College Corner: Vandy Baseball, UTK Football And Neyland Stadium, Belmont’s Evan Bradds

Vanderbilt Baseball Drops Full 2022 Schedule

Photo: Courtesy of Vanderbilt Athletics

Vanderbilt has released its 2022 baseball schedule and will play 55 games, 34 of which will be hosted at Hawkins Field, the complete 2022 schedule was unveiled Monday by head coach Tim Corbin who is entering his 20th season with the Commodores.

The Dores will start their season with a nine-game homestand, playing Oklahoma State (Feb. 18-20) then a weekend series against Army (Feb. 25-27), as well as midweek games against North Alabama (Feb. 22), Evansville (Feb. 23) and Central Arkansas (March 1). Vandy will take a long trip to Hawaii for its first road trip of the campaign, facing off with the Rainbow Warriors for a four-game road series.

Vanderbilt opens SEC play at home for the second year in a row, as the squad welcomes Missouri to Hawkins Field from March 18-20. The Commodores will also host league foes Tennessee (April 1-3), Florida (April 15-17), Texas A&M (April 29-May 1) and LSU (May 19-21).

The Commodores will face cross-town rivals Belmont (March 22) and Lipscomb (March 29) in neutral-site contests at First Tennessee Park.

 

 

UTK Updates Football Ticket Pricing, Additions To Neyland Stadium

Neyland Stadium. Photo: By Andrew Ferguson/Tennessee Athletics

Tennessee Athletics has finalized plans to implement a more simplified and modernized football ticket purchasing process beginning with the 2022 season.

Many season-ticket holders, beginning in the fall of 2022, will experience a price reduction. Access to season tickets will also be expanded to more of the Tennessee fanbase, as some areas within Neyland Stadium will not require an annual donation.

Along with the ticket changes, multiple new premium areas are scheduled for construction as outlined during this summer’s launch of the My All Campaign.’Sections impacted by new planned premium areas include the lower west (sections R-W, rows 1-22) and the upper north (sections YY7-YY9). Current season-ticket holders in these sections will have the right of first refusal for seats in this revamped space. There will be increases to the per-seat gift requirements coinciding with the enhanced amenities.

“From what I’ve heard thus far, I believe our fans are excited about the upgrades taking place at Neyland Stadium and the new areas we’re introducing next season,” says Tennessee Vice Chancellor/Director of Athletics Danny White. “With the lay of the land changing in several sections, it’s important to me that we communicate with our ticket holders throughout this process. They’ll have the rest of this season to assess which seating options work best for them.”

Fan experience upgrades include two new videoboards on the north and south ends of the stadium, a lower-west premium club, enhanced chairback seating in multiple lower-west sections and a party deck social gathering space on the stadium’s upper north end.

 

Former Belmont Basketball Star Evan Bradds Promoted Within Celtics Staff

Evan Bradds. Photo: Courtesy of Belmont Athletics

Former Belmont men’s basketball player Evan Bradds has been promoted to a player development coach role within the NBA’s Boston Celtics organization. Bradds is the Bruins NCAA Division I era career scoring leader.

Bradds graduated from Belmont in 2018 and joined the Celtics organization the same year. Bradds served as an assistant coach for the Maine Red Claws until he was called up to be a video assistant for the Celtics prior to Boston’s 2018 NBA playoffs run.

The Celtics are under the direction of first-year head coach Ime Udoka as Garrett Jackson, DJ Macleay and Steve Tchiengang were named to the team’s player enhancement staff with Bradds.

Vanderbilt Releases SEC Baseball Schedule For 2022

 

Photo: courtesy of Vanderbilt Athletics

Vanderbilt and the Southeastern Conference have dropped the schedule for its 2022 baseball season. Each school will play 10 three-game weekend series.

The 30-game conference slate gets underway March 18-20 as the Commodores welcome Missouri to Hawkins Field, marking the second consecutive season that Vanderbilt will open conference play at home.

