Thank You Vol Nation

As I sit here, my office completely empty and my car packed full with all my hard work, I don’t know what to say or let alone do. I spent so much time in these offices. I met my wife here. I had my first child here. I got my master’s degree here. Coach Pearl and this great university gave me my first opportunity in the coaching profession, and I am forever grateful for that.

I grew up in Schaumburg, Illinois (20 minutes outside of Chicago), so SEC athletics were foreign to me. Sure, I knew about Phillip Fulmer, Tennessee football and Kentucky basketball, but that was about it. When I packed up my dad’s ugly teal minivan and moved down here, just eight days after Coach Pearl offered me a graduate assistant position, I had no clue the next five years of my life would be this much of a blessing.

I’ll never forget my first football weekend here. We were playing highly ranked Cal on an absolutely beautiful opening weekend. As our staff did on numerous home football weekends, we had a large number of recruits on campus that day. As the Vol Walk approached, we all began making our way toward the stadium. Mind you, this was not only my first college football game ever, it was my first as a UT staff member who was supposed to be talking it up with recruits and their parents about all the festivities taking place all around them.  With the sun gleaming and people tailgating in orange and white everywhere,  I was absolutely speechless! It was the coolest thing I had ever seen. I couldn’t believe all the people and the excitement they had for the start of a new football season. Right then and there, I was hooked.

As sappy as it sounds, I fell in love with the University of Tennessee.

Since that day, this university, the people within it and the supporters around it have been nothing but great to me. I have experienced college athletics at the highest level and have been witness to one of the best—if not THE best—fan bases in the country. I have been blessed to be a part of the highest of highs that this program has ever seen.  Chris Lofton’s shot over Durant to beat Texas. The #1 vs. #2 showdown vs. Memphis. Advancing to the Elite Eight. The list of big wins could go on forever but it’s the relationships with the players and the passion of the fans that I will remember most. These last five years have been special, have taught me a ton and have made me not only a better coach but a better person. This may be the end for me here, but with every ending there comes a new beginning, and there is no doubt that whatever my future entails, I will continue to work my hardest to make a positive difference in the lives of those around me. I will succeed!!

No matter where I go, no matter who I coach, I will always remember how great it is to be a Tennessee Vol!


About Mark Pancratz's Blog

A native of Schaumburg, Ill., Mark Pancratz played Division I basketball at UW-Milwaukee, earning his degree in marketing and finance. He joined Tennessee's staff in 2006 as a graduate assistant, earning his master's degree in sports management later that year. Serving as a G.A., director of video scouting and assistant to the head coach, Pancratz was an integral part of Tennessee's six-consecutive NCAA tournament appearances. At 26, Pancratz boasts an impressive 18 games of NCAA Tournament experience as a player and/or administrative staff member. He is a member of the Illinois High School Basketball Hall of Fame and voted one of the 100 Legends of Illinois High School Basketball. Pancratz resides in Knoxville and is married to the former Brooke Waddell.
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35 Responses to Thank You Vol Nation

  1. Thanks for all your hard work and efforts for the Vols.

  2. Ben says:

    i’ve been a silent reader of your blog for a few years (at blueribbon and, more recently, here). i’m sure you know there were alot of us (silent majority). i just want you to know how much i’ve appreciated what you’ve done in your time at UT and i wish you nothing but the best.

  3. Teresa says:

    I have no doubt you will succeed and you will always be part of the Vol family. Maybe one day you’ll come back here and be sitting in that head coach office. If so, I’ll know a true Vol is sitting in the chair. Best of luck to you and your beautiful family. And thank you.

  4. Chris says:

    I just wanted to thank you for all that you and the other coaches did for Tennessee basketball. I went to one of your summer camps early on in Coach Pearl’s tenure and became hooked on Tennessee basketball. I have enjoyed all that you guys did here, I was in Memphis on February 23, 2008 and I was in St. Louis last year for the Ohio State and Michigan State games. You all got me hooked on Tennessee basketball. I wish you and all of the other coaches extended success and Vol Nation will be behind you all no matter what you do!

  5. Whitney Lauren says:

    I want to thank you and the rest of the coaching staff for the wonderful accomplishments that ya’ll have done for this program and University. You have truly made basketball fun again. I wish you all the best of luck and hope nothing but good comes out of this horrible situation. You all will be missed greatly and the Vol Nation will always support you all. Reading your blogs have been wonderful insight on the basketball program. Keep up the good work and God Bless, once a Vol always a Vol.

  6. VolChick says:

    As I sit here reading this with cold tears streaming down my face, I realize at this moment, after 34 years, how proud I truly am to be a Tennessee Volunteer. I have never had the pleasure nor the honor to meet you in person but I thank you just the same. I pray that God blesses you, your family and OUR Volunteer family as well. Never doubt that we love you, support you & are ALWAYS here for you! God Bless You All, VolChick

  7. Jeff says:


    Rob Lewis at Volquest has been kind enough to link your site throughout the season and I’ve really enjoyed your inside view of Tennessee basketball.

