(CAPTION: Butch Jones, in an NHL Preds’ T-shirt, with Bob Kesling last May at the MidState stop of the Big Orange Caravan.)
University of Tennessee athletics has no plans to conduct arguably its most fan-friendly series of events this spring for the first time in decades.
UT, which in 2010 under first-year football coach Derek Dooley hosted its 20th annual Big Orange Caravan, has not scheduled dates for this year’s annual spring tour, according to multiple sources in cities and regions accustomed to hosting the statewide goodwill tour.
UT spokesman Ryan Robinson said that UT discussed possible solutions “today” and also acknowledged that any stop in Nashville would fold the previous caravans’ MidState stops in the July picnic at Limpscomb. UT has had separate Midstate dates for the Caravan and Picnic for at least the past seven years; the Midstate one year was cancelled when inclement weather precluded UT coaches and officials from traveling to Murfreesboro.
Nashville sources, multiple people speaking on condition of anonymity because they did not want repercussions, made clear that UT never submitted nor attempted to secure a spring date. Memphis’ locale, the Great Hall in Germantown, received an email from UT that indicated the school was pondering no stop & did not request a date. Likewise, Tri-Cities officials said, “don’t think they (UT officials) ever had one scheduled here this year (to cancel).”
Routinely with stops slated for Chattanooga, Memphis, Nashville and the Tri-Cities, as well as Atlanta, the B.O.C. last May wrapped its 26th annual barnstorming of coaches typically from the football, men’s and women’s basketball programs, as well as either the athletics director or top aides.
People familiar with operations in Memphis, Nashville and the Tri-Cities confirmed today that UT “has not secured any dates and indicated it is unsure if it will even have a caravan this year.”
Typically costing $20 or $25, the caravan stops unfolded before sell-out crowds in 2015 and near-capacity crowds in Atlanta, Chattanooga, Memphis, Nashville and the Tri-Cities last spring with pre-event autographs and meet-and-greets with coaches, as well as a catered meal. Voice of the Vols Bob Kesling emceed each event, which also typically featured some questions from the audience.
Tennessee most often has visited those five areas on the Caravan, but it also has made stops in Charlotte, Cincinnati and Jacksonville, Fla., among other areas, within the past decade.
UT also hosted fall/winter caravan tours in 2010-11 and again in ‘11-12.
Sources further indicated that Tennessee has had members of its Tennessee Fund indicate to donors that a Caravan is not expected at this time, and the annual UT All-Sports Picnic hosted at Nashville’s Lipscomb University also has not been fully confirmed at this time but instead has a tentative date of July 10.