Vandy will open SEC play with a series against the Tigers and will be the first of three consecutive weekends against SEC East opponents as Vanderbilt travels to South Carolina (March 25-27) before returning home to host in-state foe Tennessee (April 1-3).

Vanderbilt will also welcome Florida (April 15-17), Texas A&M (April 29-May 1) and LSU (May 19-21) to Nashville as part of its conference home slate. In addition to their trip to South Carolina, the Commodores will visit Auburn (April 8-10), Kentucky (April 22-24), Georgia (May 6-8) and Arkansas (May 13-15). Vanderbilt will be making its first visit to Auburn since 2018 while the Arkansas trek will be the Commodores’ first series in Fayetteville since 2017.

The Commodores will release their non-conference schedule at a later date. The SEC Tournament is scheduled for May 24-29 in Hoover, Alabama.

The SEC slate is subject to change for television scheduling.

Austin Peay To Leave OVC For ASUN Conference

Austin Peay University has officially announced that it’s athletic programs will be leaving the Ohio Valley Conference for the Atlantic Sun Conference starting June 30, 2022. The university’s board voted unanimously on the decision on Friday, Sept. 17.

The Governors have been a member of the Brentwood located conference for 59 years.

“We have received notification from Austin Peay that they will be leaving the OVC effective June 30, 2022. We appreciate their many contributions to the conference over the years and are committed to providing their student-athletes with an exemplary Championships experience this year,” says OVC Commissioner Beth DeBauche in a statement. “We are clearly in a time of change for intercollegiate athletics, and the Ohio Valley Conference embraces this moment, committed to the institutions and student-athletes whom we serve and confident in our future.”

She continues: “That future is rooted in membership growth, and  we are currently in discussions with other institutions that share our philosophy and want to prosper in today’s intercollegiate athletic environment by being part of the OVC.”

Austin Peay is the third OVC school to leave the conference for the ASUN within the past year with EKU and Jacksonville State leaving in the summer of 2020. Football was cited as the reason for joining the ASUN, according to a press release from Austin Peay’s athletic department

“I am excited to take this next step for the university and our athletics department,” says Austin Peay President Dr. Michael Licari. “The ASUN Conference will help us showcase all of the great things we’re doing athletically and academically. The ASUN will put us in new markets that will boost our recruiting ability and allow us to better engage our passionate alumni base. This is a move to position our University well both now and in the future.”

The OVC will be looking to add teams who “are seeking this type of conference experience, for the betterment of their institutions,” according to the statement from commissioner DeBauche. By July of 2022, the OVC will be down to only nine members, six of which have football programs.

Kenny Chesney To Executive Produce ‘More Than A Voice’ On SEC Network

Kenny Chesney. Photo: Danny Clinch

Country recording artist Kenny Chesney is dipping his toes into the SEC original show SEC Storied as an executive producer for its “More Than a Voice” episode that spotlights iconic football play-by-play voices from around the SEC. “More Than a Voice” kicks off the the 11th season of SEC Storied which begins Sunday, Sept. 26 at 6 p.m. CT on the SEC Network.

The show focuses on the SEC’s original rise to becoming a cultural institution in the south. In the early days of television, the announcers’ calls of the games became synonymous with the teams themselves, and those announcers also became part of the fabric of the conference. Among them are John Ward at Tennessee, Larry Munson at Georgia, John Forney and Eli Gold at Alabama, Mick Hubert at Florida, Jim Fyffe and Rod Bramblett at Auburn and many more

“It was important for me to be a part of this film, because John Ward was such a big part of my life growing up and loving sports in east Tennessee,” says Chesney. “With his voice and his words, he painted a picture of Tennessee football that captured my imagination and the imaginations of so many. Meeting him was one of the highlights of my life–and I’m thrilled to be a small part of this film that sheds light on his genius and so many of the other voices who have made the Southeastern Conference really special.”

