KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- During a 1:00 p.m. news conference Thursday Tennessee Director of Athletics, John Currie, announced the decision to reinstate the Lady Vols name. Currie said the Lady Vols logo is restored for programs and athletes who wish to be recognized as such.
"We want to give our student athletes the chance to express themselves as Lady Vols," Currie said.
UT officials said the Power T is still the official athletic logo, but the Lady Vols brand can also be visible.
THE LADY VOLS ARE BACK!!!!!— Brittany Tarwater (@WVLTBrittany) September 14, 2017
"We will not allow the Lady Vol brand to disappear," Currie continued.
Vol fans will likely see the Lady Vol logo on gear and uniforms next year, but Currie said the decision to call teams Lady Vols will be optional.
This comes after the athletics department made the decision to brand all teams under the Power T, except for women's basketball starting in the 2015-16 academic year. UT Chancellor Jimmy Cheek made the decision after state lawmakers discussed legislation concerning the brand change.
Former Director of Athletics Dave Hart led the mission to unite all athletes under one brand. Local 8 Sports spoke to him about the change in 2015, "Absolutely, we're going to honor the history and tradition of all those years where we were separate departments and called Lady Vols, but we're not separate departments and I think the small segment that wants us to go back, we're not going to do that. This was not a decision that was made in a vacuum."
The change coincided with a branding audit with the help of the NIKE Graphic Identify Group. In October 2014, the university announced its intention to use the Power T as the official mark of the institution after a four-year branding study. The UT transition from Adidas to NIKE took place July 1, 2015.
I love this. Easy to see how much this means to former Lady Vol athletes https://t.co/wTPW4gbdTs— Lauren Cash (@WVLTCash) September 14, 2017
Currie: I've personally benefitted from the leadership, mentorship of Joan Cronan— Brittany Tarwater (@WVLTBrittany) September 14, 2017
Many say the Lady Vols monogram of excellence and tradition can be attributed to legendary Coach Pat Summitt. When the initial brand change was originally announced, Joan Cronan said, "I am very pleased that women's basketball will retain the Lady Vols logo, it honors the legacy of the team and the greatest coach ever, Pat Summitt."
Currie: I'm proud of the legacy of Pat Summitt. She is a true Tennessee treasure.— Brittany Tarwater (@WVLTBrittany) September 14, 2017
Removing the "Lady Vols" brand from all other female teams at UT with the exception of women's basketball caused division and sparked debate across the state
In 2015, 45 Tennessee legislators signed a letter in opposition of the Lady Vols name change.
Representative Roger Kane mailed the letter to the UT Board of Trustees with the signatures of 44 other state lawmakers. Kane said, "My recommendation is reverse your decision, whether it be from the chancellor down or from the board, and you change your direction, you reverse it, and then move on to things that are really important like getting us into the top 25 research universities; That's what you need to be focusing on."
Multiple legislators and groups have been fighting the name change since the announcement in 2014. The group Bring Back the Lady Vols reached over 15,000 people with their fighting explanation of the original brand restructuring's impact on past, current and future female athletes. The organization published letters by female athletes from the University of Tennessee.
House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh (D-Ripley) announced on September 8 he would be filing a resolution urging the university to restore the use of "Lady Vols" for all women's athletic teams.
During Thursday's news conference, Currie said by commuting to restore the Lady Vol brand, the Tennessee family can unite and move forward.