Bridgewater Place, the venue of the UT men’s volleyball club's 50th anniversary event, was misleading on the outside.
The parking lot was the first thing anybody saw; it looked beat up with cracked asphalt and had weathered light poles and faded street lines. Next, they would see the building that housed the event. The polygonal building had turned from white to gray. It had a rusty staircase going up to its roof and windows that seemed like they had seen better days.
However, your perception changed once you got inside. The hallway was carpeted with beautifully intrinsic designs. The walls had Roman Pantheon-esque columns, and the bathrooms were filled with marble. The ballroom had pristine wooden finished floors and the ceilings hung blue silk curtains.
The people inside the building, though, were all there for one thing, one man: Bud Fields.
Fields is the founder of the University of Tennessee men’s club volleyball team, also serving as its coach and remaining a longtime supporter. His dream to start the UT volleyball team looked similar to the outside of the venue when it began.
“We had no players, no budget and the only practice facility available was Alumni Gymnasium at 8:00 p.m., Friday nights,” Fields wrote.
Fields talked about how other schools looked at the UT team as a real varsity club when, in actuality, “We received some $300 to use towards balls, uniforms, tournament entry fees, and travel expenses.”
Fields and his players did not give up because of their dedication to their sport, their success and to each other. They played as a family and, 50 years later, they are still family.
Between the early 70s to the late 80s, the UT’s men’s volleyball team was a household name and a team that had dominated the competition. Fields highlighted multiple teams, spanning 1973 to 1995, as being the program's very best.
The entire night was dedicated to the relationships made on and off the court. Earl Sharp, a former UT volleyball player, opened the speeches.
“Would you have ever imagined that we would be here to celebrate such an amazing event, with such an awesome turnout?” Sharp said. “We are here to celebrate the great history of the team on the court and to rekindle the relationships off the court.”
Sharp spoke on Fields' importance to the program.
“You can’t talk about UT Volleyball without mentioning Bud, that’s just a fact,” Sharp said. “The memories are not so much the ins and the outs, the nets or the no nets, the hits, the blocks, but the most fun we have had in our entire lives was spent with the most fun guys we have ever known, and that's because of Bud.”
Kyle Pennington, former UT volleyball player, opened up about his gratitude towards Fields.
“I know you do not want this event to be about you, so it all won’t be about you,” Pennington said, addressing Fields. “Just 90 percent of it will be. Bud, you are the Bear Bryant of the University of Tennessee volleyball team, and beyond in the national level. Everyone respects you that much.”
Everyone at the event appeared to love Fields and seemed appreciative of how much hard work and support that he poured into the volleyball program. Carol Fields, Bud’s wife, also was given recognition.
“Bud, you were the best assistant coach I ever had, and Carol was the greatest head coach that I ever had,” Sharp said.
Pennington pointed out the entire audience's affection towards Carol Fields.
“I noticed not everyone stood up when we celebrated Bud, but 100 percent of (us) all stood up when I mentioned Carol,” Penninton said.
This event was about family, and everyone there seemed to know they would not have been there that night without each other, no matter how small a role someone played.
The UT men’s volleyball team’s journey appeared damaged, hopeless and disappointing, but once its members found each other and took a long look inside of themselves, it became like the event's venue: a palace of opportunity, success, and togetherness.