Nashville needs a boost from return of SEC men’s basketball tournament, spring sports
By TOM WOOD / February 19, 2021
As I write this, the sun is shining and starting to melt some of the six inches of snow and ice that blankets our Nashville neighborhood. But spring is just around the corner … and so are spring sports.
The Nashville Ledger asked me to take a look at the upcoming spring sports slate, which begins with the March 10-14 Southeastern Conference men’s basketball tournament at Bridgestone Arena. You can read that article here.
As of this date, the Metro Board of Health still had not approved the SEC plans for staging the tournament but optimism runs high that its pending return will be a shot in the arm for Nashville’s psyche and economy after the Covid-19 pandemic forced cancellation of the 2020 tourney and had a $4.5 billion economic impact on Music City.
There are many questions, assuming the tourney gets the OK to forge ahead. Will fans be allowed inside? What protocols and safety measures will be in effect? I spoke with coaches Rick Barnes of Tennessee and Vanderbilt’s Jerry Stackhouse as will as city leaders, business people and others involved in spring sports about what this spring will look like.
“We’re not gonna put players or fans in harm’s way,” UT coach Barnes says.
–Ledger covers designed by Mike Hopey
Besides the SEC tournament, I also took a look at baseball, college football, soccer, the Predators and many other sports in action this spring. Hope you will give it a read.
Here’s a look back at some of my other recent stories in the Ledger.
Martin talks about ex-teammate
In the January 8 edition, I wrote about Vanderbilt hiring Clark Lea as its new head football coach and his plans to revive the program. In addition to listening to Lea and University officials speak at his introductory press conference, I interviewed Ensworth AD/basketball coach Ricky Bowers and Barton Simmons, the director of scouting for 247Sports.com. I also tried to interview Christ Presbyterian Academy football coach Ingle Martin, but we never connected. Lea, Martin and Simmons won state championships together for Bowers during the glory years at Montgomery Bell Academy.
“There’s no limit on what we can accomplish here,” Clark Lea says.
–Ledger covers designed by Mike Hopey
As my story was going to press, word got out that Simmons was leaving to 247Sports.com to rejoin his old buddy at Vanderbilt. Then on Thursday, Jan. 8, I was able to speak with Martin. Here’s some of what he said; you can find the rest of Ingle’s comments in the Ledger.
“Clark’s a really smart guy,” Martin told me when asked about his relationship with Lea and Simmons joining forces for Vandy. “He’s going to do it his way. He’s going to get people around him that share common values and beliefs … people that I think will work extremely hard.
“So for Barton to join—with his notoriety and his reputation inside of the business—that’s just unbelievable. And the match is really great for the kids at Vanderbilt and all the supporters of the Vanderbilt football team.”
For my two cents, I think Vandy made an outstanding hire. How successful will Lea be? Vandy’s program is pretty low and up is the only way to go. Hi high? On time will answer that one.
Another sportsbook operator OK’d
The Tennessee Education Lottery, which licenses and regulates online sports betting for the state, approved another operator at its Jan, 6 meeting of the Sports Wagering Committee.
Current operators BetMGM, DraftKings, FanDuel and Tennessee Action 24/7 will soon be joined by BetAmerica, which will rebrand later this year as TwinSpires and is owned by Churchill Downs.
TEL president Rebecca Paul Hargrove was excited about the $131 million wagered in November and says December numbers will be announced toward the end of January. She also cautioned that “there will be a great deal of variance from month to month” in the numbers.
Looking forward to baseball
Due to the pandemic, it has been more than 500 days since either of the Class AA Southern League teams hosted a baseball game and the 2021 season will open May 2.
The Chattanooga club also weathered Major League Baseball contraction issues which will transform Appalachian League teams in Johnson City, Kingsport and Greeneville as well as Kingsport from a pro rookie league to high-level collegiate development league.
MLB’s restructuring of the minor-league system reorganized and reformulated as the Player Development League with 120 teams. The Nashville Sounds, who signed a 10-year affiliation with the Milwaukee Brewers, will open their season April 6.
As always, thanks for reading.