Holly Warlick appeared on two live radio shows and handled media interviews while several dozen intrepid golfers took to the course in rainy and windy conditions.
The “Swing Fore Pink” golf tournament at the course in Rockford, Tenn., which is near McGhee Tyson Airport, was the host for Warlick’s latest fundraiser for the foundation she co-founded with former Tennessee and current LSU women’s basketball coach Nikki Caldwell.
Champions for a Cause – its website can be viewed by CLICKING HERE
– was formed to increase awareness about breast cancer and to raise money for research.
Warlick and Caldwell have traveled coast to coast on motorcycles – a mini-ride over one day that combines bikes and poker is this Sunday with DETAILS HERE – to raise funds and the profile of those fighting the diseases.
Monday was the first golf tournament, and the early October weather in East Tennessee was not cooperative as temperatures plummeted in the morning and the rain went from a light drizzle to a downpour. Still, several carts ferried golfers across the course and the groups made it back to the clubhouse soaked but smiling.
“I said we’re combining golf and swimming in one event,” Warlick said. “We’re changing the look of golf. Everybody showed up and I was like, ‘Wow.’ It’s for a great cause and I think it’s something they wanted to make sure they did and come up and play.”
Warlick recently had a family member who needed a double mastectomy, and the cause has always hit close to home for the head coach.
“I am going to continue to do it,” Warlick said. “I think there is a cure out there, and I want to make sure we all do our part. And it affects men and women. A lot of the money goes to UT cancer research and some goes to LSU research and the big picture with the Kay Yow Foundation.”
Warlick and Caldwell, a native of Oak Ridge, Tenn., formed the foundation while both were assistant coaches for the Lady Vols. Caldwell headed to UCLA and then LSU and has remained active with Champions for a Cause. Warlick was named last April to be the head coach at Tennessee and has vowed to not let the additional responsibilities interfere with the foundation.
“You get great help, and I’ve always had great support with this foundation and people who run it and then I show up and get on camera and say, ‘It’s a great event,’ ” Warlick said. “You’ve got to have strong support. It’s like a head coach with their assistant coaches. I have a lot of people who believe in this and what we’re doing.”
Sponsors for Monday’s event included Cherokee Distributing, Aubrey’s Café, Wal-Mart, Coca-Cola, Thompson Metal Services, Inc., YMCA, Knoxville Harley-Davidson, Liberty National Insurance, Bojangles and individuals Brenda Testerman, Debbie Antonelli, Mike Ragsdale and Miles Warlick.
In addition to promoting the event on the radio shows and with the media, Warlick also discussed Lady Vols basketball, including a statement by Pat Summitt on Friday that she wasn’t forced out at Tennessee. Summitt also noted that she was “excited for the opportunities that now await my dear friend and colleague Holly Warlick as Head Coach.” Summitt, who has early onset dementia, is now head coach emeritus of the program and is a regular presence at practice.
“She is into it,” Warlick said. “Anybody that gets up at 6:15 in the morning and comes to practice and has a great smile on her face, they’re into it.
“And I want her there. I want her energy. I want her enthusiasm. Pat and I, apart from working together and her being my former coach, we are great friends. Her health and her friendship mean so much more to me … . I am excited she is still going to be beside me and helping with our program.”
Warlick addressed Summitt’s statement on the radio and again with the media at the Egwani Farms clubhouse.
“I said this earlier,” Warlick said. “Pat has an illness. It’s my will to make sure that I take care of Pat. I was not going to be a part of anything that was forced whatsoever. Pat came to me and said, ‘This is what I am going to do,’ and I supported her.”
The statement followed the release of a sworn affidavit by Summitt in which she discussed being told by Athletic Director Dave Hart in March the day before the team left for the NCAA tourney that she would not return as coach. Summitt added that Hart later told her she misunderstood him. The affidavit is part of a lawsuit filed by ousted media relations chief Debby Jennings against Tennessee over her forced retirement.
The timing of the legal battle could have been problematic for Warlick as October is a key recruiting month, and the story about Summitt went national. Warlick said recruits haven’t raised the issue.
“Not at all,” Warlick said. “The biggest thing for us was the initial what are they going to do, where are we going to move forward and the uncertainty (of Summitt’s status). I think once we got that out (last April), the recruiting went on as usual. They understand where Pat is at this point in her career.
“Pat and I have talked about me doing this for a very, very long time. We just didn’t know it would happen in this manner because of her illness.
“I think Pat has confidence in me. And I know this is Pat’s program. I know what she has built, and I am going to carry on this Tennessee tradition that she has built. We changed coaches, we changed players, but it’s still Tennessee.”
Warlick’s first significant test as head coach will be who she can sign in her first recruiting class, and the Lady Vols are in the hunt with some of the premier players in the high school class of 2013, including top-ranked Mercedes Russell, a 6-5 center from Springfield, Oregon.
“We need to sign a lot of players, and we’re in on a lot of the top players in the country,” Warlick said. “It’s a chance for us to show Tennessee is still here and that Tennessee is still a great place to come.”
Warlick and her staff have crisscrossed the country the last three weeks to see recruits during home and school visits.
“We’ve made a commitment to the recruiting end,” Warlick said.
Warlick can’t specify any player by name, but she can discuss numbers. The Lady Vols have 11 roster players this 2012-13 season with two seniors. If they took the 2013-14 to the maximum, Warlick could sign six players in the class.
“I think we will definitely sign four,” Warlick said. “We could take six. It depends on who wants to come. We have put it out there and the first ones who want to take the offer, then bring it.”
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