Tennessee To Open Football Season Against Virginia At Nissan Stadium

The Tennessee Volunteers are returning to Music City to open up the 2022 football season against Virginia on Saturday, Sept. 2 in Nissan Stadium, the two programs and the Nashville Sports Council has announced.

“We are thrilled to welcome the Vols and Cavaliers to Nashville on opening weekend of the 2023 college football season,” says Nashville Sports Council President and CEO Scott Ramsey. “Both programs have a place in Nashville Sports history, having both played in the TransPerfect Music City Bowl. We look forward to hosting them along with their loyal fanbases and once again showcasing Nashville on a national stage.”

This will be the third time Tennessee has played in a regular season non-conference game at Nissan Stadium since taking on Bowling Green in 2015 and Wyoming in 2002. The Vols last played at Nissan Stadium in December during the 2021 TransPerfect Music City Bowl.

The 2023 opener will be the first meeting between the two teams since the 1991 Sugar Bowl when Tennessee pulled off a 23-22 come-from-behind victory in New Orleans. The Vols lead the all-time series 3-1. The other meetings occurred in Knoxville during regular seasons in 1927, 1940 and 1980.

“Pivoting to play a marquee non-conference opponent in Nashville made sense for multiple reasons,” says Tennessee Vice Chancellor/Director of Athletics Danny White. “This is a more accessible game for our fanbase. I expect that we will have a much larger contingent of fans in Nashville than would have been able to travel to Utah. Our fans also have heard me talk about the importance of finding new revenue to grow our operating budget, and playing Virginia at Nissan Stadium is an opportunity for a net-positive revenue game. I appreciate Virginia AD Carla Williams and the Nashville Sports Council for working with us to make this attractive matchup happen.”

Virginia will return to Nissan Stadium for the first time since 2005 when the Cavaliers took on Minnesota in the then-Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl presented by Bridgestone. Virginia won that game 34-31 on a late field goal. Quarterback Marques Hagans, who now serves as Virginia’s associate head coach and wide receivers coach, was named MVP.

Tennessee will serve as the designated home team for the 2023 opener. Ticket information and a kickoff time will be announced at a later date.

Mid-South Ford Dealers, Shelby’s Trio Partner With Clarksville’s F&M Bank Arena

Mid-South Ford Dealers and Shelby’s Trio are joining as founding partners of F&M Bank Arena arena in Clarksville.

The brand new arena is currently under construction and scheduled to open in 2023 under Sabertooth Sports & Entertainment (SS&E) management.

“We are thrilled that Ford and Shelby’s Trio have elected to join F&M Bank Arena as founding partners,” says Danny Butler, Vice President and General Manager of Ford Ice Centers and Project Manager for F&M Bank Arena. “We are excited to grow our relationship with Ford at the ice centers, which started in Antioch in 2014 and continued with Bellevue. Shelby’s Trio and the Maynard family are dedicated leaders in the Clarksville community, and we are looking forward to both long-term partnerships.”

F&M Bank Arena’s primary tenant will be Austin Peay State University, whose men’s and women’s basketball teams will call the facility home. The arena’s main arena bowl will also be able to add an ice surface, giving it the ability to host hockey tournaments and attract larger on-ice events or competitions much like the existing Ford Ice Centers in Antioch and Bellevue.

“The Mid-South Ford Dealers are thrilled to continue the tradition of supporting the Ford Ice Centers in our local communities to include the Ford Ice Center in Clarksville,” says Casey Jenkins, Chair of the Mid-South Ford Dealer Association and Owner of Jenkins and Wynne Ford in Clarksville. “This center will greatly impact Clarksville and surrounding communities for generations to come and we look forward to the growth and activity this opportunity brings with it.”

“Shelby’s Trio, Trio Hospitality and the Maynard family are pleased to enter this long-term relationship with SS&E and Austin Peay State University at F&M Bank Arena,” says Joe Maynard, a long-time business leader in the Clarksville community and owner of Shelby’s Trio and Trio Hospitality.

Ford Ice Centers will offer a variety of learn-to-skate programs at F&M Bank Arena, continuing its mission to expose and grow hockey to more Middle Tennessee residents.

F&M Bank Arena will hold approximately 6,000 fans for concerts, 5,500 for basketball games and 5,000 for hockey games.

John Ingram, Ja Morant, And More Announced As Tennessee Sports Hall Of Fame Class Of 2022 Honorees

Nashville SC owner John Ingram and Memphis Grizzlies star Ja Morant. Photos: Courtesy of Nashville SC and the Memphis Grizzlies.

The Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame has announced the honorees for its 2022 Achievement Awards, with Nashville SC principal owner John Ingram and Memphis Grizzlies point guard Ja Morant topping the list as the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame 2022 Tennessean of the Year.

