Saturday, November 29, 2008

Tennessee's Gamble

It appears as though the University of Tennessee is about to hand the keys to it's multi-million dollar corporation, known as the UT football program, over to 30-something year old coach Lane Kiffin. Kiffin is the fired Oakland Raiders Coach, which is actually no knock on him. I actually thought he did pretty well in trying to deal with Raiders owner Al Davis, who should have his keys taken AWAY from him. Kiffin is supposedly assembling his staff. Some of whom I like, and some of whom I don't. He begins his Rocky Top tenure on a short lease, and he already has his detractors.

To make way for Kiffin, the Vols sent 17-year-coach Phil Fulmer out with a win over Kentucky on Saturday. Fulmer coached Tennessee to a National Championship in 1999 but hasn't even gotten to Vols to the SEC Championship game since 2007.......uh....last year. So it was time for him to go! I really think Fulmer is a good head coach, but his problem with this disastrous season was his choice for an offensive coordinator. Tennessee's defense was among the best in the nation, but the offense was among the worst. With the departure of longtime coordinator David Cutcliffe to Duke, Fulmer hired David Clawson from Richmond, an innovative offensive mind for sure, but it just didn't mesh. Perhaps because they didn't have the luxury of time to make it work. Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville faced the same dilemma with new offensive coordinator Tony Franklin. In Auburn's case, Franklin was fired mid-season. I happen to think Tuberville pulled the trigger too quickly on Franklin, while Fulmer was simply not afforded the chance to make the new offense work. Rome wasn't built in a day, or one football season. The record shows Auburn's record got WORSE after Franklin's firing. In Tennessee's case, the baby was thrown out with the bath water. Being from Western Kentucky, I witnessed Franklin's offense produce a high school quarterback who threw for more than 90 touchdowns IN ONE SEASON, without the greatest athletes. Granted it was high school.....but it works in college too. It's just difficult to quickly shift from a traditional run-oriented offense to a version of the spread offense. Just look at Michigan this year.

In any event, I hope Kiffin gets a fair chance, although it would behoove him to win and win fast, beat Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and LSU in his first or second year, or a national championship (reccomended). I can't wait to see which team lands Tony Franklin because I know if they give him some time, he'll be lighting up the scoreboard again. I also can't wait to see Phil Fulmer, hanging around Knoxville, and wondering if he'll be looking pretty good as a coach in a couple of years. I really hope this move doesn't set the football program back, such as when Nebraska fired Frank Solich, Syracuse fired Paul Pasqualoni, etc, etc. When Tennessee ousted Johnny Majors, to make way for Fulmer, it moved the program forward, but so many times, these kinds of moves have set programs back for 10 years or more.

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