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Front Page - Friday, August 19, 2022

Feeling blue: Lady Vols further honor Summitt’s legacy

Volleyball blues

Kiki Milloy and her Tennessee softball teammates had been pleading to add a Lady Vols blue jersey to their uniform rotation since the senior first arrived on campus.

They finally got their wish granted last week when the university announced four women’s teams will debut Summitt Blue uniforms during the 2022-23 academic year in honor of late legendary basketball coach Pat Summitt.

Dubbed the “Summitt Legacy” series, the collection is being released in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of Title IX.

“Now that it’s actually coming to fruition, I am super excited,” Milloy says. “The fact they are naming it Summitt Blue is awesome. Pat Summitt is someone who has done so much for women’s sports in general, not just women’s sports at Tennessee.”

Tennessee soccer and volleyball will be the first teams to compete in the new Summitt Blue jerseys in the fall. The Lady Vols basketball team will wear a full Summitt Blue uniform in the winter, and the softball team will feature a Summitt Blue jersey option during the spring.

“We are extremely excited to be able to represent the Lady Vol legacy with these new uniforms. For our team, the jerseys serve as a representation of all the incredible women and leaders that have come before us,” UT volleyball player Natalie Hayward says. “It is an honor to wear Lady Vol blue, let alone be a female athlete at this university, so we will wear them with pride and continue to build our own legacy as a team.”

Summitt Blue will now be the official name of the blue accent color historically associated with the Lady Vols and becomes the third “accent” color on the Tennessee Athletics official color palette, joining Smokey Grey and Dark Mode (formerly Anthracite).

“I think it’s really cool they are calling it Summitt Blue. When you think about Pat Summitt and the Lady Vol legacy, you immediately think about the logo and the light blue accent. It made it different and unique,” says UT softball coach Karen Weekly, whose program benefited from Summitt making time to meet with recruits before Summitt’s death in 2016 from Alzheimer’s disease. “The Lady Vols tradition and history have become such a part of the fabric of what it means to be a Lady Vol. I love the fact we are bringing back the Lady Vol blue.”

The first version of the Lady Vols blue accent color appeared in 1968 when former women’s athletic director Joan Cronan tried to find uniforms for the women’s basketball team. At the time, no company offered an orange uniform, so Cronan chose Columbia blue uniforms with orange lettering when the Lady Vols played home games.

Once orange uniforms became available, Tennessee switched to the university’s traditional color scheme. But a hint of Summitt Blue has always remained in the jersey and logo scheme.

“Tennessee’s history as a worldwide leader in women’s athletics, along with the Lady Vols’ unique legacy of excellence are traditions we are proud to celebrate,” Tennessee athletic director Danny White says. “As some of our teams recently saw their new Summitt Blue uniforms for the first time, they reacted with a joy and enthusiasm that I hope will extend to our fans and proud alumni.”

In his first season leading the women’s soccer team as head coach, Joe Kirt called the chance to debut the jerseys “incredible.” Kirt understands the significance of wearing Summitt Blue and the history it represents.

“Obviously, (it’s) honoring the legacy of not only what we’ve built here at Tennessee, and certainly, ‘we’ being Coach Summitt and Joan (Cronan), but also what other women have done across the country since Title IX,” Kirt says. “The opportunities that our players now have because of them, it’s just a way we can honor what’s been done before them. We couldn’t be more excited to wear that this fall.”

UT officials say Volshop was expected to have Summitt Blue merchandise available for purchase starting last weekend, and Fanatics is expected to release Summitt Blue items in the coming weeks.

Milloy was thrilled to see the soccer and volleyball players model their new Summitt Blue threads on social media. She can’t wait until the softball players have a chance to view their new jerseys and decide how to mix-and-match uniform combinations.

“I am really glad this happened before I graduated,” Milloy says. “Being able to wear Lady Vol blue is just a little piece of what we can all do to honor Pat Summitt’s legacy. That means a lot.”