Tennessee’s bungled search for a coach

Published 8:00 pm Wednesday, November 29, 2017

There’s an old saying about the weather in the south, “If you don’t like it, wait a minute and it will change.”

The same can be said of the University of Tennessee’s search for a new head football coach. If you don’t like the current prospective coach du jour, wait a bit and it will change.

With the exception of a few times during the year, I try not to write about sports, but the soap opera developing in “Knocksville” is reaching ridiculous proportions.

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Tommy Tuberville, the former Ole Miss, Auburn, Texas Tech and Cincinnati head coach and present color “expert” commentator for ESPN, was quoted this past weekend saying the situation at Tennessee made him embarrassed to be part of college football. I agree with him. I expressed similar views in a 2015 column about LSU’s poor behavior when it tried to fire, not to fire, fire, not fire Les Miles at the close of the 2015 season.

Tennessee’s performance to date makes my alma mater’s bungling in 2015 look almost intelligent. The actions of the powers that be in the University of  Tennessee’s comedy of errors looks like the work of three people — Moe, Larry and Curley. They were so quick to push Phillip Fulmer out the door after the 2008 season to find a more dynamic coach. Their efforts since have produced a series of losers and caused fans to start wearing bags as they sat in Neyland Stadium. After firing Butch Jones a few weeks ago, they went back on the carousel.

First, the school’s athletic director tried to woo the perceived savior, John Gruden, who is every other college’s perceived savior, to Rocky Top. Gruden, however, isn’t leaving his cushy ESPN job.

The administration fell to mob rule when it was announced they planned to hire Greg Schiano from Ohio State because of an alleged link to the Jerry Sandusky child abuse scandal at Penn State. Whether Shiano, who was an assistant at Penn State at the time, was in someway involved or not, I don’t know. But he and every other Penn State assistant coach from that period is tainted by the scandal regardless if they were somehow involved or not.

After Schiano, they approached Duke coach David Cutcliff, a former Tennessee offensive coordinator and former Ole Miss head coach who is now head coach at Duke. He declined. So did Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy, even when the Vols offered a reported $42 million. Wednesday, it was announced they were hiring Purdue coach Jeff Brohm; that was being shot down as I write this. It may change.

This is insanity, and the people who will suffer most from all this idiocy and bungling is the players; the kids who made a commitment to come to Tennessee and play football because they were promised a good program and a chance, for most, to get an education. They are the true victims, in all this drama, and that’s what’s most embarrassing.

John Surratt is a staff writer for The Vicksburg Post. You may reach him at john.surratt@vicksburgpost.com.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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