Other top honors include a celebration of the 50 anniversary of Title IX, Memphis Grizzlies, Middle Tennessee State Head Track & Field Coach Dean HayesCandace Parker (Chicago Sky), Jack Leiter (Vanderbilt Baseball), Rachel Heck (Stanford Golf), East Tennessee State Football, and Tennessee Southern Women’s Soccer.

These honorees will be recognized for their achievements this past year alongside the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2022 inductees Sharrieffa Barksdale, RA Dickey, the late Harry Galbreath, Artis Hicks, Jevon Kearse, Randy Lambert, David Legwand, Nikki McCray-Penson, David Suddeth, Tony White, the late David Williams II and Toby Wilt.

Ingram has led Nashville SC from its USL origins to be one of the most successful MLS teams these past two seasons. In May, Nashville SC opened GEODIS park, the largest soccer-specific stadium in the U.S. and Canada, in front of a sold out crowd of over 30,000 fans.

Morant has been one of the best players the NBA for the 2021-22 season, leading the Memphis Grizzlies to the second round of the NBA Playoffs and has been named as Male Professional Athlete of the Year. After sustaining an injury last season, he was awarded the NBA Comeback Player of the Year averaging 27.4 points per game, 5.7 rebounds per game and 6.7 assists per game. The Grizzlies have been named Professional Team of the Year after having one of their best seasons in almost a decade finishing second in the Western Conference winning 56 games.

Candace Parker has been named Female Professional Athlete of the Year. Parker, a former Tennessee Lady Vol, joined the Chicago Sky in 2021. The regular season ended with Parker and the Sky earning the No. 6 seed in the playoffs. They won two single-elimination games, followed by an upset of Connecticut in the semifinals, before beating the Phoenix Mercury to win the 2021 WNBA Finals. Parker averaged 16.6 points and 8.6 rebounds per game on the way to her second World Championship.

Vanderbilt’s Leiter was one of five consensus first-team All-Americans nationally. He named a first-team All-American by the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA), Baseball America, Collegiate Baseball and National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA). He was also the SEC Newcomer of the Year. He was selected by the Texas Rangers with the second overall pick of the 2021 MLB Draft. He has been named the Male Amateur Athlete of the Year.

Female Amateur Athlete of the Year is being awarded to Stanford golfer Rachel Heck. She is a native of Memphis, and a graduate of St. Agnes Academy in Memphis. She is a five-time AJGA All American, two-time USA Today High School Golfer of the Year, a four-time individual state champion, and winner of many events through the course of her prep career. Now, as a sophomore at Stanford, she is already tied for third most victories in school history.

Other honorees include Title IX 50th Anniversary for the David Williams Significant Historical Achievement Award, MTSU Track & Field coach Dean Hayes for the Pat Summitt Lifetime Achievement Award, the Tennessee Southern Women’s Soccer for the Female Amateur Team of the Year, and the ETSU football team for the Male Amateur Team of the Year.

The honors will be formally presented as part of the hall’s 2022 Banquet, presented by the Tennessee Titans on July 23 at the Omni Nashville Downtown. Tickets for the banquet ceremony can be purchased through the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame website.

Nashville Superspeedway President Erik Moses Named To Cumberland University Board Of Trustees

Nashville Superspeedway President Erik Moses has been elected to the Cumberland University Board of Trustees.

“Cumberland is honored to have Mr. Erik Moses join our Board of Trust,” says Cumberland University President Dr. Paul C. Stumb. “He has done a tremendous job of revamping the Nashville Superspeedway in a relatively short period of time and has shown he is deeply committed to this community. I speak on behalf of the entire university community when I say that we are thrilled to have his exceptional leadership skills and talent added to our board.”

Moses joined the Superspeedway in 2020 and oversaw the restart of its operations, welcoming back a full weekend of NASCAR for the first time in almost 30 years. Prior to joining Speedway Motorsports, Moses served as the founding President of the DC Defenders of the XFL. He has also served as Senior Vice President and Managing Director of Sports, Entertainment and Special Events for Events DC, and was responsible for developing the company’s corporate partnerships initiative. Prior to the creation of Events DC, he served as the CEO of the DC Sports and Entertainment Commission.

“I am honored to join the Board of Trust for Cumberland University, an institution that for 180 years has and continues to contribute so much to this State and our nation,” says Moses. “President Stumb and other members of the Cumberland community have both welcomed me to Middle Tennessee and made me feel at home here. I am very pleased to offer my experience, expertise, and efforts in the support of this important institution and look forward to serving with other distinguished members of the Board and so many committed members of the University community.”

Moses serves on the board of directors for the DC Jazz Festival, the Military Bowl Foundation, is a member of the NASCAR Industry Diversity Council, the Rotary Club of Nashville, Leadership Middle Tennessee and previously served on the board of the US Tennis Association – Mid-Atlantic Section.