The eight-time Entertainer of the Year’s passion for how people connect in the moment was forged as a youngster listening to Ward’s play-by-play of University of Tennessee football on WIVK. An athlete who often trained with various college and professional teams, Chesney holds the record for the most Billboard No. 1 country songs, has sold over 30 million albums and topped the all-genre Billboard 200 nine times.

This is Chesney’s fourth film in association with ESPN Films, following “Boys of Fall,” “The Color Orange: The Condredge Holloway Story” and “The Believer” on legendary former SEC football coach and 1966 Heisman Trophy winner Steve Spurrier.

Tickets for Tennessee, Memphis Collegiate Basketball Game At Bridgestone On Sale

Bridgestone Arena. Photo of the Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp.

Tickets for the college basketball matchup between the Universities of Tennessee and Memphis at Bridgestone Arena on Dec. 18 are on sale now.

The cross-state rivals have met twice in the last four seasons, with Tennessee winning on the road in 2018 and Memphis returning the favor in Knoxville in 2019. It will stand as just the third neutral-site game to ever be played in the Tennessee-Memphis series, which dates back to 1969.

“Bridgestone Arena has long been a special venue for college basketball, and once again, we are excited to host two of the country’s premier programs in Tennessee and Memphis in December,” says Nashville Predators and Bridgestone Arena Executive Vice President of Entertainment and Venues David Kells. “We can’t wait to see fans from both sides of our state converge right here in Smashville for a rivalry matchup that will be sure to create an incredible atmosphere.”

The Volunteers and seventh-year Head Coach Rick Barnes enter the 2021-22 campaign after finishing fourth in the SEC and earning a spot in the NCAA Tournament last season. The Tennessee men’s basketball program has made the NCAA Tournament three straight seasons and 23 times overall, highlighted by a trip to the Elite Eight in 2010 and eight Sweet 16 appearances, the most recent coming in 2019.

“We’re excited to see another great Tennessee turnout,” Barnes says. “Every time the Vols play in Bridgestone Arena, Tennessee fans make their presence felt in a big way. With the SEC Tournament moving to Tampa this season, this game against Memphis allows us to continue our annual appearance on Broadway. We love Nashville, and we know Nashville loves the Vols.”

Memphis, led by fourth-year Head Coach Penny Hardaway, is coming off a 2020-21 season that saw the program win the NIT championship and finish with a 20-8 overall record. The Tigers have reached the Final Four on four occasions, finishing as Division I runners-up in 1973 and 2008.

“We are looking forward to the matchup against Tennessee on Dec. 18,” says Hardaway. “We hope to see a sea of blue at Bridgestone Arena as we take the court in front of our Nashville Tiger fans.”

This will be the 28th all-time game between the Volunteers and Tigers, with Tennessee leading the series 15-12. After meeting annually from 2006-13, the two schools went three seasons without a clash on the schedule before reviving the storied rivalry ahead of the 2017-18 campaign.

Belmont Women’s Basketball Unveil 2021-22 Schedule

Featured L-R: Tuti Jones, Destinee Wells, Jamilyn Kinney, Madison Bartley and Conley Chinn of the Belmont Women’s Basketball Team. Photo: Courtesy of Belmont Athletics

The Belmont women’s basketball team has released its 2021-22 season schedule which includes match-ups with Louisville, UCF, and Arkansas along with other Power Five schools.

The Bruins are coming off one of their most successful seasons ever, winning another Ohio Valley Conference Tournament title and then winning their first ever NCAA Tournament game against Gonzaga 64-59 in the Round of 64. This season, the Bruins have a difficult 11-game non-conference stretch comprised of six postseason teams from last year.

Four different teams who appear on Belmont’s non-conference schedule were either ranked or receiving votes in the final Associated Press Top 25 poll of the year which include No. 8 Louisville, No. 15 Arkansas, Georgia Teach and UCF.

“This year will be our most challenging non-conference schedule since I’ve been at Belmont, and I love that our players and program will have the opportunity to compete against some of the nation’s best players and coaches,” says head coach Bart Brooks. “I’m so grateful to have an administration and leadership at Belmont who are supportive of this challenging schedule. Every player who is on our roster came to Belmont to play in these kinds of games, and I’m excited by our growth and effort as we prepare to compete at the highest level this season.”

