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Tennessee baseball missed out on Omaha, but across all SEC sports, Vols win

·3 min read

The University of Tennessee has some new hardware in the athletic department trophy case. While it didn’t come from Omaha and won’t merit even a minute on "SportsCenter," it’s worth noting.

Overshadowed in the disappointment of Vol baseball’s failure to cap its magical season at the College World Series, Tennessee had a breakthrough, winning the SEC’s Overall All-Sports Title for the 2021-22 school year.

Mike Strange in 2016
Mike Strange in 2016

The award goes to the school that tallied the most points across the board for finishes in all the sports sponsored by the SEC, men’s and women’s. For once, football and golf count the same.

Tennessee won the combined men’s and women’s award in a photo finish over perennial champion Florida. Arkansas was third.

The Vols also scored first in the men’s division, followed by Florida and Texas A&M. The Lady Vols were second to Florida in the women’s scoring, Ole Miss taking third.

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If you’re curious, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt and Missouri brought up the rear in all three categories.

The award has been sponsored by various media outlets over the years, currently by USA Today Network.

What does it all mean? Does it matter?

My guess is it means more inside the athletic department than outside in the fan base. I’ll be surprised if anyone prints “21-22 SEC All-Sports Champs!” T-shirts. If there’s been trash talking on social media or talk radio, I’ve missed it.

Would athletic director Danny White trade the award for a College World Series championship trophy? I’d say yes.

But it still has value and should be appreciated.

That business about it “Just Means More” in the SEC is true. And it’s true in volleyball and tennis, just as it is in football. Winning or placing high in any sport in a league of schools committed to excellence is an accomplishment.

Tennessee Lady Vols soccer in November celebrates its first SEC Tournament championship since 2008. The Vols also took tournament titles in baseball and, for the first time since 1979, men’s basketball.
Tennessee Lady Vols soccer in November celebrates its first SEC Tournament championship since 2008. The Vols also took tournament titles in baseball and, for the first time since 1979, men’s basketball.

Tennessee claimed one regular-season title — baseball. There were SEC tournament championships in baseball, soccer, and, for the first time since 1979, men’s basketball.

The women’s swimming and diving program won the SEC meet for the second time in three years.

Men’s basketball finished second in the regular season. So did soccer. Men’s swimming and diving finished second at the SEC meet, their best showing in 21 years.

Women’s basketball finished third in the regular season, as did softball. Men’s track and field finished third at the SEC outdoor meet — and then third at the NCAA meet.

May 29 in Hoover, Alabama: Tennessee players Luc Lipcius (40), Cortland Lawson (9) and Blake Burke (25) celebrate their SEC tournament championship win over Florida. Mandatory Credit: Gary Cosby Jr./The Tuscaloosa News
May 29 in Hoover, Alabama: Tennessee players Luc Lipcius (40), Cortland Lawson (9) and Blake Burke (25) celebrate their SEC tournament championship win over Florida. Mandatory Credit: Gary Cosby Jr./The Tuscaloosa News

Men’s tennis was “just” fifth in the SEC standings but reached the NCAA semifinals. Volleyball was fourth in the SEC standings.

Football helped, modestly. After going 3-7 in the COVID-adapted 2020 schedule, the Vols improved to 4-4 in Josh Heupel’s first season, a four-way tie for fifth place.

All in all, a nice result in White’s first year in charge.

Heupel was White’s only hire for 2021-22. He’s since made three more, recently hiring Duane Ross to run the combined track and field programs and Sean Carlson to oversee cross country. White also promoted assistant Joe Kirt to lead soccer when Brian Pensky left for Florida State.

White, too, has extended successful swimming and diving director Matt Kredich to a new deal through 2027.

Kredich, in a UT release, talked about the contagious energy in the athletic department. Keep in mind, this isn’t his first rodeo. Unless I miscounted, White is his sixth AD.

“I haven’t felt anything like this in my 17 years and it’s just getting stronger,’’ Kredich said. “The confidence that comes with success just feeds more confidence and success.

“It’s a great time to be a Tennessee Vol.’’

Perhaps not in Omaha this week, but across the SEC board.

This article originally appeared on Knoxville News Sentinel: Tennessee baseball missed out on Omaha, but win SEC All-Sports trophy