Big Orange Country Annexes Providence

March 17, 2010

Drew Rutherford

When Bill Hardy arrived in Providence, R.I., last Friday, he never expected to see Tennessee head basketball coach Bruce Pearl--or the rest of the Vols hoops stars, for that matter.

But he did.

A little more than a year ago, Hardy made plans to attend a conference in Providence, R.I. He and his wife booked a room in the hotel where the conference was held and made all the appropriate travel arrangements.

After checking into their hotel room Sunday, the Knoxville, Tenn., residents watched the NCAA Tournament Selection Show to see their hometown Vols would arrive in Providence later that week for the first round games.

"We are just here by happenstance," Hardy said. "I am at a meeting that happens to be at this hotel this week. This meeting has been scheduled for almost a year."

Tuesday morning Hardy descended to the lobby to see hotel employees decked out in Big Orange apparel. Could this be a coincidence? Then he observed a banner with a welcome message for the Tennessee Volunteers basketball team.

Not only were the Vols going to be in the same town, they were staying in the same hotel.

"I had no idea where they would be seeded. We saw the show and saw they would be in Providence," Hardy said. "When I saw the big sign, it was just unbelievable."

Later Tuesday evening, the buses carrying the Vols arrived at the hotel to find two of their faithful fans from Rocky Top waiting in the lobby.

"We waited for the team to show up," Hardy said. "It was great. We have been following Vol basketball for a long time. We love Bruce and how he has built this program.

"We got to talk to coach Pearl and Mike Hamilton. It has been so exciting to be in the middle of all this because we had no expectation that it would happen."

Bill and his wife don't have tickets to Tennessee's Thursday matchup with San Diego State, as they made plans to travel to Montreal. But they will catch the game on TV.

Oh, and they hadn't planned on being in St. Louis next weekend, either.





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