    I can’t tell you what a sad day this is for many Volunteer fans throughout the country. You guys did a great job here and your hard work and success will be appreciated for many years to come.

    I wish you and your family the best and hope to see you involved with Big Orange basketball again in the future.

    God Bless.

  8. TREX says:

    Thanks for being here Mark. Thanks for all the hard work

    Best of luck. We will be watching for Bruce and members of his staff.

    Good people who did good things.

    Tennessee basketball will like the Vampire it was head back to the coffin for a a very, very, very long time

  9. Team Pearl Fan for Life says:

    I am deeply heartbroken over today’s events. I will miss all of you guys! You have brought so much excitement to UT fans. Bruce Pearl will forever be “The Total Package”. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all you have done for UT, our team, our community, and us. You have given us excitement and thrilled us. It was great to be a TN Vol while you were here. May you find a better place that will be lead by those who when they give you their word, you can trust they will.

  10. Hacksaw says:

    Mark, as a long time Vol fan I would like to thank you for all the work you have done to help the young men who have represented UT on the court. Also, thank you for the blogs which have kept us up on what was going on behind the scenes. Come back to see us anytime, you’re always welcome. ONCE A VOL ALWAYS A VOL!

  11. James Gilmore says:

    Wish you were staying along with coach Pearl still the coach!

  12. JBH says:

    Mark – words cannot ever express how grateful I am to Coach Pearl and the entire staff for the impact they have made on my University. With that being said , no one has impressed me more than you. I have followed you on Twitter and read your blog, but most importantly I have watched your interactions with the student-athletes. That is where I see a future star in this profession. Mark – you will be the head coach of a Major NCAA Division 1 program one day. I have no doubts on that. I honestly think you are ready now (i.e. Pastner, Stevens, etc), however what has transpired this season can only be a learning experience for you. Big time college basketball is a cruel sport. My one constructive criticism of you is this – you may be too nice of a guy and too ethical to make it in this profession and still be able to sleep at night. With that being said, I do not see you as being the type of guy who changes who he is. Please don’t – you are one of the good ones. I will following your career and rooting for you at every stop along the way. Thanks for being a Vol!

  13. Dennis says:

    I’ve followed you on Twitter and read all your blogs and I want to thank you for your words and your work for the Vols. I predict a great future for you and I wish you and your family, nothing but the best.

  14. Pat Walden says:

    As a former UT player, I appreciate all you and the staff have done as well as where you’ve taken us. I remember that same first football Saturday as we had the first basketball reunion of all players to ever wear the orange and white. Coach Pearl gained so much respect from all the former players by embracing the former traditions, players and coaches. We sure had a great run for these past 6 years. I’m sorry this year didn’t turn out as well as we all expected but there is as much to be learned for your coaching future in the bad as well as the good. Thanks for taking the time away from your job and family to write this blog. I have thoroughly enjoyed it. I have absolutely no doubt that you will become a great coach. Proud we now share the ORANGE and WHITE. You’ve paid your dues and laid the groundwork to be successful wherever you land. Best of luck and God bless you and your family. VFL!

  15. Doug Goss says:

    Mark, words cannot begin to express my appreciation for the job that your entire staff has done. I doubt that I will ever see another run like we have seen since you’ve been here. Even my wife, who had never even seen a college game until we got married (somebody had to be the bookworm) is heartbroken over this. You guys deserved better.
    But trust me, better days are ahead. I’ll really miss the blogs you wrote. And you thought your mom was the only one who read them.

    I may get excited about Tennessee basketball at some point but not for a long, long time. I have to grieve this loss. And I honestly do not think I will ever see another staff like this one. Y’all were truely Vols. Like you, I moved to Knoxville (in the late 80’s) from up north and immediately fell in love with East Tennessee, her people, and all things associated with UT.

    For as long as I live, I will never forget this staff or what you did for us. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

  16. Otto says:

    I have really enjoyed your blog, Mark. This last entry was very solid. I feel bad for you and your fellow coaches, but I am confident that you will go on to great success. I feel worse for the Vol Nation that we are losing your talents and heart. You are a class act. My very best to you and your family.

  17. Scott says:

    Mark, from the youth coaching clinics, to your teaching on the sidelines, you have represented yourself and the university extremely well. Be proud and know you will have a lengthy career in a difficult profession. Stay true to who you are and great things are headed your way!

  18. UT & Pearl Fan says:

    Mark, I had the honor of flying down to a couple games with you and the team and got to have a couple conversations with you. You are going far, my friend. Thanks for this blog, your dedication and your passion for Tennessee. Yesterday was, unequivocally, the saddest day I have ever experienced in UT history. I’m heartbroken for a wonderful staff that gave their all for us. You will be missed but your career is far from over. I will always be a fan of Bruce, Tony, Steve and yourself. Words can’t express the joy I felt when we beat Ohio State nearly a year ago… Highest of highs to the lowest of lows. Good luck and chin up, bright days are ahead for you all!

