Congratulations to Tennessee’s new head football coach, whoever he is. You’re a lunatic, but congratulations nonetheless on being awarded one of the most prestigious coaching jobs in college football – yes, I can say that, even on the heels of three consecutive losing seasons – and all the wealth and recognition that go with the territory.
I can say that because the University of Tennessee bolsters one of the strongest traditions in college football, in the nation’s premier conference. I can say it because Neyland Stadium is still one of the sport’s historical landmarks and 100,000 fans still make weekly pilgrimages every fall. I can say it because I'm a damn madman.
Even so, the facilities at Tennessee are on par with anybody’s in the country. And, while the in-state talent isn’t elite, Knoxville is located deep in the heart of a football-crazed region and population centers like Charlotte, Atlanta and Cincinnati that routinely produce heaps of talent are all within driving distance.
Needless to say, buried underneath the dust of irrelevance, there is a job there that could still qualify as elite under the right circumstances. So, break out the shimmy and make this thing shine, you as of yet unnamed coach, you.
That may be a simplification, but this is certainly a position that offers the opportunity at tangible success. It’s just going to take a helluva lot of work.
The fanbase is irascible. They’re (notice it's THEY when the connotations are negative, and WE when they're positive) desperate for a winner, and they’re going to pin those incredibly lofty expectations on your chest. Wealth and recognition come at a high price. That’s one of life’s taxes.
You’re the first real hope the University of Tennessee has had in quite some time. In essence, you’re a loaf of bread tossed into a crowded city square, and Knoxville is starving.
If you’re not prepared for a ravenous fanbase and a media that now caters to that – their customers – then you’ll be devoured. On that same token, if you give them a product that they can stand behind they’ll love you unconditionally forever… or until you stop winning. Whichever comes first.
I can tell you with virtual certainty what comes next, win or lose. Win, and even if it’s only a brief period of success you’ll be celebrated for providing a respite during this program’s dimmest days. Lose, you’ll find yourself in that unenviable category of becoming a punch line, or even worse, a verb.
It’s never a good thing to have that name your daddy gave you become synonymous with some bedwetting of epic proportions.
Poor Vince Dooley.
The man who signed Herschel Walker and won the 1980 national championship at the University of Georgia saw his name lent to a rule and applied to general administrative mistakes. Oh, you had 13 players on the field? You just got Dooley’d. Having shower etiquette issues? DOOLEY’D.
That’s probably not what Vince, or even Derek for that matter, had in mind.
Don’t let that be you, Charlie Strong, Larry Fedora, Mike Gundy, Mike Grundy, Ghost of Bear Bryant, Butch Jones, Phil Fulmer
, Ghost of Johnny Majors, (Wait… Johnny Majors is still alive?) Real-live Johnny Majors, Real-live offensive mastermind Dave Clawson, or Internet zombie Jon Gruden (GRUMORS LIVE!!!!!!)
I don’t really care who it is, as long as it’s not Butch Davis. That letter absolving you from NCAA punishment is probably written in crayon, you clown, and we here at Tennessee take our academics VERY seriously.
(Image via @BrettHamBurger)
We’re a research university now. No, seriously. We made that decision consciously.
Stop laughing, it’s true.
Anyways, it doesn’t matter who it is. They’ll have to win and win quickly.
No problem, right? Not like you’re in the most dominant conference in college football or anything. Like I said, congratulations and good luck, whoever the hell you are.