Belmont kicks off its season on Nov. 9 with a three-game road trip at Chattanooga, Ole Miss (Nov. 11) and Georgia Tech (Nov. 14). Belmont then hosts Alabama A&M for its home opener Thursday, Nov. 18 before returning to non-conference road action at UCF (Nov. 21) and Arkansas (Nov. 28), both 2021 NCAA Tournament participants. 

The Battle of the Boulevard returns after a one-year hiatus and will take place on Dec. 2 at the Curb Event Center, Belmont having won 11 consecutive games against the Bisons. The Bruins’ will face one of the most difficult opponents of the season, playing at reigning Atlantic Coast Conference regular season champion Louisville on Dec. 5. 

The Bruins will host a Power Five opponent for the first time since Dec. 12, 2013, as they take on the SEC’s Auburn on Dec. 15, making it the third SEC team Belmont will face. The game with the Tigers will be the first of Belmont’s lone three-game homestand of the year, which will be followed by a matchup with Middle Tennessee on Dec. 19 and WKU (Dec. 22) to wrap up non-conference play.

Belmont will defend its 2021 conference championship starting with road trips to SIUE (Dec. 30) and Eastern Illinois (Jan. 1) with Belmont’s OVC home opener set for Thursday, Jan. 6 against Southeast Missouri. Defending OVC regular season champion UT Martin will visit the Curb on Saturday, Jan. 29 after the Bruins visit Martin, Tennessee on Saturday, Jan. 8.

The Lady Bruins will return with nine letter winners and its entire starting lineup from 2020-21, including All-OVC First Team performers senior Conley Chinn and 2021 OVC Freshman of the Year Destinee Wells. Brooks, the third-fastest head coach to earn 100 career victories in NCAA Division I women’s basketball and 2020-21 Tennessee Sports Writers Association (TSWA) Coach of the Year, will enter his fifth season leading Belmont.

Belmont Men’s Basketball Releases 2021-22 Season Schedule

Belmont Head Coach Casey Alexander. Photo: Courtesy of Belmont Athletics.

The Belmont men’s basketball team has dropped its 2021-22 schedule which includes games against LSU, Saint Louis, and Drake University. The release also includes the full Ohio Valley Conference schedule.

After going 26-4 last season and earning its 20th conference championship since 2006–third-most nationally over that span behind only Kansas and Gonzaga–Belmont has grown into one of the best programs among all Division I basketball.

“Scheduling has become increasingly difficult for many reasons, but we’re thrilled with how this year’s non-conference schedule came together,” says Head Coach Casey Alexander. “We were able to create some balance between home, road, and neutral site games, as well as provide opportunities for our fans to support us whether we’re playing in the Curb (Event Center) or elsewhere.”

Belmont opens the season Nov. 9 at Mid-American Conference champion Ohio. From there, Belmont welcomes Evansville to the Curb Event Center on Nov. 13 for the home opener. Next, the Bruins host Southern Conference powerhouse Furman. One of the strongest mid-major programs in the nation the last few seasons, the Paladins return 12 letterwinners from a 16-9 team that played Alabama and Cincinnati to the wire.

Belmont will then travel to Kennesaw State, who they beat last season 64-53, on Nov. 19. Belmont heads to historic Pete Maravich Assembly Center to face LSU on Nov. 22 where Alexander will face LSU Head Coach and Nashville native Will Wade for the first time in seven seasons.

The Bruins will then head to Orlando, Florida, to play in the highly anticipated ESPN Invitational over the Thanksgiving Weekend. They will start off by playing Drake on Nov. 25 and then either Alabama or Iona. If Belmont wins its second game, they will play in the tournament final on Nov. 28.

“Our Thanksgiving week at LSU and the ESPN Events Invitational will be a great test against a number of Top 50 teams,” Alexander says. “We have some familiar opponents, but new series with Ohio, Furman and Chattanooga will be exciting and challenging. Overall, the slate is full of programs expecting to participate in March Madness next spring.”

