Dec. 12, 2003
Mark Griffin likes things in threes.
He played basketball for the Vols under Don DeVoe from 1985-89 and ranks as one of Tennessee's best 3-point shooters ever with a 40.3-percent career mark, third on the Vols' all-time list. His senior season of 1988-89 is the second-best season mark for any Vol.
Now, he's getting his third degree. Griffin received his Professional MBA in ceremonies Friday.
"This has been the most exciting time for me in my career to finish my MBA," says Griffin, who received his bachelor's degree in marketing in 1989 and a master's degree in education in 1992, both from Tennessee. "I learned early on as a student-athlete that you need to concentrate on being a student. An education is something that will last well beyond your playing days.
"Most of us know we're not going to the professional ranks, although that's the goal. My goal was to network my connections at Tennessee on and off the court and to take that into the business world."
The Professional MBA is a 16-month program that is designed for working professionals within driving distance of Knoxville with classes meeting Saturdays and Tuesday evenings. Griffin chose to continue his education to expand his professional career. He's a district manager with Purdue Pharma, one of the fastest growing pharmaceutical companies in the world.
Griffin has always been in tune with the academic side of being a student-athlete as he was named Academic All-SEC three times during his playing days at Tennessee. On the court, he was a consistent threat from long-range from his sophomore year on when the 3-point line was added to college basketball. In 1986, he earned the team's Most Courageous Award, and in 1988 he was the team's free throw champion with a 77.3-percent mark.
"I think I'll be known more for my 3-point shots," Griffin says. "I hope I'll be known for hustling and playing as hard as I could."
He had some pretty good company on those teams from the late-1980s, with Tony White, Dyron Nix, Clarence Swearengen, Fred Jenkins and Greg Bell all donning the Orange the same time. White won back-to-back Southeastern Conference scoring titles in 1985-86 and 1986-87, while Nix won the scoring crown in 1987-88.
"Some of my best experiences at Tennessee actually occurred off the court," says Griffin, who played overseas in Australia and Austria. "I took great pride in wearing the orange and white, and I still do. We were like a family."
Those family ties are what inspire Griffin to keep track of his former teammates. And he wants to do everything he can to make sure they're getting their proper education, too.
In 2001, Griffin made the initial pledge of $25,000 to help endow a need-based scholarship to allow former scholarship players to return to school and get their degrees. Several of Griffin's teammates have since returned to The Hill to work toward their degree, including White and Jenkins.
"Every time I run into Fred or Tony - and I've talked to Greg Bell and Dyron Nix - I've always pushed for those guys to finish school as well," Griffin says. "One of my initiatives is to get as many former student-athletes as possible on track to finish their degree and get an education. (Basketball coach) Buzz Peterson and (Athletics Director) Mike Hamilton have encouraged former student-athletes to come back and finish their degree. That says a lot about the administration at Tennessee."
It says a lot that former student-athletes like Griffin have finished their degree. Or better yet-- three.