Vols spend $39793 on football championship rings – Knoxville News Sentinel

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Bling will always be a thing while Butch Jones is Tennessee’s football coach.

The Vols received rings for both hands this past season with one to commemorate their Music City Bowl victory and another for their win at the Battle at Bristol.

It’s the third straight season the Vols have treated players, coaches and support staff to rings to memorialize a bowl win.

The Vols beat Nebraska in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl in Nashville on Dec. 30, 2016.

The Vols spent $37,193 on the Music City Bowl jewelry and $2,600 on the Battle at Bristol rings, according to invoices provided to the News Sentinel by UT through public records requests.

The invoice from Jostens showed UT ordering 164 “Music City Bowl Champions” rings at a cost of $220 each and seven “Music City Bowl Champions” pendants at a cost of $159 each.

The rings and pendants were given out in April to 110 players, 22 members of the coaching staff and 39 support staff personnel.

The rings have a diamond Power T on the front with a background shaded orange and “Music City Bowl Champions” and diamonds surrounding the T. Each person’s name and “Own It Team 120” is on the right side.

Among the coaches receiving bowl rings were departed assistants Don Mahoney, Willie Martinez, Zach Azzanni, Mike DeBord and Nick Sheridan.

The event organizers for the Battle at Bristol provided the Vols with 125 free rings for their victory over Virginia Tech at Bristol Motor Speedway last September. UT purchased eight extra rings for staff members at a cost of $325 each.

The bowl ring tradition under Jones began after the Vols beat Iowa in the TaxSlayer Bowl on Jan. 2, 2015, for their first bowl victory since 2008. The Vols bought 150 rings at a cost of $175 each.

The Outback Bowl paid for 125 of the 166 rings the Vols received after their win over Northwestern on Jan. 1, 2016. UT paid $230 each for the remaining rings.

“Rings are very, very special. Each team is bonded by a championship ring. Each team is bonded by that ring, and that ring tells a particular story,” Jones said in November. “It’s like a storybook of that particular season, so that’s why the sides are important, why the front of it is very important. I think it also builds pride in your institution.”

A ringing endorsement 

Purchasing rings for bowl wins is not uncommon. Many teams across the nation celebrate victories with rings each season, and not just for the higher-tier bowls.

Kentucky didn’t even win a bowl game, and still purchased rings this year. The Wildcats lost to Georgia Tech in the TaxSlayer Bowl, but celebrated the program’s first bowl berth since 2010 with rings.

One side of Kentucky’s ring featured an image of the Governor’s Cup trophy and “41-38” – the final score in Kentucky’s upset win over rival Louisville in the regular-season finale.

Oklahoma State received bowl rings following its Alamo Bowl win over Colorado. On the rings, OSU listed its final record at 11-2 despite having officially finished 10-3.

The Cowboys considered their controversial loss to Central Michigan on a Hail Mary that resulted from an officiating mistake as a win in their book and on their rings.

New Tennessee athletic director John Currie wasn’t here for the bowl victories under Jones, but he sees no reason for the ring tradition to change under his watch.

“Thanks to Coach Jones’ leadership of our program, and the hard work of our student-athletes, Tennessee has been in a position to purchase bowl rings for three consecutive years. And I look forward to buying more this coming year,” Currie, who replaced Dave Hart on April 1, said in a statement this week.  

Spending millions on bowl travel

The Music City Bowl rings were part of the more than $1 million in expenses Tennessee spent for its trip to Nashville.

According to a public records request, the total cost of the bowl trip was $1,070,759. UT offset the costs and will come out ahead once the contributions from the SEC were factored in.

UT will be receiving a bowl participant distribution of $1,300,000 along with a travel allowance of $44,500 from the SEC, meaning UT will finish with a surplus of $273,741 when considering direct costs alone.

It’s the largest surplus of UT’s last three bowl trips. The Vols spent $1.4 million and had a surplus of $15,687 for traveling to the Outback Bowl in Tampa, Fla. They spent $1.25 million and had a surplus of $164,811 for traveling to the TaxSlayer Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla.

For the Music City Bowl, UT spent $103,560 on transportation costs for the team and coaching staff ($63,228), band and cheerleaders ($27,440) and faculty and athletic department representatives ($12,892).

The university spent $706,509 on meals and lodging for the team and coaching staff ($545,173), band and cheerleaders ($106,286) and faculty and athletic department officials ($55,050).

UT absorbed $104,455 in ticket expenses. The university was committed to purchase 6,000 tickets at $85 each ($510,000) and 2,000 tickets at $120 each ($240,000). UT sold 4,805 tickets at $85 each ($408,425) and 1,976 at $120 each ($237,120). 

UT spent $66,898 on awards, which included the bowl rings, $19,465 on entertainment and $6,725 on equipment and supplies.

The remainder of the costs were listed as “administrative” ($35,196) and “other” ($27,951), which included site visits, site supplies, laundry, practice site rental, practice officials, etc.

‘They just tell a story’

David Ridpath, president of The Drake Group, isn’t bothered by universities spending money on bowl gifts for players. The Drake Group is an organization dedicated to academic integrity and urging reform to combat the commercialization in college athletics.

“Most of us in The Drake Group do not have an issue with athletes getting some type of award for the work they put in, certainly if they are not going to be paid,” said Ridpath, an associate professor of sports management at Ohio University. “Oftentimes the education is short-shrifted, so getting a reward like buying rings is not inappropriate.”

What Ridpath does find excessive is the number of people universities bring to bowls who aren’t students or directly involved in the game.

“Some of the big schools just don’t seem fiscally responsible on bowl trips. They are often not just taking the athlete; they take everybody and pay for literally anybody who has donated money at a certain level,” Ridpath said. “They get their trip comped with essentially millions of dollars spent on official traveling parties. Those are the areas to look at and question.”

Vols linebacker Kenny Bynum was grateful for his big-game experiences during college and the mementos he received. The redshirt senior left UT with three bowl rings and a Battle at Bristol ring.

“I think the rings are very special, man. They just tell a story,” Bynum said in November. “Like the first ring from the TaxSlayer Bowl, I’m from Jacksonville, Fla., and that was my first start. In front of my family. I had at least 25, 30 family members there and we got a great win. That’s just one example of how the rings tell stories and gives us something to look at all the hard work we put in throughout that year and our whole college career.”

 

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