I am the Button Lady.  What is a button?
n.  a badge or emblem bearing a name, slogan, identifying figure for wear on the lapel, dress:  campaign buttons.

I always wear metallic school buttons to games.  I have collected buttons for years.  My oldest button is a VOLS one that is very faded

Tennessee Vols button photo by Kathy Miller

and slightly nicked up.

My friend Robin has an even older one….

Robin & Kathy's antique Tennessee buttons photo by Kathy Miller

Go Vols Go

When our family moved to Florida from Tennessee, I knew I would have to be subtle in my support for my Alma Mater. Instead of team tee shirts I decided to wear buttons. A Tennessee button.  Even when tailgating at the University of Florida, I remain true to my school.  I wear a big T button.  When people ask why I am wearing a Tennessee button, I always reply, “Tennessee is playing somewhere today”.

I also always wear a Gator Mom button.

Gator Mom button photo by Kathy Miller

This gets me out of The Swamp alive.

My third game day button is an orange and blue “Beat Everyone” button, with an “except Tennessee” added by one of my nieces.  Beat Everybody except Tennessee photo by Kathy Miller

I love that button!

I have a very special story involving my buttons.  Please bear with me and hear the story.  It may take a while to evolve, but I promise you…it is special.

By now you know I have strong ties to both the University of Tennessee and the University of Florida.

The story below is about Pat Summitt, the longtime Lady Vols Basketball Coach.  She is a role model for our family.  Pat began coaching the Lady Vols when I was a sophomore at UT.  The team sold donuts to raise money for uniforms.  My husband, Dave, is a Duke graduate.  When our children were young we watched Pat’s Tennessee team win the national championship for the Lady Vols and Coach K’s Duke team win the national championship for the Duke men in the same year.  Our children had pictures taken in our oversized UT and Duke sweatshirts.

Lizzy & James in UT & Duke sweatshirts photo by Northlight Studio for Kathy Miller

Pat Summitt put the Lady Vols program in the history books.  She is the winningest coach in NCAA basketball history, including men’s or women’s.

And she has early-onset dementia-Alzheimer’s type.  I have seen nothing but remarkable support and love given to Pat Summitt as she battles this terrible disease.  The following story is a favorite in our family.

Tennessee/Florida games are always interesting in our house.  We are definitely a house divided.  I graduated from UT.  Dave, although a Duke graduate, is both a Volunteer and a Gator fan and yes that is an oxymoron.  Our children, Elizabeth and James, were raised Tennessee fans but decided to go to the University of Florida.  Their paternal grandfather, “Pops”, is a Florida alumni and supporter.

Pops a Bull Gator with Elizabeth photo by Kathy Miller

 Their maternal grandmother, aunts, uncles and cousins are Tennessee fans.

Sarah, Grandma & Katie Tennessee fans photo by Kathy Miller

With the exception of Hannah and Kelly who were raised Tennessee fans but became Florida Dazzlers.

Hannah & Kelly Florida Dazzlers photo by Kathy Miller

Whew!  House Divided!

We began a new family tradition in September 2006.  For the first time we went to the Tennessee/Florida football game in Knoxville in “divided colors”.  Most of us had on our Tennessee garb.  Elizabeth and James had on their Gator tees.

Elizabeth and James in Gator T with Grandma photo by Kathy Miller

The following year we went to the Tennessee/Florida game in Gainesville.

Our family has a Gator house, a place Pops bought to use during football weekends.  It is on University, very close to the stadium.  We tailgate at Pops’ Place or at James’ fraternity, Sigma Nu.

Remember, I always wear buttons on game day.  As we walked to the game we passed a guy on the corner of University and 21st.  He was heckling the UT fans with a bull horn.  We chuckled as we made our way to the Swamp.  The game did not go well for Tennessee.  I was very disappointed with the UT score.  I left the game early.  The  Bull Horn Guy was still on the corner heckling UT fans.  As I approached  this guy with a determined gleam in my eye, he said, “Uh Oh!  Here comes Pat Summitt!”  He saw my Tennessee button.  I couldn’t help but laugh.  Although Pat Summitt is famous as the UT Lady Vols head basketball coach, not everyone in Florida and especially at a Florida football game knows who she is.  I spoke with this gentleman and when he saw my Gator Mom button, we parted on good terms.

Fast forward 2 years.  Tennessee is back in Gainesville for the Florida game.  As our group strolls to the Sigma Nu house for tailgating we see a huge banner hanging from the balcony.  It says, “The Gentlemen of Sigma Nu Welcome Alumni, Family, Friends and Special Guest….Pat Summitt”!  James’ fraternity brothers had heard the story of the bull horn guy calling me Pat Summitt.  My favorite picture is of us standing on the porch under that banner.

Florida Sigma Nu house with Pat Summitt sign photo by Kathy Miller

I always wondered if people passing by the house on their way to the game thought, “What is Pat Summitt doing at the Florida Sigma Nu house?”

I could not have been more pleased  being compared to Pat Summitt.  She will always have a special place in the heart of our family and the hearts of sports fans everywhere.

Watch for upcoming stories from my tailgating travels.  I welcome your comments, recipes and any inside information about your favorite tailgating spots.

Come celebrate with me.  I’ll save you a seat at the table!


  • Robin Leonard says:

    I loved your button blog! Of course I would, having the oldest button. It will be either 34 or 35 years old this season. It has held up better than its owner!! Keep writing; I am enjoying the stories.

  • sec1fan says:

    I think you are holding your own! Much better than the button. Your button sure looks better than mine!

  • sec1fan says:

    Auburn story coming up next

  • Sue Braddock says:

    Great blog, Kathy, and I love all the photos!

  • Kay says:

    Love all the pics!

  • Laura Huffman says:

    I love your stories Kathy! I wish I had that football scene in my family – attending tailgates, the rivalries…. it all sounds like so much fun! I’m so happy for the paintings, the blog, and all you have accomplished. Wow, it’s very impressive! I miss you!!

  • sec1fan says:

    You are a part of our football family. After all you think of me when you drive past Neyland Stadium in Knoxville on your way to Nashville or back to LA. Steve and Jen have been to Gator basketball games with us. Jen even dressed up like a Rowdy Reptile. Steve of course was rooting for Vanderbilt!

    Miss you too California girl!

  • Charlie Albright says:

    Kathy, you circled the bases again with your commentary on the Florida/Georgia experience. I really enjoy your ability to put your readers at the tailgate party with a glass of Scotch, everyone talking at the same time, and speakers in the background blasting both schools fight songs. Thanks again for reviving those amazing memories. Charlie

  • Charlie Albright says:

    Well Kathy, you have done it again. Love reading about Florida/Tennessee. I always learn something. Keep’em coming please.

  • Joni says:

    Was so delighted to find your site! Born and raised a TN fan and alum with a family full of alums, we too moved to Florida. My daughter just started UF. Of course my mom is traveling down from TN and we are going to her first (my second) game in the swamp next weekend for the big rivalry. We will definitely wear our VOLS attire, but wanted to show our girl some support too. Thanks for the buttons idea and for letting us know we aren’t alone!

    • Thanks for your comment Joni! I love this post because it describes my family so well. I know how it feels to be at (in) the Swamp and feeling like I should be watching my Tennessee Vols playing somewhere. That is why I always wear a T button plus my Gator Mom button. Hope you enjoy you daughter’s years at Florida. They were good ones for our family. Gotta go, getting ready to watch Tennessee and Florida games on TV this week. Hope to see you in Gainesville next week.

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