I like Clay Travis. I'm not one of those scorned Bama or Auburn fans who are angry with Clay for having exposed some shady aspect of their respective football program. I'm not one of those holier-than-thou bloggers who thinks every sports website should be held to the same high journalistic standards as a print newspaper. If Clay, or anyone else for that matter, wants to publish pictures of college players in really expensive suits or report the retail price of an athlete's high dollar vehicle and use some deductive reasoning to infer that a violation might have taken place, I have no problem with it. OutkicktheCoverage.com is Clay's website to do with whatever he wishes.
After Tennessee's loss to Georgia on Saturday night, Clay published this article on his website that states that Derek Dooley will be firmly on the hot seat if his Vols don't win in the remainder of the month of October.
Clay is a great writer. Clay has a great website. Clay is DEAD WRONG on this issue.
I live in Nashville and am a listener of The 3 Hour Lunch, the radio program on 104.5 FM that Clay co-hosts with Brent Dougherty and Blaine Bishop. Those guys have been tremendously successful as a result of identifying exactly what the market wants. Nashville is, at its core, a college sports town disguised as a pro sports city. Clay and the guys on 3HL have recognized that Nashville is an SEC melting pot where alumni and fans of Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Alabama, Auburn, and Kentucky, as well as other schools all come together to live and work. In response, they focus intently on SEC athletics, namely football. Sure, they cover our beloved Titans and will talk Predators when the time is right, but for the most part it is an SEC-centric radio program. While other sports radio shows in Music City (even on that same station) talk incessantly about American League standings or NHL free agency, Clay, Brent, and Blaine have given listeners what they want.
Clay is a lifelong Tennessee fan and even wrote the book, "On Rocky Top" which detailed the final year in the storied career of Phillip Fulmer. It was a great read, and I highly recommend it to anyone who has ever pulled for the Big Orange.
What Clay wrote on Saturday night after Georgia's 20-12 victory in Neyland Stadium was the result of a lifelong Tennessee fan allowing his emotional investment to cloud his thinking and therefore write an article that was poorly thought out and ultimately faulty in its premise.
There are a lot of points in Clay's article with which I agree. I think Tennessee will lose the rest of their October contests giving them a record of 3-5 at the end of the month. Clay writes, "Lose that one (South Carolina) and Dooley will be 3-5 with a road game at Arkansas. Lose that one and the Vols will be 3-6 for the third time in four years." The only problem is, of course, that mathematically the Vols can't be 3-6 after the Arkansas game, regardless of the outcome. Tennessee plays MTSU on November 5th before traveling to Arkansas on November 12th. If Tennessee can beat the Blue Raiders then they will go into Fayetteville with a record of no worse than 4-5. The whole "3-6 for the third time in four years" thing is off the table, unless of course MTSU beats Tennessee. After the scare Memphis put into Middle Tennessee, I don't think Clay is ready to make that prediction.
But, so what? Clay overlooked an opponent on the schedule. Anybody who writes is going to make errors in research. It happens. His bigger point remains. Derek Dooley should be on the hot seat, right?
Not exactly. The most compelling argument that Clay makes for placing Dooley on the hot seat is that he is a lifetime .500 coach. Clay writes, "why should Tennessee fans expect anything else from Derek Dooley? He's a .500 coach." Clay goes on to say, basically, that when an SEC program hires a coach they should open the bank and get a proven guy. He sites the ever-popular Saban to Bama move as his reasoning behind this line of thought. Alabama paid Saban a bizillion dollars, why can't Tennessee do the same?
The answer, of course, is that no one does. There are a really small handful of proven head-coaching winners that are alive in the United States today. I will agree that Nick Saban is certainly one of those. But, who else is out there? Who can Tennessee reasonably expect to hire that would be in the same stratosphere as the Saban to Bama move? You think Bill Belichick wants to leave the comforts of Tom Brady to beg moms in Mississippi to let him coach their sons? You think Tony Dungy wants to leave the comfort of that NBC studio to go back to 80 hour work weeks planning for spread offenses? You think Urban Meyer, oh nevermind, you get the point. Nick Saban's are hard to come by.
But Clay isn't alone. That line of thinking is prevalent among the Tennessee fan base. Bama bought Saban, why can't we?
Alabama is the exception, not the rule. Sure, the Tide paid big bucks for Nick Saban, and in doing so achieved a really quick rise back to relevancy. That is not the model that other college programs follow. Proven winners are scarce. When LSU gave Saban a shot back in 2000, do you know what his winning percentage at Michigan State had been? .576. The great Nick Saban was little more than a .500 football coach when one of the big boys gave him a shot. Then Saban left and the Tigers hired Les Miles. What do you think the career winning percentage was for the National Championship winning head coach of the currently #1 ranked LSU Tigers was before he came to Baton Rouge? Les Miles posted a .571 mark at Oklahoma State. In 2010, Gene Chizik led the Auburn Tigers to the top of the college football world, but do you know what his winning percentage was before he had everyone on The Plains screaming War Eagle? A paltry .208.
The point is, Saban, Miles, and Chizik are the head men for three of the country's most elite programs. They didn't all come with a cookie cutter national championship resume'. Someone had to hire these guys when the record indicated it might be a bit of a risk.
To fire Derek Dooley now would only set the program back and slow the rebuilding process that has been put in place. Tennessee wasn't going to win in October of 2011 (after the Buffalo game on 10/1) regardless of who the coach might be. The decisions made in the previous seasons assured that 2010 and 2011 were going to be challenging even if Mike Hamilton hired Vince Lombardi. (Speaking of Super Bowls, I hear Jon Gruden has land in East Tennessee. JOKING, only joking.)
Tennessee is not short-changing the fans by not spending money to hire a proven winner. Proven winners already have money. Proven winners don't need programs who fired a hall of famer three short years ago. If a proven winner was the answer then Tennessee would have never let one walk out the door after the 2008 season.
Clay's article was the result of either one of two things: 1. He was genuinely frustrated that his favorite team lost another SEC game and was so mad he spewed the whole "let's hire a Saban" theory all over his column, OR 2. He is smarter than any of us and just wanted a headline that would generate traffic to his new site.
I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and say he wanted a quick traffic boost on OutKickTheCoverage.com. Anyone who thinks Derek Dooley should be on the hot seat after just 18 games following the turmoil that Tennessee football experienced in 2008 and 2009 isn't thinking clearly.