After former 247Sports reporter John Brice wrote that the Big Orange Caravan wasn’t likely to happen again this year, Tennessee senior associate athletic director for communications said that the event is still happening, just with a late start, in a story released by the Knox News Sentinel today.
Brice’s post, which came on his blog “Brice’s Views from Rocky Top,” said that people speaking for the caravan’s usual venues across the state told Brice that UT hadn’t contacted or confirmed any dates for the event.
The Big Orange Caravan has traveled across the state every year since its first trip 26 years ago. Butch Jones, Rick Barnes and Holly Warlick made appearances last year. The caravan started in Atlanta at the College Football Hall of Fame, then made its way to Chattanooga, Nashville, Memphis and in Bristol in lieu of the Battle at Bristol.
Robinson told KNS that Brice’s reports were “accurate” because of athletic director John Currie’s transition to Knoxville. WNML’s Jimmy Hyams tweeted similar information, citing a UT spokesperson that echoed the transition as part of the delay.
Caravan will likely be held in June and/or July. The first BOC was held 26 years ago. Usually attended by FB coach, both BKT coaches and AD
— Jimmy Hyams (@JimmyHyams) April 18, 2017
The timing of both Hyams’ tweets and the KNS report come after a fair bit of social media unrest following Brice’s initial post. That prompted Chattanooga Times Free Press’ Mike Wiedmer’s column this morning, titled “No Big Orange Caravan would mean no guts by John Currie.”
Wiedmer says Currie’s recent quotes about his willingness to be fan-friendly and open fall on deaf ears in the caravan’s absence. He also questioned how much Butch Jones must really want to avoid fan questions, a part of each caravan stop that all coaches take part in.
Robinson’s comments certainly give hope that the caravan will take to the road again this year, but the timing of them is just as interesting.
In the KNS story, Robinson mentions that Currie spoke on his experiences with the Big Orange Caravan in the past during an executive staff meeting this morning — so, did they start hurrying things along when the public started getting bad news yesterday?
Wiedmer’s column brings up a good point, even if the caravan still happens: Will Butch Jones be that willing to hear from fans this year? The same could be asked of Holly Warlick, who coached the Lady Vols to a 20-12 record and second-round exit from the NCAA Tournament for the first time ever.
Most of the fanbase is upset with both anyway. Even though Jones and Warlick should be plenty ready to face criticism and tough questions (they are Division I/SEC coaches, after all), you can’t imagine that they want to travel the state to be questioned about their abilities to perform well.
In the end, there isn’t much reason for the caravan not to happen. Tickets only run up to $20-$25, so the events are easily accessible for fans who can’t get to Knoxville to see many games. Even if the coaches get tough questions, fans have the right to ask them. Who knows, maybe Jones and Warlick can use it to their advantage.
For now, though, we’ll still wait on official confirmation that it’s even happening.