations representative for the sport and the senior women’s administrator.
The committee must be unanimous in its decision to retire to a jersey.
UT also said the committee could also honor non-student athletes in a similar manner “based on accomplishments/impact” at Tennessee.
Tennessee announced last September that it was retiring the jersey of Johnny Majors, who was an All-American running back and Heisman Trophy runner-up in 1956. Majors, who also coached the Vols from 1977-92, was the eighth player to have his jersey retired.
UT will now refer to honored players as having retired jerseys, rather than retired “numbers,” allowing the numbers to remain available for current players.
Evan Woodbery covers Tennessee athletics. Follow him at www.Twitter.com/TennesseeBeat.
No. 14 Dale Ellis
An SEC player of the year in 1982 and 1983, Ellis helped lead the Vols to a regular-season conference title as a junior in 1981-1982.
A native of Marietta, Ga., he played four seasons for Don DeVoe, returning during breaks in his NBA career to complete his degree in sociology.
Ellis will be the fourth men’s basketball player with a retired jersey, joining Bernard King (No. 53), Ernie Grunfield (No. 22) and Allan Houston (No. 20).
“Dale Ellis represents everything that’s great about being a Tennessee Volunteer,” current UT coach Cuonzo Martin said. “One of the most impressive things about Dale’s career on the basketball court is the fact that he was an All-American in college when there was no 3-point line, and then he went on to the NBA and developed into one of the greatest 3-point shooters in the history of the league.”
Ellis scored 2,065 points in his career, sixth on the school’s all-time scoring list, and he remains Tennessee’s all-time leader in single-season and career field-goal percentage.
Ellis played 19 seasons in the NBA for six teams, and was the first player in the history of the league to make 1,000 3-point shots.
Ellis, 52, lives in Marietta and is president of the Atlanta chapter of the National Basketball Retired Players Association.
No. 3 Candace Parker
Parker was the leader of Tennessee’s back-to-back national championships in 2007 and 2008 averaging 19.4 points and 8.8 rebounds during an incredible three-year career in which she was one of the nation’s most celebrated female athletes.
She remains UT’s career and single-season leader for free throws made and blocked shots, and her 2,137 career points are third-best in school history.
She was a three-time All-American and won multiple national awards in 2007 and 2008, including the John R. Wooden Player of the Year award.
The native of Naperville, Ill., plays for the Los Angeles Sparks of the WNBA and the Euroleague’s Ekaterinburg club in Russia during the offseason.
No. 7 Monica Abbott
One of the greatest pitchers in NCAA softball history, Abbott won 189 games and registered a 0.79 ERA in a four-year career at Tennessee from 2004-2007. She registered 112 shutouts, 2,440 strikeouts, 23 no-hitters, six perfect games and had 125 games with 10 or more strikeouts.
She holds the NCAA record for wins, shutouts, strikeouts, starts and innings pitched, and led all NCAA Division I softball players in wins in each of her four seasons.
“Monica Abbott is one of a kind,” UT co-head coach Ralph Weekly said in a release. “She is the type of player and pitcher that comes along once every 15 years. She was instrumental in putting Tennessee on the map and establishing us as a credible, strong softball program.”
A native of Salinas, Calif., Abbott was a four-time All-American and All-SEC selection, a three-time SEC pitcher of the year winner and won three national awards in 2007. She led the Vols to three consecutive College World Series appearances from 2005-2007.
Abbott was a member of the United States’ silver-medal winning Olympic team in 2008 and currently pitches in the Japan Pro League.