  19. Ricky B says:


    Thank you for all of your hard work and dedication for the University of Tennessee. I know that this has been a hard time for you, but I know that you will land on your feet. Someday, I would love seeing you walking the coaching box at Thompson-Boling, and we would welcome you back with open arms. Your blog has been great to read. Thank you for the inside look at the program.

    Ricky B.

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  21. Bobby Brown says:

    We thank you. Best to you in what you do in life. God has a plan.

  22. Neyland Raper says:

    Thank you for all you have done for our great University. Over the last six years, I have fallen in love with everything about Tennessee Basketball. It is not only the wins that make you special as a coach, but it is how you come back from tough losses. After every single loss you have had the guts to come on hear and represent the entire program. I respect you as much as any coach in the country. Wherever you go in life and wherever you happen to end up just know that once you are a Vol, you are always a Vol. God bless you and your family.

  23. Mike Jones says:

    Thanks to you, Coach Pearl and the enitre staff for the absolute joy you have brought to Big Orange Basketball fans. I have been a Vol basketball fan since 1966 when I heard my first game on the radio. I am one of those rare souls who actually is a bigger UT basketball fan than a football fan. There may be a staff in the future that reaches the heights that you guys got us to but there will not be a group that had the charisma that you had. Wherever each of you guys land which I know will be on your feet, you can count on me as a fan of yours for life! Thanks and best of luck Mark!

  24. JKerlan says:

    A school I truly love has disappointed me more than I ever thought possible. The coaching staff the past 6 years was outstanding. All of your hard work and efforts were truly special and I doubt will ever be duplicated. All the best to you and your families for the future-JK

  25. Bruce Stillwagon says:

    You did it all with class, thanks.

  26. Katie says:

    Thank you!!! For all your work and everything you’ve done. Maybe someday you can come back and be a volunteer again…I know we will miss you while you are away!

  27. John Whitehead says:

    I am not that familiar with all of the staff, you included, but from this I can see that you are truly first class. You maintained class in this post and that is highly impressive.


  28. Kyle says:


    Congratulations on all of your achievements at such a young age. It’s a shame that our coaching staff is now gone, but you all will not be forgotten. Thank you for helping make these past 5 years very special to each Vol fan and for representing the O/W well.

    You and your fellow coaches will be missed. Cheers to as much success as humanly possible for you.

  29. Uncle Rich says:

    Life is full of ups and downs, of which you have had a lot of, this year.
    Great job during a tough year, keep positive attitude, and good thing will come your way!

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  31. Don says:

    We appreciate everything you and the coaching staff did for UT basketball and certainly wish that you had gotten the support from Cheek and his minions that we the fans wanted and expected. Please tell Coach Pearl, Coach Jones and the full staff how much we loved basketball during their tenure and express our sadness for the back stabbing way that the dismissal was handled by the academicians. It would be poetic justice if they were all fired within a year and through some miracle Coach Pearl and the full staff could be returned. Best of luck in everything you do and we will follow your career. Hope you can come back some day to speak to our TIPOFF CLUB.

  32. Gregg Owens - Knoxville says:


    You got it! You got what we are all about at UT, Knoxville, Tennessee (the state) and the Vol Nation. That’s great. I am so glad you feel as if you were welcomed as one of the “family”, and don’t forget that you will always be part of us!

    Wherever you land, my God bless you and keep you well.

    You didn’t have to write anything to anyone, but we UT fans are so fortunate that you did. This has left a sour taste in all of our mouths and I suppose you can tell that the fans never wanted this staff to leave UT. We are very gratefull all of you decided to come here and join us and join us you did! This staff immersed itself in the orange and white and soaked it all in. I’m so glad your blood is orange and I hope it always has a tint of orange in the future.

    I hope you will find a new home soon, somewhere that doesn’t have the politics of a new structure coming in that seems to NEED to put their stamp on your program. It is indeed unfortunate that you were caught up in this ordeal and if any of us can lend you a hand I’m sure you will finding us willing. (I have a nack for finding out stuff for lawyers who need it and if I can lend you a hand finding something, I hope you can access my email addy. If not, we’ll find a way to hook-up. Just let me know here as I’ll keep checking for the next 10 days and then again on 4/23 as I’ll bookmark the page.)

    Best of luck to you and the rest of the Vol Family. You will all be truly missed.

    Gregg Owens

  33. AliGirl says:

    The passion you have for the game and your players shines through in every post. Best of luck to you and your sweet family in the future. I’m sure you will go far.

    Thanks for the memories.

  34. Great blog post. As an alum, I have a special fondness for the University. Bruce and his staff brought something special to this University-something we hadn’t seen for basketball since the Ernie and Bernie show. The energy that Bruce and his staff brought will forever be remembered. I hope that you all will always be remembered for all the positives you brought not only to UT and the basketball program but also to the city. It is greatly appreciated.

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