Before I get too far into this, I need to preface what I’m about to write with some comments that I feel are important.
Tennessee Vols athletic director Danny White is an incredibly smart man that I think will be a major asset for UT. I think he’s going to make the athletic department — including the football program — better for everyone in the coming years.
But White still doesn’t “get it” when it comes to being Tennessee’s athletic director.
And I think that needs to change.
White recently spoke to VolQuest’s Brent Hubbs about his first few months on the job in Knoxville. The former UCF athletic director was extremely candid in his conversation with Hubbs, which led to the comment that inspired this column.
White: “One of the things I have noticed as a challenge and I knew about it coming in, but it’s probably a new challenge for me is some of the negativity of our fan base. I think some of that probably is bred from the fact that in a broad base way we are not asking them to be participants.”
This isn’t the first time that White has referenced the “negativity” in the Vol fan base.
When White was hired, he said fans should “text a buddy” instead of going on social media and voicing frustrations. That comment has essentially become a running joke among Vol fans on social media when Tennessee loses a game.
White absolutely has to drop his obsession with his perception that Tennessee fans are negative.
Sure, there’s definitely a significant portion of the UT fan base that comes across as negative.
But can you blame them?
The support that Tennessee sports receives from its fan base — win or lose — is nearly unrivaled in sports.
Tennessee football hasn’t been a consistently good program over the last decade. Yet most weekends in the fall (pre-COVID) there are north of 90,000 fans in Neyland Stadium.
That doesn’t sound very negative to me.
The fans constantly show up, win or lose. And for what? There is no grand payout for being a Vol fan. There is no reward beyond emotional satisfaction. The fans do it because they’re passionate. Tennessee isn’t just a program that UT fans love — it’s part of their identity.
And those fans desperately want the Vols to win.
What White views as negativity is really just passion.
If White wants the negativity to end, then Tennessee needs to start winning (specifically the football program).
Fans invest a lot into Tennessee — time, money, energy, and emotion. And the only thing they want in return is to win.
Turn it all around and the perceived negativity will stop.
Featured image via Tennessee Athletic Communications/Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports