Explore Knoxville: A Kentucky Girl’s Day with Tennessee Football and Basketball

Settled in 1786 along the Tennessee River, Knoxville, Tennessee is home to approximately 180,000 people who share a common passion – University of Tennessee athletics.  People wear Tennessee Orange proudly, and signs supporting the Volunteers are displayed all over town.  For this Kentucky girl, that much orange is a bit out of my comfort zone because University of Kentucky blue will always be the color for me.  Even so, on a recent girls’ trip, I had a wonderful time being a Vols fan for a and experienced many great things that the UT athletics program has to offer.

Thompson-Boling Arena
Thompson-Boling Arena

Thanks to my friend, Jenny, our day began with four seats to watch the UT men’s basketball team take on the Auburn Tigers in Thompson-Boling Arena.  The stands were a sea of orange and white, much like a big bowl of macaroni and cheese.  The band and student section were full of energy, playing and singing Rocky Top at every key moment to keep the players amped for the game.  The crowd was very animated, consistently being the sixth man by making sure the officials knew when they made a bad call and doing their best to intimidate the opposing players when they attempted free throws.  All of these things make Thompson-Boling a great place to watch a ballgame, but what struck me most was the obvious support for women’s athletics all around the arena, which isn’t always the case with large university sports programs.  Legendary UT Women’s Basketball Coach Pat Summitt won an impressive eight national titles during her 1098-208 career as head coach of the Lady Vols, and large banners celebrating the Lady Vols’ successful program hang high above the crowds in Thompson-Boling.  As a former college athlete on a much smaller scale, it made me smile to see how much the University of Tennessee supports women’s athletics.

As the Vols fans celebrated their win over the Tigers after the game, UT staff began setting up a small television studio right on the court.  Each game, fans are given the opportunity to stay after the contest ends to watch a live television broadcast hosted by Coach Donnie Tyndall and UT men’s basketball players.  The television camera rolls from right in front of the stands, and game-day interviews are broadcast over the arena’s sound system.  We joined the many kids (both young and old) who were so excited to see Coach Tyndall and the players up close and learned more about UT’s basketball program, their areas for improvement, and their plans for the next game.  After the interviews were finished, we met up with a friend on the UT men’s basketball coaching staff for what I thought would be a quick tour around the arena.  Little did I know that two hours later we would have enjoyed a behind-the-scenes tour of all of the UT football and basketball training facilities!

UT Football Helmets

Dedicated in April 2013, the state-of-the-art Anderson Training Center is home to the Volunteer football program and is open to all other student-athletes.  Upbeat music runs throughout the main floor of the Training Center, which is dominated by an indoor practice field that seems so much bigger from the end zone than a normal field looks from the stands.  Next to the field are several weight rooms, athletic training rooms, and aqua training rooms with hot and cold baths and an underwater treadmill for R&R.  To ensure that the players stay looking sharp, a barber shop is currently under construction just off the field.  To keep them healthy, the basement of the Training Center holds Smokey’s Sports Grill, a cafeteria named after UT’s famous canine mascot where all athletes are required to eat at least one meal per day.  To showcase their talents, the Training Center has its own broadcasting room that would make ESPN proud.

UT Football Coach Butch Jones
Coach Butch Jones

On the second floor of the Training Center, we ran into UT Football Coach Butch Jones who was kind enough to take a picture with us and welcomed us to visit a room that only a lucky few Vols supporters will ever see:  the Peyton Manning Room.  Peyton was the quarterback for the Vols from 1994 to 1997, and he was the overall number one NFL draft pick in 1998.  He’s currently enjoying a great career in the NFL and loves to give back to his alma mater.  The Peyton Manning Room holds originals and replicas of many of Peyton’s trophies, a replica of his UT locker, and a lounging space with full bar that looks out over one of the football team’s outdoor practice fields.  The celebration of UT’s storied program can be seen throughout the Training Center, but it’s almost tangible in the Manning Room and in the trophy room, which holds all of the Vols’ national and bowl championship trophies.

Lady Vols' Championship Trophies
Lady Vols’ Championship Trophies

The feeling of accomplishment carries over to Thompson-Boling Arena across the street, where the UT basketball team practices and plays.  A beautiful glass case forms a wall to the basketball offices and showcases all eight of the NCAA National Championship trophies that the Lady Vols have brought home to Tennessee.  Another glass case features NBA jerseys of former Vols players.  Near the offices are two very similar basketball practice courts, one for the Vols and the other for the Lady Vols.  A film room is available to both teams, with cushy chairs to keep the team comfortable during long game review sessions.  The teams also share a meeting room with custom Tennessee orange ping pong and billiards tables.  Each team has its own set of locker rooms with dark, polished wood lockers and shower heads built for the height of SEC basketball players.  Basketball players are welcome to use the Anderson Training Center facilities, and they also have their own weight training rooms in Thompson-Boling.

With facilities like these, it’s easy to see why an athlete would want to play for the Tennessee Volunteers.  Thanks to Jenny for taking us on a once-in-a-lifetime tour and giving us an insider’s look at the Vols football and basketball programs!  I hope you enjoy the gallery of photos below.

© Copyright 2015 Amelia Adams