Category Archives: Because Nothing Sucks Like A Big Orange

When life imitates snark

I thought I was just kidding the other day when I mentioned that Tennessee’s AD search should turn its eye Phillip Fulmer’s way, but it turns out somebody’s taking that seriously.

The latest twist in Tennessee’s saga of a search for a new athletic director certainly is an intriguing one.

The possibility of former Volunteers football coach Phillip Fulmer becoming the university’s athletic director gained traction this past weekend, and ESPN on Monday reported that Fulmer was a “prime candidate” to replace the outgoing Dave Hart.

When reached for comment by ESPN’s Chris Low, Fulmer neither addressed the athletic director job nor ruled himself out as a candidate, according to the report.

“Since I was 18 years old, UT’s best interests have always been my interest,” Fulmer told ESPN. “I want what is best for UT. (New chancellor) Dr. (Beverly) Davenport has laid out a clear process, and we have to respect the time and her vision to complete that process.”

USA Today also reported Fulmer’s emergence as a viable candidate.

Tennessee’s search process, according to USA Today, has been “murky at best and highly political,” and now “a group of influential boosters have been working behind the scenes to help install” Fulmer as the new athletic director, the national newspaper said.

One can only hope for the resurrection of donut jokes, so I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself here.  Fulmer has no previous experience as an athletic director, but at Tennessee, I’m not sure he could do any worse in certain regards than the last two guys he would succeed in the position.  Certainly, he would usher in a new relaxed relationship with the local constabulary.

But all falls short of the single best take on his potential hire that I saw yesterday, which would be this.

Now that’s an area where Fulmer has experience.

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Truer words were never spoken.

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Does Booch need a scapegoat?

Your team, expected to contend for a conference title in 2016, didn’t even win its division.

You hired a hot-shot defensive coordinator who was expected to shore up that side of the ball for you; instead, it finished finished 95th in total defense.  But he’s got a big contract and it’s only one season, so it’s not like there’s much you can do about him right now.  (Especially since you’ve already lost your offensive coordinator to Indiana.)

Your secondary was ravaged by injuries, which caused you to deploy 11 different starting combinations during the regular season.  Bad luck.

So, given all that, what’s the next step?  Why, put Willie Martinez on the hot seat, of course.  At least it’s something he’s used to.

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Meanwhile, Knoxville waits.

Butch Jones is shopping for new staff while Tennessee is searching for a new boss for Booch… well, kinda, sorta searching.

Speaking of difficult situations, Tennessee has done Jones no favors by dragging out its search for a new athletic director to replace Dave Hart, whose retirement was announced last August.

There have been conflicting reports as to whether the university is hiring the same search firm it most recently used to land men’s basketball coach Rick Barnes or just using the one with which it has a long-term contract. Raja Jubran, vice chairman of Tennessee’s board of trustees, told Sports Radio WNML’s Jimmy Hyams it might be the spring before Hart’s replacement chosen.

“Hopefully we will get someone on board one or two months before Dave Hart retires (at the end of June),” Jubran told Hyams. “It could be April or May.”

New chancellor Beverly Davenport will assume her role officially on Feb. 15 and will have input on that hire.

UTC athletic director David Blackburn continues to receive much public support. The Knoxville-based Copper Cellar Family of Restaurants this week endorsed Blackburn to become the Vols’ new athletic director. One of the restaurants, Calhoun’s, is among the concessions available in Neyland Stadium.

The company’s social media post, which received more than 2,600 responses on Twitter, stated it was time to put the Vols “back in the hands of a Tennessean.”

Guys making pitches from the concessions stands?  Hell, why not?  By the way, if it’s a Tennessean you want, Phil Fulmer is tanned, rested and ready.

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Butch Jones IS 2016’s champion of life.

Really.  Just ask him.

Unless he’s got guys calling him to ask how he managed to hang on to his job after blowing a division title that was offered up to him on a platter, color me skeptical.

Which isn’t to say I’m not amused.  Ass covering Booch is the best Booch, after all.

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The cost of doing business

Free at last!

The checks will no longer be in the mail for Derek Dooley.

The University of Tennessee was scheduled to make its final payment to its former football coach this month as part of his buyout four years ago.

