KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – UT athletic teams have achieved a lot in the past year. Tennessee football reached the ball in its first year under Josh Heupel, the Lady Vols basketball team reached the Sweet Sixteen for the first time in six years, UT football won the SEC, the men’s hoop team won the SEC tournament, and top-ranked BaseVols are on track to have the best season in the history of the program.
Tennessee’s athletics is on the rise as we approach the end of UT’s first year under athletic director Danny White. But one could say that ascent is not the right word. It could be argued that this athletic season was the best of Tennessee ever.
That argument holds water.
Looking at four major sports, men’s and women’s basketball, football and baseball, the University of Tennessee has won 48 SEC games in the regular season this athletic year (since the start of the football season so far). Tennessee baseball still has nine SEC games to play this season, but 48 regular season conference wins in four major sports is already a record for most UT athletic SEC wins in a given school year.
This season is the best in all years from 1982-1983. to date, as the SEC Lady Vols ’first game was played in the ’82 -’83 season.
Baseball plays the most games, so they carry the burden with 19 wins (so far). Men’s and women’s basketball recorded 14 and 11 victories, respectively, and UT football four in the first year of the Heupel era.
While UT baseball is a significant reason why Tennessee has amassed so many SEC wins this year, BaseVols are still five conference wins away from program records. So, this is not the best year in Tennessee baseball. The program had 24 wins in the 1994 SEC as part of Tennessee’s 44 conference wins between 1993 and 1994, one of the best seasons in UT Athletics history. Football was 7-1 at the conference, the Lady Vols were undefeated 11-0, but the last year of Wade Houston’s BasketVols recorded a terrible 2-14 at the conference to diminish (at the time) the historic year.
This year’s Tennessee teams broke the record after Wall Baseball hit Florida two series ago, surpassing the previous SEC record of 45 wins held by a quartet of Big Orange teams in the 2007-2008 seasons. and 2000-2001. Tennessee was pretty balanced in the ’07 -’08 season other than baseball, as football won six SEC wins and men’s and women’s basketball together for 27 wins, but baseball recorded just 12. In ’00 -’01 , baseball had above average years with 18 wins in the SEC, football had a normal season with five wins in the conference, and Lady Vols Pat Summitta was undefeated 14-0 in the league, but men’s basketball led to last place with the conference a record 8-8 to keep the school at 45 SEC wins.
Tennessee Athletics also had a great athletic year 2004-2005. with 44 wins in the SEC. Baseball scored 18-11 in the SEC and eventually reached the College World Series, football scored seven conference wins, Lady Vols had a 13-1, but men’s basketball once again kept the overall victory in the mid-40s with the conference 6-10 record.
It is important to note that Tennessee’s top four groups will play 72 SEC games when baseball ends its season this year, a number that the four teams did not reach together until the 2012-2013 season. when the men’s basketball team added two more games to their SEC schedule due to the expansion of the conference to 14 teams. The four teams played a total of 68 games during most of the late ’90s and 2000s.
However, the four teams have played only 63 SEC games so far and have broken a record in 60 games. The 60th game was Tennessee’s big 6-4 series win over the Florida Gators in extra innings in Gainesville, making Vols ’comeback victory in the SEC that made history even more prominent.
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Additional note: The Lady Vols conference schedule has expanded several times since the team began playing with SEC teams in 1982-83, expanding to ’85 -’86 (9 games), ’91 -’92 (11 games), ’96 – ’97 (12 games), ’97 -’98 (14 games), ’09 -’10 (16 games)
This season, UT’s four major sports have a chance of getting 57 SEC wins and are likely to get at least in the mid-50s given Tennessee’s baseball results. These four teams have yet to win the Rocky Top Championship this school year, but the last time they amassed 45 or more SEC wins, Lady Vols Pat Summitta won the state championship. It’s up to Tony Vitella’s BaseVols to see if some kind of gold will come to Knoxville, but if anything is certain in UT athletics this year, Tennessee baseball has the talent and ability for a deep Omaha race.
Nonetheless, the odds of four major sports in Tennessee are likely to be at a collective peak in the school’s history, especially given that four programs have already garnered a record 48 SEC wins.
The four sports currently have a total of 100 overall wins this season following Tennessee’s mid-week baseball win over the Alabama A&M. The record for most combined wins among four teams (including the postseason) in a given athletic year is 107 until the 1994-1995 season, meaning the BaseWols need eight wins from the remaining 11 regular-season and post-season games to break the record.
What will happen.
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Photo: Calvin Mattheis Knoxville News Sentinel