Former NFL defensive tackle and Tennessee Volunteers alum Albert Haynesworth accused the school of "systematic racism" and encouraged people to boycott the university after the football program hired Josh Heupel to be its head coach without interviewing former quarterback and current receivers coach Tee Martin.
Haynesworth wrote on Facebook:
"BOYCOTT TENNESSEE FOR SYSTEMATIC RACISM!!!!!
"Obviously Tennessee Vols take Tee Martin for granted! Why do s--t on him, hell he even reduce his salary to help the university out when he didn't have to? Is it bc he's black? UT won't even interview him. I bring race into it bc UT has passed over good qualified black coaches like Kippy Brown and others in these past coaching searches. Majority of your players are African-American why not put a African-American coach to lead them especially the one that won Tennessee a championship? You guys give everyone except a black qualified man a chance! With this said I will not be attending any games or supporting until I see change in the university that I love so much! I hope my fellow black Tennessee alumnus will follow me in boycotting the university in showing how serious we are about not feeling the equality for our fellow qualified black coaches!!!"
Former Tennessee receiver Peerless Price also criticized the decision not to interview Martin:
Peerless Price @PeerlessTheVol
Just got off the phone with my Quarterback Tee Martin and to say my guy his hurting is an understatement! My brother if my vision was ever clouded I have clear sight on everything you’ve sacrificed for our University. Damn the pain in my brothers voice I’ve never heard before!
Current Duke women's basketball head coach Kara Lawson, a Tennessee alum, said in June that the school's athletic department needed to improve its diversity.
"I would encourage all members of the board, the chancellors, the president, to look at the diversity or lack thereof of the senior staffs of our athletic departments. ... It's not just striking, there isn't any," she said, per Monica Kast of the Knoxville News Sentinel. "When I look at my alma mater, Knoxville, there is not a single African American coach at that institution. That is not the same for the majority of the SEC."
Per Will Backus of the Knoxville News Sentinel, Tennessee has had exactly three Black head coaches in its history: men's basketball head coaches Wade Houston (1989-94) and Cuonzo Martin 2011-14) and track and field's J.J. Clark (2001-14).
The school also does not have any Black senior staff members in its athletic department.
The school's new athletic director, Danny White, came from UCF and brought Heupel with him. Heupel went 28-8 in three seasons at the helm for the Knights.