Well it came from a lady. Gloria Ray. She was the first female athletic director of women's sports at the University of Tennessee; a position she took over in 1977 after coaching women's tennis at UT. Here is what she said about creating the Lady Vols brand:
"It was fun being in on the very beginning and coming up with the name, 'Lady Vols' which at that time was controversial. I came up with a bumper sticker that said, 'Lady Vols, too.' There was a fear that a women's team would hurt the football team, so we wanted to put out the message that it's Lady Vols, too, in addition to the men, not in place of the men."
Still controversial--well maybe just among the people I hang with--but for different reasons of course. Then it was the mere existence of women's sports that was controversial, today it's having to differentiate them arguably in a way the makes them seem inferior.
And as we all know now--nothing has hurt big-time football, certainly not women's sports.
[I'm going tangential here so hang on...]
I have this theory that like the Roman Empire, football will get too big for itself and will implode. In other words--it's only hurting itself.
(Note the metaphor is based on my vague memory of ninth grade world history.)
I still find it hard to believe that people in the 70s really thought women's sports were going to replace men's sports. I think I want to go back to that time when people were actually a little bit afraid of feminism.