published Sunday, January 1st, 2012

Difficult calendar year leaves changes for Vols

Janzen Jackson of the University of Tennessee football team poses for a photograph during media day at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville on Sunday.
Janzen Jackson of the University of Tennessee football team poses for a photograph during media day at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville on Sunday.
Photo by Alex Washburn /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

KNOXVILLE -- Men's basketball and baseball coaches were fired and replaced.

The iconic women's basketball coach was hit with health problems.

There was even a change at the top after an athletic director resigned.

Those are just some of the big events that happened with the University of Tennessee's athletic department in 2011, and that's leaving out the end of an NCAA investigation and a forgettable football season. Across the board, it was a tumultuous year for the Volunteers both on and off the field. Anything that could go wrong seemed to do just that.

At some point, new athletic director Dave Hart hopes, the breaks will start falling UT's way.

"That's a fair question," he said in an interview with the Times Free Press last month. "I think human nature would dictate that you need -- because you are human in the face of adversity -- when you're fighting with a short stick, you need to win some battles. I'm not talking about now in competition anymore, but you need to see something positive developing."

First-year basketball coach Cuonzo Martin's landing of Memphis five-star basketball Jarnell Stokes last week certainly fit that bill. Before that, however, the losses on the field and court and the cloud of negative publicity and headlines surrounding UT appeared it would never end. From the ongoing NCAA investigation that ultimately led to Bruce Pearl's firing to Pat Summitt revealing her diagnosis of early-onset dementia for Alzheimer's disease, the bad just kept piling up.

It finally came to a crest with the football Vols' embarrassing and historic season-ending loss to Kentucky in November.

"I say this with all sincerity, [our fans] are the most passionate," Hart said. "They may not be patient right now; I understand that. They share my passion, so you know when things aren't going good, you don't feel good and that's OK. That's nothing to be upset about, really.

"But I would say this: We're so blessed to have a passionate fan base. We have a very educated fan base, too. Everyone has a limit of patience where you have to see progress, but I think we're very blessed at the University of Tennessee to have the types of fans that we have here."

The Times Free Press takes a look back at the year in UT sports.

about Patrick Brown...

Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...

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