It’s hard enough for the University of Tennessee to win football games but a ferocious feud between the Volunteer athletic department and The Pride of the Southland band has caused Dr. Gary Sousa to be accused of “shockingly insubordinate” actions and to be effectively banned from the Knoxville campus for the remainder of the year.
Dr. Sousa, who has been Director of Bands at UT since 1997, has been placed on “administrative leave” and, according to a letter written by university Provost Susan Martin earlier this week, the embattled director must “obtain advance written permission” from School of Music Director Jeffery Pappas to even set foot on the campus. Further, he is to have no contact with any students.
Dr. Sousa, riled that “The Pride” was not allowed to travel to away games at Oregon or Missouri this fall due to budget constraints, was critical that rap music was broadcast over Neyland Stadium loudspeakers while the band was performing during the Georgia game on Oct. 5. He complained the athletic department had cut his budget and that new marketing methods were infringing on times during a game when the band could perform.
The director of bands outlined his concerns in a terse letter to UT Chancellor Jimmy Cheek last week and was promptly rebutted by the chancellor, who wrote, “You will not earn my support through threats, petulance, public disruption or whining.”
Cheek also wrote, “To suggest that I have not been responsive to your concerns is absurd, and I will not reward your unprofessional behavior by taking up your substantive complaints now. Be clear, however, that if you repeat your recent actions, I will not respond with this same restraint.”
And you thought tackle football was rough? Apparently Dr. Sousa is a tenured professor and as petitions, charges and counter-charges clutter the “Big Orange – Big Ideas” landscape, Don Ryder, who has been a member of the Music Department for 14 years, will serve as interim director for the rest of the year.
The football team, now 3-3, will be an underdog to nationally-ranked South Carolina in Knoxville tomorrow afternoon. The Pride of the Southland Band is scheduled to play in Chattanooga at Miller Park next Friday at noon as it journeys to Tuscaloosa for next weekend’s game against Alabama.
That said, here is how I am picking this week’s top football games.
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No. 15 GEORGIA (4-2, 3-1 SEC) at VANDERBILT (3-3, 0-3 SEC), 12:00 Noon on CBS -- Injuries have decimated the Bulldogs but last Saturday’s 41-26 loss to Missouri was the most painful moment of the season. UGa reported that at least 10 players are questionable for this game but I expect RB Todd Gurley may be back to join all-star QB Aaron Murray in this one. The Bulldogs are an 8-point pick over the now-rested Commodores. Vandy could be tough at home, particularly with last Saturday’s bye giving James Franklin an extra week to plan, but I’m thinking the Bulldogs will come to Nashville in a very bad mood. MY PICK? Georgia, 31-15.
No. 11 SOUTH CAROLINA (5-1, 3-1 SEC) at TENNESSEE (3-3, 0-2 SEC), 12:00 Noon on ESPN – After winning four straight, the Gamecocks are being touted as Alabama’s probable opponent in the SEC championship game but UT could throw a wrench into any such plans if they play USC the same way they took Georgia into overtime. Carolina is favored by 7, a great sign that respect is returning to Knoxville, but the hunch is USC is better than that with more skill athletes. QB Connor Shaw is seeking a big game against the Vols’ young secondary and, while you have to remember UT got a breather last week, USC’s 52-7 road win over Arkansas was downright scary. MY PICK? South Carolina, 36-17.
TEXAS CHRISTIAN (3-3) at No. 21 OKLAHOMA STATE (4-1), 12:00 Noon – The Frogs’ defense is ranked second in the Big 12 right now and OSU looked awful in the 33-29 win over Kansas State so this one bears watching. True, the top 3 Cowboy receivers didn’t play against KSU but last week’s bye and the fact this one is at home is why OSU is a 7 ½ favorite. The Frogs’ secondary is pretty sporty so a smart guy just may want the points tomorrow. MY PICK? Oklahoma State, 24-20.
No. 16 TEXAS TECH (6-0) at WEST VIRGINIA (3-3), 12:00 Noon – It has been almost two weeks since WVa had to endure that 73-42 whipping at Baylor and all the Mountaineers have heard about are those 8 TDs they allowed. Poor TTU, unbeaten but still out of the Top 10, is just an 8-point favorite so remember the Mountaineers are 3-0 at home this fall. The hunch is Tech, regardless who starts at QB, will prevail because the Raiders are still on a roll. MY PICK? Texas Tech, 37-31.
No. 22 FLORIDA (4-2, 3-1 SEC) at No. 14 MISSOURI (6-0, 2-0 SEC), 12:21 p.m. on SEC TV – Florida has now lost seven starters for the year but none of them can compare to Missouri QB James Franklin being lost for 3-to-5 weeks. Franklin is UM’s bell-cow and, without him, Florida’s speed – particularly on that swarming defense – will bring the Tigers back to reality. Yes, the Georgia win was the biggest in years but the other five victories don’t reveal much -- so just how good is Mizzou? Florida was scrappy in the grinding 17-6 loss to LSU so I’m thinking the smart move is to take the Gators and the three points. MY PICK? Florida, 24-17.
