Tennessee's 2016-17 sports rank among SEC's lowest overall [photos]

Tennessee's 2016-17 sports rank among SEC's lowest overall [photos]

Tennessee thirsting for athletic success as transition year ends

June 18th, 2017 by David Cobb in Sports - College

Tennessee's head coach Holly Warlick talks to Diamond DeShields (11) during the second half of a first-round game against Dayton in the women's NCAA college basketball tournament, Saturday, Mar. 18, 2017, in Louisville, Ky. Tennessee won 66-57. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

Photo by Timothy D. Easley

Gallery: Tennessee's 2016-17 sports rank among SEC's lowest overall

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WHERE THEY STAND

› SEC teams in the 2016-17 Learfield Directors’ Cup standings as of June 14 (standings are final, pending the conclusion of the College World Series): 5. Florida, 11. Kentucky, 13. Georgia, 14. Texas A&M, 19. South Carolina, 22. Arkansas, 23. LSU, 24. Alabama, 31. Missouri, 32. Auburn, 39. Ole Miss, 45. Tennessee, 57. Mississippi State, 67. Vanderbilt.

› Tennessee’s finishes in the GateHouse Media SEC All-Sports standings: 2016-17 (overall 10th, men’s 13th, women’s sixth); 2015-16 (eighth, 12th, fourth); 2014-15 (12th, 14th, eighth); 2013-14 (11th overall); 2012-13 (fourth overall).

KNOXVILLE — Most Tennessee fans did not huddle around their televisions, anxiously check social media or jog to the ends of their driveways to snag the newspaper and find the results.

The Learfield Directors' Cup and GateHouse Media Southeastern Conference All-Sports titles are an afterthought to most who follow college sports.

To athletic directors, however, these corporately sponsored tallies of the overall competition performance of collegiate athletic departments are a telling — and public — metric.

Tennessee's 2016-17 athletic calendar ended on a high note when sprinter Christian Coleman won two national championships at the NCAA outdoor track and field meet in Oregon. Otherwise, though the Volunteers, especially the men, struggled as a whole during a year of transition from former athletic director Dave Hart to new AD John Currie.

"We need to win more," Currie said during a recent visit to Chattanooga.

"Number one, that's not acceptable," he added later in the day, when asked specifically about the men finishing 13th in a gender-specific breakdown of this year's SEC All-Sports standings.

Tennessee finished 10th of 14 in the 2016-17 SEC All-Sports rankings and 12th of 14 in the league in the Directors' Cup standings. Stanford was awarded its 23rd straight Directors' Cup at a meeting of the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics in Cleveland attended by Currie this week.

Currie started the job April 1 and already has made changes aimed at turning around some of Tennessee's nonrevenue sports. While he has publicly affirmed football coach Butch Jones and men's basketball coach Rick Barnes, Currie has fired a men's tennis coach and accepted the resignation of a baseball coach.

"Our history includes shining moments, like four trips to Omaha, but it also includes the reality of just seven SEC tournament appearances this century, which is not acceptable for the University of Tennessee," Currie said while introducing new baseball coach Tony Vitello.

Other sports have struggled in recent years, too.

Men's golf has not finished in the SEC's top half as a team since the 2010-11 season. Women's soccer has made just one NCAA tournament appearance in coach Brian Pensky's five years as coach. Women's volleyball has not made an NCAA tournament since 2012. Coleman aside, Tennessee's track and field program has struggled to keep pace with others in the SEC.

Though Tennessee's women's basketball program no longer dominates nationally, its sustained success and the consistency of a perennial juggernaut softball program have kept Tennessee from falling further in the All-Sports and Directors' Cup Standings.

At least one Tennessee coach sees an end in sight to the collective mediocrity.

"Our fans are just waiting for an explosion with our athletic department," Barnes, the third-year men's basketball coach, said at a Big Orange Caravan stop in Memphis last Sunday. "We've got it stabilized. Now we all just need to get it to another level."

Hart is widely credited with steadying the department's finances, and Tennesee programs performed well in the Academic Progress Rate under his watch. Now it's Currie's turn. The 46-year-old said he keeps a sign on the back of his desk that reads, "Will it help us win?"

"There's no doubt Dave Hart did a great job getting the program stabilized," Barnes said. "Now I think there's another level John will get it to. We've got to get to another level in a lot of different things, winning being one of them. I think right now is a great time to be a Tennessee Volunteer."

Contact David Cobb at dcobb@timesfreepress.com