He earned his B.A. in Political Science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and his J.D. from Duke University School of Law. He holds an honorable Doctorate of Humane Letters from LeMoyne-Owen College and is a member of the bar in both Maryland and the District of Columbia.

Moses was officially elected to the CU Board of Trustees on April 28 and will begin serving in June 2022.

Vanderbilt Basketball Promotes Andy Fox To Associate Head Coach

Andy Fox. Photo: Courtesy of Vanderbilt Athletics

Vanderbilt men’s basketball head coach Jerry Stackhouse has promoted Andy Fox to associate head coach.

Fox is entering his fourth season on the Commodores staff, spending his first two seasons as the Director of Scouting and Recruiting before serving as General Manager in 2021-22.

“I’m excited to announce Andy Fox as our new associate head coach,” says Stackhouse. “Over the past three seasons, Andy has worked tirelessly to support our vision and to help revitalize Commodore men’s basketball. Andy’s knowledge and expertise in college athletics, university policy and NCAA legislation has been a tremendous asset in laying the foundation for our program’s success. As we move forward, I know that his coaching experience combined with his passion for Vanderbilt basketball, makes him an amazing fit for this new role. I’m excited for Andy and his family, and I know our program will continue to thrive as he ascends into this new role.”

In his previous role as Vandy’s general manager, Fox oversaw the Commodores’ on-campus recruiting, underclassmen recruiting, off-campus recruiting, program enhancement and special capital projects, and he also coordinated non-conference scheduling games and ELITE camps. He also assisted with the oversight of the program’s managers and graduate managers.

Fox has been an important member of Vanderbilt’s staff over the last three seasons, helping Vandy to its first winning record since 2016-17 after advancing to the quarterfinals of the NIT this past season.

“I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to continue serving Coach Stackhouse and Vanderbilt University,” says Fox. “There is unprecedented momentum all throughout campus.  I am excited about the new role and my ability to contribute to the exciting trajectory of our program under Coach Stackhouse.”

During his career, Fox has coached six student-athletes who went on to the NBA. He has helped mentor 32 all-conference players and has experience working in a number of conferences throughout the southeast including the SEC, American Athletic Conference, Conference USA and Southern Conference.

Fox arrived at Vanderbilt after serving as the Director of Basketball Operations at Louisiana Tech for four seasons. For the Bulldogs, he handled team travel, coordination of student-athlete recruiting, directing summer basketball camps, game and practice planning, basketball analytics and team scheduling while serving as the program’s compliance liaison and budget manager.

Prior to Louisiana Tech, Fox spent five years as an assistant coach and director of operations at Tulane where he contributed to the recruitment and development of NBA players Cameron Reynolds (Minnesota Timberwolves) and Melvin Frazier (Orlando Magic). Fox also spent four seasons as an assistant coach at The Citadel. While there, he helped guide the Bulldogs to their most successful stretch in program history, including a school-record 20 wins and the program’s first postseason appearance in 2009.

Prior to his professional career in college basketball, he served as a graduate assistant at Tennessee, one year each under Bruce Pearl and Buzz Peterson. While with the Volunteers in 2006, the team captured the SEC East title and earned a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Belmont’s Destinee Wells Named TSWA’s Tennessee Player Of The Year

Destinee Wells against the Lady Vols of Tennessee in the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament. Photo: Courtesy of Belmont Athletics

Belmont women’s basketball star Destinee Wells has been named Tennessee Player of the Year by the Tennessee Sports Writers Association (TSWA).

Wells has been the leading scorer during her first two years at Belmont, was named OVC Tournament MVP, and has helped lead the Bruins to back-to-back Round of 32 appearances in the NCAA Tournament. She becomes the first Bruin to be named TSWA Player of the Year since Darby Maggard in 2019.

This past season Wells averaged 16.7 points, 4.5 assists, 3.6 rebounds and a steal. She ranked among the top 65 players in the nation in both total assists (140) and assists per game, while second in the OVC in scoring and assists.

Wells averaged 21 points in the Bruins’ sixth OVC Tournament title run in seven seasons. She was masterful in the OVC Tournament championship against Tennessee Tech, dropping 22 points as the game’s only double-figure scorer. That performance came on the heels of scoring 20 points on 6-for-10 shooting and going a perfect 8-for-8 at the free-throw line in the OVC Tournament semifinal win over Austin Peay.

Wells’ impressive playing continued in the NCAA Tournament where she averaged 19 points, 5.5 assists, five rebounds and two steals against fifth-seeded Oregon and fourth-seeded Tennessee. In Belmont’s thrilling double-overtime First Round victory over the Ducks inside Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville, Wells scored 16 points, seven assists and grabbed four rebounds. Against the 18th-ranked Lady Volunteers in the NCAA Tournament Second Round, Wells posted a game-best 22 points, secured six boards and dished out four assists.