Dooley was fired by Tennessee on Nov. 18, 2012, with one game remaining in the regular season. The university had to pay $5 million to buy out the remainder of Dooley’s contract. The guaranteed payments were due in installments of $102,049 per month through December of this year.

The university owed Dooley’s entire staff nearly $9.36 million in potential buyout money, including $645,000 guaranteed to Jim Chaney, who is now the offensive coordinator at Georgia.

(Chaney’s buyout payments only ran through 2013, so don’t get any ideas about Agent Chaney.)

If you think UT’s learned its lesson, pay attention to this:  “Tennessee would owe Jones $10.625 million in buyout money beginning this month if he was fired without cause.”  Of course, Booch has almost doubled SOD’s win total, so doubling the buyout kinda makes sense.

Question — if schools had to pay players, would they negotiate clauses like this with coaches?

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“The culture is a disaster.”

Wow.  Talk about scathing

Those close to Jones paint the picture of a good man with good intentions — but one who struggles with insecurity.

“Butch is not very comfortable in his own skin,” one source told us. “Until he has that, he’ll just never be a great coach. He’s not comfortable in his own skin in recruiting, play-calling, organization …

“He’s great in a small setting, but he’s just not a comfortable guy.”

Jones won at Central Michigan and Cincinnati, but Tennessee is his first Power 5-level job.

“It’s like he doesn’t think he should be there,” the source said. “It’s like he doesn’t think he belongs. And that permeates through the program. Everyone feels that.”

Another source inside the building wondered if this point — 29-21 in four seasons — constituted a career crossroads for Jones.

“I think Butch is still growing as a coach, but he needs to make a decision that this is the level he wants to be at,” the source said. “I’m not sure that it is.”

The source added that Jones tendency to bicker with reporters is indicative of a coach unsure of himself and his position.

“Why would you lecture the media?” the source said. “You can’t have a slogan that says ‘Own It’ and then not own it when it comes time. People will follow true leaders through brick walls, but if you talk and don’t back it up, you turn over your shoulder and no one is there.”

Read the rest of the piece.  If it’s accurate, describing Tennessee as being in disarray is an vast understatement.  And as messy as 2016 was, 2017 looks like it could be even messier.

For now, Jones is still on the job. A $10 million buyout and Tennessee’s uncertain athletic director situation make a move all but impossible, even amid profound frustration.

Is there hope for 2017? Or is this a matter of time and buyout arithmetic?

For one, sources have told us that the staff will look different.

Notably, GoVols247 has reported that Los Angeles Rams strength coach Rock Gullickson, a longtime associate of Jones’, is a frontrunner to take over the strength and conditioning program. There’s optimism that Gullickson, or whoever takes over the department, will again restore toughness and discipline.

Also, sources said many of the players who were “coddled” are not returning. The sense is that a team with fewer stars “might actually play as a team.” But one source wanted to be clear that several Vols veterans in 2016, such as Dobbs and end Derek Barnett on defense, were quality leaders.

“We had some guys who showed up to work every day,” the source said. “I just wish we had more of them.”

Additionally, as many as four assistant coaches could be out, though 247Sports has already reported that neither offensive coordinator Mike DeBord nor defensive coordinator Bob Shoop are expected to be fired. It’s still possible that DeBord retires or is reassigned, sources have told us.

The AD piece of the puzzle could soon be settled, as well. Sources have indicated to 247Sports that things are progressing toward Chattanooga AD David Blackburn being hired within weeks to replace the retiring Dave Hart at Tennessee.

The only silver lining if you’re a UT fan is that Blackburn looks like he would be a quality hire as the next AD.  If you’re not a UT fan, though, feel free to grab a bag of popcorn and settle in.

By the way, if Georgia can’t get past the Vols next season…

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Today, in bidness decisions

Tennessee football, don’t ever change.

I’m sure the prospect of Booch managing Smith’s future made an enormous difference, big enough that this was merely an irrelevant coincidence.

In the summer Tennessee hired Ashley Smith, Trey’s sister, to work in the football program with the title of executive assistant to the head coach.

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Filed under Because Nothing Sucks Like A Big Orange, Blowing Smoke, Recruiting