For one week this August, the Tennessee Volunteers will call Carter County home.
To accommodate the projected completion and move-in dates of the program’s new on-campus Football Training Center at Neyland-Thompson Sports Complex, Derek Dooley’s Volunteers will spend seven days of fall training camp at Milligan College.
The rare, one-time situation with the football team and majority of the supporting units away from campus will allow the facilities staff to complete a move into the facility in a “more efficient and organized manner,” the University said in a release.
“The week in Johnson City will provide a unique opportunity to build team unity and limit distractions,” said Tennessee coach Derek Dooley, whose team arrives Thursday, August 9 and leaves following workouts Wednesday, August 15. “The opportunity to train away from campus also allows for a more efficient move into our new Football Training Center and will reduce the wear and tear on our practice fields.”
Tennessee Director of Athletics Dave Hart said the decision for off-site training at this time was “strongly” welcomed as the Vols prepare for a pivotal 2012 season opener in Atlanta’s Georgia Dome against North Carolina State.
“I support Derek’s decision and feel strongly that we need to make this investment in our football program as we prepare to open our season in Atlanta,” said Hart. “This is a one-time situation, and there are no plans to train off-site at any time in the future.”
The Volunteers will be housed on Milligan’s campus, dine in the dining calls and use classroom and technology areas for multimedia and teaching purposes. The team’s workouts will specifically take place at the Anglin Field complex, including the soccer, baseball and softball fields, as well as the Steve Lacy Fieldhouse according to Milligan Vice President for Student Development Mark Fox.
“We’ve been working confidentially with them for quite a while,” Fox said Thursday. “We were really trying to see if it was going to work and if it would be feasible for them and feasible for us. We got it worked out and ready to go.”
The pairing of Tennessee and Milligan came through a connection between Fox and a member of the staff of Tennessee’s strength and conditioning coach Ron McKeefery.
Fox connected with the Tennessee staff and made trips to Knoxville to share information about Milligan’s facilities. Milligan College President Dr. Bill Greer said the “hands-on work” by Fox drove the partnership between the two entities.
“I think he’s done a great job of demonstrating to them that we have the facilities they needed to be beneficial to them,” Dr. Greer said. “It gives them a place up in the mountains, which is a nice, cool place to be during the summertime — at least certainly cooler than Knoxville. We think they’ll have a good week here.”
Said Fox: “We started talking for several months and it kind of evolved to what we had today. … They have renovations going on, but they also have a new staff and a fairly young football team. This is an opportunity to bond and develop them kind of like the Junction Boys or a “Remember the Titans” type thing. They’re excited about it and we’re excited about having them.”
For Milligan, the opportunity to host the Volunteers was a nobrainer. Not only will the school benefit from the publicity and exposure Tennessee’s presence provides, but will make some revenue from the visit of 150-plus players, coaches, administrators and assistants.
Dr. Greer, a University of Tennessee alum, says the school will place revenue from the Vols’ visit into athletic facility improvements, which could include improving the playing fields at Anglin Field where the team will hold the majority of its workouts. “We, of course, expect a pretty good degree of publicity,” Dr. Greer said. “I think there will be a lot of folks hanging around here that week, certainly, to get a glimpse of the UT team ahead of the season. But, more than anything, we’re looking forward to partnering with UT and providing them a place to get in some early practice and training.
“We appreciate the fact that they’re paying their way and we’re going to be able finish a couple of additional upgrades to athletic facilities because of their use of our facilities. It’s good for them and, as they’ve indicated, it saves a little bit of wear and tear on their fields. But that means a little bit of wear and tear on ours. They’re making it very attractive for us to have them here and we’re grateful for that. It’ll help us get some projects done.”
To accommodate the week of training, many of Milligan’s coaches and athletes will make sacrifices on their own end and move offseason workouts elsewhere. The Buffalo men’s and women’s soccer teams and volleyball squads, in particular, will be effected by the presence of the Vols.
Fox said the coaches and athletes welcome Tennessee’s visit with open arms and have been “willing to make a sacrifice” in return for the improvements and exposure that will be provided.
“We’re constantly fighting to get our name out there and we think this will be that,” said Fox. “It’s just positive all the way around. It’s a thing a lot of people in this area are passionate about. “If we can support them and help them, we want to be able to do that. But we don’t want to do it at the cost of our athletic programs here. We don’t think that will be the case at all. Our coaches are positive about it and we were able to work through some things and don’t forsee a problem.”
Due to the large conglomerate of Tennessee Volunteers fans in the area, Milligan will be working with Dooley and his operational staff to decide what, if any, access will be allowed to the general public and members of the media to allow the best environment possible for the squad.
In Knoxville, practices are generally closed and media is confined to a small portion prior to practice and an interview session at the conclusion of workouts. Fox said those details will be confirmed in the weeks ahead.
“We have to confirm what levels of access, if any, there might be to the general public or however they want to handle that,” said Fox. “This week is one of their big objectives as a football team. What we want to do is help them create an environment that they feel like will help produce wins. That’s what we’re going to do.
“If that means closing the area, we’ll do that. It’s their call. It’s their camp and their call and we’re going to support that.”
More than anything, the Milligan administration hopes the Volunteers can take away a positive experience in its seven days in Carter County and hope the campus can create an environment to provide a good payoff as the remainder of camp and regular season comes to fruition.
“One of our main emphasis as a college is the sense of community that we provide,” Dr. Greer added. “Obviously, they’re only going to be here a few days, but I hope that they see in Milligan what all of our students see that this is a great place to be. It’s a beautiful part of the country to be in. It’s a nice campus, an intimate campus and I think it will give them a chance to focus on the time they have at hand.
“As a UT alum myself, I’m hoping that they’ll put it to good use and their week at Milligan will have a good payoff through the season.”