Seven of Wells’ 11 20-point games in 2021-22 came in the months of February and March and she scored a season-high 27 points in key road victories at Tennessee Tech (Feb. 5) and Murray State (Feb. 24).

Reaching double figures in all but two games in 2021-22, Wells finished the season with 519 points, 140 assists and 112 rebounds. She has scored in double figures in 43 of her last 45 games and 51 of her 56 career games. Starting in all but one game she’s donned the Belmont jersey, Wells is only 36 points away from becoming the Bruins’ 33rd 1,000-point scorer. She has also compiled 255 assists and 188 rebounds over the last two seasons.

Titans Host Seventh Annual High School Football Recruiting Fair At Nissan Stadium

Pictured: Tennessee Titans High School Recruitment Fair at Nissan Stadium. Photo: Cameron Faulkner/Tennessee Titans

The Tennessee Titans welcomed high school football programs from across the state at Nissan Stadium on Tuesday (April 19) for the 7th Annual High School Football Recruiting Fair.

High school football coaches from more than 160 schools in Tennessee set up tables in Nissan Stadium’s north concourse to show off their programs and student-athletes to over 60 football scouts from the NCAA and NAIA.

“The participation has just grown year after year,” said Josh Corey, Director of Marketing for Youth & Community Engagement with the Titans.

The annual event allows these schools to showcase and promote their players to colleges, giving them an opportunity to be scouted and hopefully recruited. The Titans send an invitation to every single high school tackle football program in the state.

John Overton football coaches at the Tennessee Titans High School Recruitment Fair at Nissan Stadium. Photo: Cameron Faulkner/Tennessee Titans

“We wanted to give kids in our state, especially kids that probably aren’t going to play at major Division I schools but kids that are going to play at FCS schools, DII or DIII. We wanted to give them exposure and opportunity,” Corey added.

These schools from around the state set up tables with player stats, school transcripts and some with small monitors to show off their players’ highlights.

The fair is great for many colleges who don’t have big enough budgets to travel the country recruiting. This event offers university coaches and scouts an opportunity to discover players from schools they never would’ve seen otherwise.

“We wanted to set up a networking opportunity for our high school coaches with these college coaches,” Corey noted. “They kind of work hand-in-hand and one kind of strengthens the other. So I think we have been able to establish both and it really has exceeded our expectations.”

Tennessee Titans High School Recruitment Fair at Nissan Stadium on April 19, 2022 in Nashville, TN. Photo Cameron Faulkner/Tennessee Titans

Coaches who have attended these recruiting fairs can tell countless stories about student-athletes who were able to go to schools on a scholarship, as well as plenty of young men who wouldn’t have been able to attend college if it weren’t for this event getting their name out in the open.

“It impacts everyone a little differently,” said Coach Matt Bates, President of the TnFCA, and Assistant Head Football Coach/Head Wrestling Coach at Hardin Valley Academy. “As a guy who was a head coach at a 1A school several years ago, coming here I was able to see schools who would’ve never stopped by because we were a rural 1A school that nobody knows or even how to get to. But because we were here, we ended up with four or five FCS schools coming to our spring practice to watch our kids.”

Starting in January, Bates along with other coaches and the Titans, reach out to college football programs from around the U.S. and invite them to this recruiting fair. Attendees rose from 50 college representatives last year to over 70 this year. And since, the fair has been moved from the club level to the main concourse, the potential for more schools is even more likely.

“I think our next step is to try and push to maybe 200 high schools and 100 colleges,” Bates sums. “It’s very doable, and we’re close on both aspects. We have a great venue, and the Tennessee Titans are phenomenal to work with.”

Vanderbilt Partners With NBC Sports In NIL Deal

Courtesy of Vanderbilt Athletics

Vanderbilt University has reached a deal with NBC Sports to help market Commodore student-athletes’ strike for NIL deals.

NBC Sports Athlete Direct is a platform linking college student-athletes and advertisers through a trusted NIL marketplace. Student-athletes who opt-in to NBC Sports Athlete Direct will be presented with NIL opportunities from local advertisers that include monetizing their social media followings.

“As the collegiate athletics landscape continues to change, Vanderbilt’s vision is for student-athletes to maximize their potential in all areas–including with name, image, and likeness,” says Candice Lee, vice chancellor for athletics and university affairs and athletic director. “We are proud to collaborate with NBC Sports on this concept. This initiative also allows our world-class faculty the opportunity to contribute content and best practices to student-athletes through NBC Sports Athlete Direct.”

Additionally, NBC Sports will collaborate with CNBC to provide personal finance resources.

NBC Sports Athlete Direct will be available initially only to student-athletes at Vanderbilt, Notre Dame and Temple.