Tennessee Vols fans thankful for Josh Heupel, Tony Vitello, Rick Barnes | Adams

John Adams
Knoxville News Sentinel

Shared experiences are one of the best things about being a sports fan. You can share memories of plays and games for years with family and friends.

So, I’m not surprised that when I asked my literary contributors to express their thanks for UT sports, many of the responses were similar.

Their emails are a reminder that Tennessee fans have more to be thankful for this year than last.

First-year football coach Josh Heupel has much to do with that. The Vols are 6-5 entering Saturday’s game against Vanderbilt.

Improved leadership across the board has given UT fans another reason to be optimistic.

Tennessee leaders are now committed to keeping good coaches. Randy Boyd, president of the UT system, made Rick Barnes one of the highest-paid basketball coaches in the country when Barnes was being courted by UCLA in April 2019.

After baseball coach Tony Vitello led the Vols to the College World Series, he quickly became a hot candidate for other jobs. Tennessee responded by giving him a huge raise.

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Here’s a small sample of readers' thanks: 

Dave writes: I’m thankful for:

Pat Summitt, and the good fortune of having her as the women’s basketball coach.  And as awesome as she was as a coach and representative of our university, she was an even better mentor. She helped develop her players into solid citizens. 

UT’s football national championship and Billy Ratliff’s play against Arkansas that caused Clint Stoerner to stumble, fumble, and fall.

Condredge Holloway and for Lester McClain, who helped break down the racial barriers at UT and in the SEC.

Rocky Top, and how much opposing fans hate it.

John Adams' daily articles.

The smokey gray uniforms.

Tony Vitello, and hope like heck we can keep him happy.

Randy Boyd, and his leadership at the university.  Since his arrival, the number of really dumb decisions has fallen dramatically.

Ernie and Bernie.

Rick Barnes, who represents the university in a similar way to Summitt. He is a guy any parent would want his/her kid to play ball for.

Peyton Manning.

Mike writes: I am thankful that:

Jeremy Pruitt is no longer associated with Tennessee football.

We have Josh Heupel as football coach.  I am confident he will bring winning football back to Knoxville.

We have Tony Vitello as our baseball coach.  Despite subpar baseball facilities,  Vitello has succeeded in getting high quality talent to sign with the Vols.  

Tennessee fans who have continued to support the Vols despite the down years we have experienced for far too long.  

Chris writes: I'm thankful for:

A football team and program that look like a football team and program worth pulling for. The way Heupel  has gotten everyone to respond is something special. You have to love the effort from everyone in the program.

A College World Series baseball team and coach. Vitello is a hidden gem. Hang on to him, UT.

A women’s basketball program that appears to be headed back in the right direction. It's nice to see the women having some mojo again.

A men’s basketball team worth watching, and the reality that the Final Four could happen.

And an AD with no apparent hidden agenda. A guy focused on doing his job the best way possible and having an overall strong athletic department regardless of the sport.

James writes: I'm thankful:

The University of Tennessee has football coaches that are more focused on developing players than empty phrases.

Rae Burrell plays for the Lady Vols basketball team.

The University of Texas fired Rick Barnes.

Taylor Huff plays for the University of Tennessee women's soccer team.

Amanda Ayala plays for the Lady Vols softball team.

Ava Bell plays for the University of Tennessee women's volleyball beam.

Tony Vitello leads the University of Tennessee baseball team.

Mike writes: I am thankful that:

Pat Summitt and Peyton Manning have represented our University.

UT is not Vandy athletically.

We didn’t hire Grumor.

We beat Bama all four of my undergraduate years.

We finally have a coach who actually knows how to coach big-time college football.

That Fulmer will soon be off the dole and gone (for good?)

That we have the largest Vols sign in the world

John Adams is a senior columnist. He may be reached at 865-342-6284 or john.adams@knoxnews.com. Follow him at: twitter.com/johnadamskns.