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Embracing the Suck Part II -- Moving Forward

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Back for more embracing the suckage as Brian and Scott talk about how to go forward as fans/writers during a time of bad football. I was remiss in not pointing out that Scott was the Vols beat writer from 2004-2008 for the Chattanooga Times Free Press, making him the Kirk Bohls of Chattanooga (only good). What's evident, at least to me, in really thinking about this issue is there is only one conclusion to be drawn about where the program is ultimately headed. That conclusion is so depressing that I can't even type it, and wouldn't be caught dead ever advocating for it. Perhaps things will turn around next season, and I still believe in the power of Mack Brown to make things better. But, as SynTex persuasively pointed out on BC, this is not normal. The program clearly has problems and a record that almost every coach not named Paterno or Bowden has failed to survive over the long haul in the past.  

Anyhow, many thanks to Brian of MGoBlog and Scott of The Wave Report for their time.

How did you deal with continued blogging/writing during a (now extended) period of sucking?

Michigan:

It's been painful, but a lot of the time going through the game has been cathartic or at least interesting. After Michigan lost to Iowa this year the Upon Further Review for the defense wasn't too terrible to do because I was interested in how Kenny Demens, the new starting MLB, did. That kind of technical focus takes some of the edge off.

The rest of it--the emotional bits--I haven't dealt with so well. Before I did this my strategy for coping was disengagement, which is only possible to an extent now and comes with costs. The quality of my work falls off as I spend chunks of the weekend doing anything other than think about football, though I usually try to write something not terrible for my Monday game column.


To be perfectly honest, I've had more than I want to drink the past few seasons.

Tennessee:

The storylines become pretty bland, because when coaches continue to trot out players who perform terribly every week (Crompton), there's no interest in re-hashing the obvious problems. So take a look at that defensive lineman whose brother survived Iraw or talk to band members about how they miss playing Rocky Top. Of course, there's always something to blame, so don't be afraid to point fingers. 
 
I wrote a column for The Daily Beacon (student paper) in 2005 about why it would be beneficial to Tennessee fans for the Vols to lose to Alabama. People flooded my inbox with hate mail. I pointed out that it would be the catalyst for the offensive coordinator to be fired. Tennessee lost 6-3, Randy Sanders got canned a week later and the Vols' hired former 1990s offensive architect David Cutcliffe in the offseason. After strong bowl appearances in 2006 and 2007 (SEC East champions), Cutcliffe took the job at Duke and a year later Fulmer was out.
 
In my eyes, this stuff is not as complicated as some coaches would like you to believe.
What were your thoughts on getting rid of the coaching staff and (in hindsight) do you wish they'd not essentially been fired (or forced retirement)?

Michigan:

This is a misconception. It had been rumored that Lloyd Carr was going to retire for years. He probably would have been gone after the 2005 Rose Bowl if Ernest Shazor's arm moves an inch in the right direction on that Magnum field goal. Michigan fans went into '07 expecting it was Carr's last season because he was just ready to go. Michigan was glacially patient with him. If he wanted to keep coaching he'd still be in Ann Arbor.

That said, the cracks in the foundation were showing. It was time for Carr to go, and since he hadn't groomed anything resembling a credible successor (OC Mike DeBord was failure at Central Michigan and is now an assistant (to the) offensive line coach in the NFL, DC Ron English gave up 34 points to Appalachian State) Michigan had to go outside.


The transition to Rodriguez was more wrenching than anyone anticipated, but the coaching search is a long, long story. Michigan could not continue the Bo years anymore. That 40-year run had finally ended.

Tennessee:

Firing Fulmer was absolutely necessary. The program was slipping in recruiting, discipline issues kept flaring up on the police blotter, the team was completely uninteresting and featured a pair of losing seasons over a four-year span. For a program in the top 10 in all-time wins, it was unacceptable. However, the Lane Kiffin atrocity makes people wish Fulmer was still on board, but things likely wouldn't have gotten much better.

 
It was time for a change and while it was hard to watch a coach of his stature and extreme loyalty go out on someone else's terms, there weren't many options left. The program had lost its way.
Finally, any advice for Longhorn fans entering the abyss?

Michigan:

Try to keep yourself together as best you can, try not to let your antipathy for the coaches bleed into the players, and I recommend Laphroaig.

Tennessee:

There are a myriad reasons Tennessee could never regain its footing, most of which I have outlined here. Each circumstance of mighty programs hitting a down cycle is unique. Alabama sagged for almost a decade. Michigan can't find a groove. Florida State has been to fewer ACC title games than Boston College.

This didn't happen in one season and it certainly didn't happen in three games. A systemic problem was never addressed and things began to sink. Texas may not be there yet. It could just be one or two pistons missing in the engine.
 
But I guess the thing to keep in mind is that it doesn't matter how nice your stadium is, or how much money you have, or how proud of a tradition you've built. Anyone can go down and go down hard. All of these expensive bells and whistles are supposed to ensure that the program always has a competitive advantage against its rivals (that's how they sell it), but at some point those things just don't matter anymore.
 
Tennessee put nearly $200 million into Neyland Stadium over the past four years and can draw 109,000 fans on the banks of the Tennessee River. It lost to Wyoming and took double-overtime to beat UAB in there.  
 
If the quarterback can't pick out the right color jersey to throw to, it doesn't matter what kind of marble lines the foyer of the practice facility. If nobody on the team can catch a punt, the superior buffet spread in the club section becomes pretty irrelevant.
 
But nothing lasts forever and the good programs with sound investment usually find a way back to the top (see Alabama, USC, LSU turnarounds from the mid-90s to late 2000s).
 
Plus, you always get to sing the Eyes of Texas and Rocky Top, so it's not all bad, right?