This year’s Battle of the Boulevard will be played once at the Curb Event Center on Dec. 2, as opposed to the regular two games in past seasons. The Belmont and Lipscomb rivalry goes all the way to the 1980’s when both teams competed for NAIA Championships. The Bruins have won 16 of the last 18 meetings, including an 81-71 victory last season.

Belmont will head to Birmingham to play at Samford on Dec. 5. Leading into mid-December, Belmont heads out west to face Atlantic 10 Conference contender Saint Louis. Two seasons ago, the Bruins and Billikens played a highly-competitive game, with the Bruins leading in the final three minutes before falling on the game’s final possession.

Finishing up the non-conference part of the season, Belmont hosts Chattanooga on Dec. 15 and Bethel on Dec. 18. Belmont welcomes back athletic hall of famer and Bethel head coach Steve Drabyn (’04) to the Curb Event Center. Drabyn served on Alexander’s Lipscomb staff from 2011-19.

The Bruins will kick-off OVC play on the road by facing SIUE on Dec. 30 and Eastern Illinois on Jan. 1. Belmont’s conference home opener will be against Southeast Missouri. The Bruins will play each OVC team twice this season, once in Nashville and once away. Four of Belmont’s final six conference games will be at the Curb Event Center, including Feb. 26 vs. Tennessee State.

“I’m looking forward to the double round-robin conference schedule this year,” says Alexander. “Our players embrace the expectations and championship standard at Belmont.”

Belmont is 130-24 in Ohio Valley Conference games since joining the league.

Vanderbilt Tennis Legend Julie Ditty Qualls Dies At 42

Julie Ditty Qualls. Photo: Courtesy of Vanderbilt Athletics

Former Vanderbilt Tennis legend and Vanderbilt Athletics Hall of Famer Julie Ditty Qualls passed away on Tuesday, Aug. 31, at the age of 42 after a six year battle with cancer.

Ditty Qualls, a member of the class of 2002, made huge impacts on the Commodores tennis program and went on to have an extremely successful professional career. She ranked as high as No. 89 in the world by the WTA, played in all four grand slams in both singles and doubles, and represented the United States in Federation Cup play while clinching a captivating 2009 win over Argentina.

“We have lost a legend,” former Vanderbilt head coach Geoff Macdonald says in a statement made by Vanderbilt. “Her contribution to Vanderbilt Athletics is simply remarkable. She was an ever better human being than she was a tennis player, and she was one of the top 100 tennis players in the world.”

The Ashland, Kentucky, native led the team to the NCAA Tournament Round of 16 in 1998 as a freshman. It was just the second time in school history, and she became the fourth Commodore to compete in the NCAA Women’s Singles Championship. As a sophomore, she became the first Commodore to win a match in the Women’s Singles Championship. As a senior, she was the first to reach the third round of that event.

Ditty Qualls earned All-American accolades in each of her final three seasons at Vanderbilt and was named the 1999 Tennessee Athlete of the Year. The tennis program grew along with her, playing for the national championship for the first time when she was a senior in 2001.

“Our hearts are completely broken for Josh, Atreyu and the entire Ditty family,” Vanderbilt head coach Aleke Tsoubanos says. “To say her passing is devastating would be an understatement. Julie was a teammate and an incredible friend. During my freshman year, Julie led us to Vanderbilt’s first ever national championship match, which was a journey with a team I will never forget. I am so grateful for our time together. Both Vanderbilt and our tennis family have lost a genuinely amazing human being and a true legend. I wish her family and friends the strength they need during this very sad time.”

Ditty Qualls retired from the sport in 2011 and served as a volunteer assist coach at Vanderbilt for the 2012-13 season. She was inducted ingot the Southern Tennis Hall of Fame in 2019, and continues to give tennis lessons in Ashland up until the week before her death.

Ditty Qualls is survived by husband Josh and son Atreyu.