T-Club tabs five honorary lettermen

The University of Tennessee Lettermen's T-Club is honoring five individuals by assigning them honorary letterman status for outstanding service and achievements that reflect favorably on the University of Tennessee and its athletics program.

This year's honorees include renowned tenor and national anthem singer George Bitzas, former Knoxville News Sentinel reporter Roland Julian, Knoxville Quarterback Club president Jeff Hagood, former Vol staffer and Vol Historian Tom Mattingly and retiring Varsity Inn Training Table Manager Gene McCarter.

The official announcement was made Friday night at the annual Letterman's Reunion Banquet at the Foundry. Saturday's game includes a halftime on the field presentation.

George C. Bitzas, Professor Emeritus of voice at the University of Tennessee, has performed in concert in major cities of the United States, Canada and Europe, and has sung with symphony orchestras throughout the Southeast. An accomplished tenor, Bitzas is known to thousands of Tennesseans for his singing of the national anthem at each UT home football game from 1973-2000. He has entertained Knoxville audiences, performing with the Knoxville Opera Company such portrayals as Alfred in Die Fledermaus, Beppe in Pagliacci, and Norman in Il Trovatore. Bitzas also has performed with the Charlotte, Augusta, Whitewater, Spartanburg, and Chattanooga opera companies. Dick Banks of the Charlotte Observer said, "For this reviewer, the highlight of the evening was George Bitzas' tenor voice ringing like a silver bell."

Roland Julian worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for more than 50 years until his retirement in November 2008. His service at the paper does not even include time spent as a newspaper carrier in his youth or working in the mailroom in high school.

Julian started his newspaper career covering high school sports and working on the desk. He later began covering University of Tennessee sports including basketball, football and track and field. Roland founded the Knoxville News Sentinel All-SEC Swimming and Diving awards program and became the main beat reporter for the Tennessee swimming teams and Knoxville Swim Association.

He also served as the beat writer for Tennessee's first pro hockey team, the Knoxville Knights, during the 1960s. Last summer he was named to the Tennessee Sports Writers Hall of Fame.

Jeff Hagood, a prominent Knoxville Attorney, has given countless hours in service to enhancing the programs of the Knoxville Quarterback Club. With encouragement from former Athletics Director Doug Dickey, Hagood assumed the leadership reins of the club in the late 1990s and rebuilt the membership and created enthusiasm by enhancing the weekly speakers for club meetings.

Under Hagood's leadership and support, the Quarterback Club became a supporting sponsor for the Big Orange Tipoff Club built on the same format as the Quarterback Club. Both were created to keep the spirits of the Big Orange faithful at a fever pitch during football and basketball seasons. Hagood's unquestioned passionate support of the University of Tennessee played a major part in the current success of the clubs.

A graduate of the University of Tennessee in Speech Communication and later with a degree in Law, Hagood also served as a member of the Athletics Board and on the Boards of the Tennessee Valley Boys and Girls Club, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Big Brothers Big Sisters and the National Board of Trustees of Multiple Sclerosis Society.

Tom Mattingly, a Knoxville native, began his working career at Union Carbide Corp., but moved in 1977 to the City of Knoxville in the Office of Community and Economic Development. In 1984 he accepted a position with Butler Communications. A love of UT Sports and the University in general led him to accept a position with the Athletics Department in 1987 as editor of Volunteers Magazine, where he also served as an assistant in the Sports Information Department.

In 2005, Tom relocated to the Office of Special Occasions on the Hill as part of the UT President's staff. Today, Tom is a freelance writer and publisher. He is the author of "The Tennessee Football Vault: The Story of the Tennessee Volunteers, 1891-2006" (2006), also published in second edition in 2008, and Tennessee Football: The Peyton Manning Years (1998). He currently has columns in the Knoxville News Sentinel and his blog is called "The Vol Historian."

Gene McCarter, Manager of the Varsity Inn since 2003, is retiring Dec. 31 after working more than 40 years in the campus food service industry. McCarter spent a significant amount of that time as the assistant manager of the Varsity Inn, which is the student-athlete training table in Bill Gibbs Hall. McCarter always has been the "go to guy" for staff, coaches and student-athletes. From preparing the daily training table dinning program, to supplying pre- and post-game team meals, catering special functions for athletes and media at Vol home events, McCarter always has responded with dedication and great pride. A native of Sevier County, McCarter and his wife, Faye, have been married 45 years. Faye, who also spent five years on staff of the Varsity Inn, plans to help Gene in his retirement on their mini-farm in east Knox County.


In addition the T- Club honored two members with service awards to former lettermen Bo Shafer (Football 1953-58) for 2008 and Keith McCord (Baseball 1953) for 2009. The club annually honors members whose service to the University, the Athletic Department and the community has highly distinguished them.

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