No. 24 AUBURN (5-1, 2-1 SEC) at No. 7 TEXAS A&M (5-1, 2-1 SEC), 3:30 p.m. on CBS – The Aggies, with surely one of the most dynamic players in all the land, squeaked out a 41-38 win over Ole Miss last Saturday – one week after Auburn beat the Rebs by 8 – so the thing to remember is this time Johnny Football is playing at home. Both teams are 5-1 but there is a world of difference in A&M’s talent vs. first-year coach Gus Malzahn’s stable. A&M is a 14-point favorite and, while the Tigers scored a shameful 62 against Western Carolina last week, the thinking is that the Aggie team we’ll see tomorrow will be more like the one that scored 42 against the Crimson Tide defense. MY PICK? Texas A&M, 38-21.
No. 9 UCLA (5-0) at No. 13 STANFORD (5-1), 3:30 p.m. (ABC) – To those who feel Utah ruined this marque game last week with that 27-21 win over the Cardinal, I would remind them the Bruins escaped the Utes by a narrow 34-27 margin just nine days before. Stanford has dropped to 11th in the Pac-12 in defense and that’s huge with UCLA averaging 45.8 points per game. UCLA is favored by a scant 6 but it seems to me you bet on a winning horse until the sun finally sets. MY PICK? UCLA, 42-30.
IOWA (4-2) at No. 4 OHIO STATE (6-0), 3:30 p.m. on ABC – The unbeaten Buckeyes are averaging 492 yards per game in offense with QB Braxton Miller clicking. Both teams come off a bye week and a good bet is Kirk Fernandez will have his Hawkeyes ready to throw 50 times. OSU is yielding less than 100 yards against the run but giving up nearly 250 yards in each game to the pass. OSU is a 17-point favorite because the guys can light it up. With fresh legs, this shouldn’t be that hard to figure out. MY PICK? Ohio State, 41-24.
No. 20 WASHINGTON (4-2) at ARIZONA STATE (4-2), 6:00 p.m. on Pac-12 Network – After suffering back to back losses to Stanford and Oregon, UW has a tall order against ASU. Devil QB Taylor Kelly is seventh in the nation in total offense with 355 yards per game -- 327.5 of it throwing the ball. The Huskies are giving up less than 20 points a game and soph receiver Jaelin Strong is averaging 111 yards catching a game. UW is a 4-point underdog but since this one is in Tempe, let’s figure ASU will be in the Top 25 next week instead of Washington. MY PICK? Arizona State, 28-21.
ARKANSAS (3-4, 0-3 SEC) at No. 1 ALABAMA (6-0, 3-0 SEC), 7:00 p.m. on ESPN – There was a point during the first half of this season where Alabama didn’t allow a touchdown for 14 straight quarters and that wasn’t until the third quarter of last week’s 42-7 triumph at Kentucky. So as the Tide defense gears up to smash an Arkansas that has only scored 17 points in the last two games, also remember A&M and Florida scored a combined 82 against the badly-bruised Razorbacks. First-year coach Bert Bielema now realizes the week-in, week-out gauntlet the SEC demands and to say he is looking forward to an idle Saturday next week is an understatement. ‘Bama is favored by 28. MY PICK? Alabama, 45-7.
No. 6 LSU (6-1, 3-1 SEC) at OLE MISS (3-3, 1-3 SEC), 7:00 p.m. on ESPN2 – Reb QB Bo Wallace was sensational against the Texas A&M defense and Hugh Freeze made the Aggies come from behind to win it but this week that won’t happen – LSU has found its balance between QB Zach Mettenberger and all-purpose sensation Odell Beckham Jr. The Tigers are also mindful this is the last stern test before the Nov. 9 date with Alabama (they host Furman next week before an idle Saturday) so you can expect more aggressive, daring play than the way LSU played Florida. The Tigers are favored by 7 ½ and if that doesn’t remind you of how Georgia was such bettor’s feast before the UT game, I don’t know what does. MY PICK? LSU, 31-13.
No. 5 FLORIDA STATE (5-0) at No. 3 CLEMSON (6-0), 8:00 p.m. – Alright, the third-ranked team in the nation is catching three points and has Tajh Boyd at QB (88 career TD passes) throwing to Sammy Watkins (22 TDs). Wow! While FSU QB “Famous Jameis” is a dazzling delight (2nd nationally in efficiency), this one is in Death Valley where coach Dabo Sweeney wins 90 percent. This could be the best game of the year and, if it is close, remember that UC kicker Chris Catanzaro is 31-of-33 with his toe. MY PICK? Clemson, 34-28.
SEC TEAMS THAT ARE IDLE
KENTUCKY (1-5, 0-3 SEC) and MISSISSIPPI STATE (3-3, 0-2 SEC) will play Thursday, Oct. 24, in Starkville.
AND ONE MORE
UT-CHATTANOOGA (4-2, 2-1 SoCon) at ELON (2-5, 1-2 SoCon), 1:30 p.m. – The Mocs, catching their stride with victories by 21 and 22 points in the last two weeks, will again be a large favorite tomorrow against The Phoenix. Elon, located in the north-central part of the state, had a healthy 14-point lead against Wofford before fading to lose, 31-27. UTC needs more out of the passing game before hosting Citadel next week and then visiting Appy State but premier defender David Tull regained his All-American stature last week and winning tomorrow is a building block. MY PICK? Chattanooga, 32-15.