From the perspective of the seniors graduating in May, the major Tennessee athletics programs have been more than just disappointing; they've been kind of depressing.
In the past four years, Tennessee football has seen three head coaches, Lane Kiffin, Derek Dooley and now, Butch Jones. Men's basketball went through NCAA violations and lost one of the best — if not the best — coaches in the history of the program, Bruce Pearl. Even the basketball Lady Vols, who have won the SEC title every year except in 2011 (they have won the SEC Tournament every year), lost the greatest coach of all-time, Pat Summitt.
Maybe I'm being optimistic, but as a freshman I'm really looking forward to the future of UT athletics. When I look at these teams and coaching staffs, I see a great deal of success in the upcoming years for these three programs, and so I'm going to take this time to give a rundown of what I expect from these programs for the rest of my Tennessee career.
I'll start with football. I was skeptical of Jones in the beginning, but after his introductory press conference and this year's recruiting class, he's got me on board. Next year may be rough, but give Jones some time (more than three years, please) and let him build this program. I feel like Tennessee will be in good hands. I'm not going to be one of those crazy "we need to win now" fans because, honestly, those people are ridiculous. I don't expect a national title, I don't even expect an SEC title; all I want to see is three more really good recruiting classes and an upward climb near the top of the SEC, maybe fourth or fifth. Ending this near decade-long losing streak to Florida would be really nice, too.For the men's basketball team, next year is the year that I have my highest hopes for. If all goes right (i.e. Jordan McRae, Trae Golden, and Jarnell Stokes all forego the NBA Draft and return to UT), this team should win the SEC. With Jeronne Maymon returning, the impact freshman like Amani Moore and Derek Reese all getting better, and Robert Hubbs starting his career here in Knoxville, my hopes are high.
After next year, Cuonzo Martin will probably have to do some retooling with that immense loss of talent, but I can still see this team as one that contends for an NCAA Tournament bid every year, especially if he continues to recruit as well as he has been.
While my expectations for the Lady Vols are by far the highest for all three, they are also the team that I feel is most likely to meet that expectation: winning an NCAA National Championship. Actually, winning multiple titles. This is a young team. Isabelle Harrison and Bashaara Graves should be the two best bigs in women's basketball next year with Brittney Griner graduating. Ariel Massengale, Meighan Simmons and Cierra Burdick are three great players that will round out what I think will be the best starting five in the country. Not to mention, if there was ever going to be a coach good enough to replace Pat, it's Holly Warlick. If you don't believe me, think of what she has accomplished in her first year while missing what seemed like half her team to injuries.
When I look back four years from now, I fully expect to be a lot happier with the state of Tennessee athletics than the seniors that will leave the university this year. I have faith that there will be a lot of UT success by the time I graduate, or at least I hope so.
— Troy Provost-Heron is a freshman in journalism and electronic media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.