The landscape within the University of Tennessee Athletic Department, is much different today than it was just a few years ago. No longer are there separate athletic departments for men and women. No longer does the U.T. football team call the top 25 poll or even the top 10, home. Crowds of 100,000 plus at Neyland Stadium are a thing of the past. Phillip Fulmer and Pat Summitt, two legendary coaches at Tennessee, no longer walk the sidelines. All these things happened within a five year period, which shows you how quickly things can change in college sports.
This past weekend was not a good one at all for the Big Orange. On Friday night, Lady Vols Coach Holly Warlick brought her first team to Chattanooga and lost to Wes Moore and the Lady Mocs, 80-71. On Saturday, the Tennessee football team played perhaps their best single half of football all season long, leading Missouri 21-7 at halftime…..only to lose to the Tigers in four overtimes. On Sunday, rumors were rampant about a coaching change in Knoxville.” Derek Dooley is definitely out, and the search is on for a replacement.” The Vols are now 4-6, with two games left on the schedule. They play at Vanderbilt this weekend in Nashville, and close the season at Kentucky in two weeks. If the Vols win both, they finish 6-6 and will be bowl eligible. Lose just one, and they’ve clinched their second straight losing season.
There is no doubt in my mind that Coach Holly Warlick will straighten her team out and the Lady Vols will have a successful season. But as for U.T. football, it’s back to the drawing board. After having just two successful head coaches at Tennessee for 32 seasons,(Johnny Majors and Phillip Fulmer) the Vols will soon have their fourth head coach in four years.
When Coach Fulmer was let go in 2008, I joked at the time that, “We have just become Alabama.” The Crimson Tide went through eight different head coaches after Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant stepped down in 1982. Only Gene Stallings had any real success, winning the National Championship in 1992. The eighth coach in that long list is Nick Saban, who has won two NCAA Titles in his first five seasons in Tuscaloosa. Alabama finally found their guy; one who made every single member of the Crimson Tide Nation happy. However, it took eight hires and a total of twenty-five years to find him.
Tennessee fans get ready; it may be a long, long time before the Vols return to their days of glory. Whoever gets the job when the axe finally falls on Derek Dooley, will inherit some decent talent on offense, but the cupboard may be a bit empty on defense. Realistically, the U.T. defenders are just a couple of junior college transfers in a good recruiting class away from being very competitive, but again it is going to take a good solid hire as defensive coordinator to make that happen.
So, this is where we stand Big Orange Nation; We’re looking for a new head football coach, who can recruit, and who will put together a great staff to help Tennessee become relevant again in the SEC. Is it Jon Gruden, is it Kirby Smart, is it Charlie Strong, or is it someone completely under the NCAA coaching radar? The official announcement regarding Coach Derek Dooley may not come for a while, but here’s hoping the powers that are really powers in Knoxville find the right guy. I’m too old to wait twenty-five years.
Randy Smith has been covering sports in Tennessee for the last 43 years. After leaving WRCB-TV in 2009, he has continued his broadcasting career as a free-lance play-by-play announcer. He is also an author and is a media concepts teacher at Brainerd High School in Chattanooga. He is also the Head Softball Coach at Brainerd. Randy Smith's career has included a 17-year stint as scoreboard host and pre-game talk show host on the widely regarded "Vol Network". He has also done play by play of more than 500 college football, basketball, baseball and softball games on ESPN, ESPN2, Fox Sports, CSS and Tennessee Pay Per View telecasts. He was selected as "Tennessee's Best Sports Talk Show Host" in 1998 by the Associated Press. He has won other major awards including, "Best Sports Story" in Tennessee and his "Friday Night Football" shows on WRCB-TV twice won "Best Sports Talk Show In Tennessee" awards. He has also been the host of "Inside Lee University Basketball" on CSS for the past 11 years. He was the first television broadcaster to ever be elected to the "Greater Chattanooga Area Sports Hall of Fame", in 2003. Randy and his wife, Shelia, reside in Hixson. They have two married children (Christi and Chris Perry; Davey and Alison Smith). They also have three grandchildren (Coleman, Boone, and DellaMae).