A lot of folks are paying attention to Tennessee football this week, and for good reason. Last weekend, the Vols annoyed Nick Saban on their way to an upset win over Alabama, a celebration 16 years in the making that involved smoking cigars, scaring away referees and tearing down goalposts.
On Saturday, the Vols – newly ranked No. 4 in the latest USA TODAY Coaches Poll – hosted UT Martin for their homecoming game. And when the Vols took the field and got the 65-24 win, there was something a little different about Tennessee’s uniforms.
So, some of y’all might be wondering: Why are the Vols wearing blue?
The short answer is that the blue is for both Pat Summitt, the longtime legendary women’s basketball coach for Tennessee, and Title IX as head coach Josh Heupel told the media.
We’ll go a little more in-depth in our explanation than Heupel:
This year is the 50th anniversary of Title IX, the groundbreaking legislation signed into law in 1972 by President Nixon that barred educational institutions from discriminating based on gender. It aimed to level the playing field for women and to equalize opportunities. Simply put: It sparked an athletic revolution and opened doors for women in sports.
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A few years before Title IX, Joan Cronan was the women’s basketball coach at Tennessee. Before the start of the 1968-69 season, she went shopping for new uniforms. But no company was making women’s basketball uniforms in Tennessee’s signature orange. So, Cronan opted for “Columbia Blue” kits with orange lettering on them. Orange uniforms became available later on, but that blue stuck with the women’s basketball team.
Pat Head (Summitt) was hired as the Vols’ women’s hoops coach in 1974 and transformed the program into a national powerhouse brand, winning 16 SEC titles and eight national championships. The basketball hall of famer died in 2016 at the age of 64 after a fight with Alzheimer’s disease.
To honor Title IX and Summitt – the most important woman in the history of Tennessee athletics – the Vols renamed that iconic color as “Summitt Blue” and incorporated it into uniforms for several of its teams this season, including football.
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Summitt Blue even has its own color codes:
- Pantone: 2171 C
- CMYK: 75/24/0/0
- RGB: 72/159/223
- HEX: #489FDF
The volleyball, soccer and softball teams at Tennessee are incorporating Summitt Blue into their uniforms this year too.
It’s a pretty good time to be a fan of Tennessee right now. Not only are the Vols undefeated in football, but Kellie Harper – who played for Summitt – has the Vols’ women’s basketball team back in the national conversation and garnering a lot of preseason hype. Tennessee is fifth in the preseason AP Top 25 Poll for women’s basketball that was released last week. Last season, Harper’s squad won 25 games and made the Sweet 16.
Harper narrated the Tennessee hype video for this week for the game against UT Martin, which is Summitt’s alma mater.