Rising: The new Student Union
After months of staring down into a hole in the ground, UT students are now craning their necks to see the new Student Union explode out of the depths. Progress is actually on schedule, and phase one of the new building looks to be complete by 2015. The construction has temporarily shut down traffic on Philip Fulmer Way between Cumberland Avenue and Middle Drive, so commuters and visitors are diverted to drive on Volunteer Boulevard.
Falling: Stokely Athletics Center and Gibbs Hall
Caution tape and orange barrels have barred access to the former athletic dorm and arena while workers safely remove asbestos from the interior of the buildings. Once the asbestos abatement is complete, the buildings will be demolished to make way for a new parking garage that will hold 1,000 spaces. The first phase is expected to be complete by summer 2015, allowing for more construction to begin on a new residence hall built close to the current Gibbs Hall location. The new hall will have 729 single-occupancy rooms and be open to male and female students; a dining facility will also add another dimension to UT Dining, with plans available to all students, faculty and staff. The progress, however, comes at a cost – the parking garage is estimated at $31.8 million, and the residence hall is expected to cost $94 million.
Rising: Big Orange optimism
With the No. 4 recruitment class in the nation, according to Rivals.com, the Vols look poised to make a legitimate bowl run in 2014. Monday brought yet another running back in the form of Derrel Scott, a 5-foot-11, 184-pound four-star recruit. The addition augments an already stellar backfield recruiting class that boasts five-star recruit Jalen Hurd and three-star Treyvon Paulk. And despite two decommitments in as many weeks, UT coach Butch Jones has proven himself clutch in recruitment-time situations. Look for Butch to land a few more big names – Adoree' Jackson out of California would make a big impact at cornerback – before signing day next Wednesday.
Falling: Big Orange confidence
For a group loaded with talent, the men's basketball team has struggled mightily in its first set of conference games. Heading into tonight's game against Ole Miss, the Vols are only 3-3 in the SEC, with ugly losses at Florida and Kentucky and a heartbreaker against Texas A&M. Coach Cuonzo Martin's emphasis on the front court and defense has helped UT shut down opponents, but the teams that have been able to disrupt Jarnell Stokes and Jeronne Maymon have found success in failed shots of outside shooters. If the Vols play as poorly against Ole Miss tonight as they did against Florida, March Madness may be put on hold again for the Vol faithful.
Rising: Suspicions over Syria
As the Syrian rebels met with government officials in Geneva to discuss peace, gruesome photos of dead bodies raised concerns over what one expert called "the regime's killing machine." The peace talks hit an impasse early Tuesday, as the future role of President Bashar al-Assad proved non-negotiable for the opposition and regime alike. Assad, an Alawite Muslim, has come under fire over the last several years for vicious crackdowns on protests; defectors from the national army have formed the Free Syrian Army, and the Syrian National Coalition for Opposition has earned official recognition as the sole representative of the Syrian people. Though no one has confirmed the authenticity of the photographs released by a team of war crimes prosecutors (Assad's regime has explicitly refuted the pictures), they paint a vivid scene of violence. Because Syria is not a member of the International Criminal Court, prosecution will only come through the United Nations Security Council.
Falling: Snow, everywhere
After a massive storm blanketed the northeastern United States last week, more winter wonder struck the South Tuesday. As many as 50 million people could be affected in the Deep South region more accustomed to hurricanes and tornadoes, though the snow did not cancel UT's classes for Tuesday. Interstates were clogged by thousands of commuters leaving work early, and hundreds of flights have been canceled. Hardware stores are running out of snow shovels and snow plows are in high demand. The struggle is real across the country – in the Midwest, wind chill is causing the air to feel like 35-50 degrees below zero.
This edition of Rocky Tops and Bottoms was compiled by Editor-in-Chief R.J. Vogt.