The Vols Coaching Search Has Upped the Ante on College Football Insanity


Day 19 of the Tennessee Vols coaching search took yet another bizarre turn, adding a new chapter and another layer further amplifying the ridiculousness of the situation.

I went to bed Thursday with multiple confirmed reports pinning Washington State head coach Mike Leach to the Tennessee job. No longer would Pac-12 media day feature Leach’s sardonic retorts to questions about his football team, nor his widely celebrated monologues on…well, whatever prevents him discussing his football team.

I then woke to news of John Currie’s firing, less than three weeks after Butch Jones’ dismissal began the Vols coaching search in earnest.

Shortly after, I boarded an airplane bound for San Jose. Logging onto Twitter after my hour-twenty flight revealed the apparent involvement of Tennessee Hall of Famer Phil Fulmer in the ongoing power struggle. At lunch before arriving at Levi’s Stadium for the Pac-12 Championship Game, I read Fulmer was stepping in as athletic director.

The lesson here: stay ever vigilant.

Now, before kickoff of the 2017 college football season, I opined the bong-and-escort-themed Ole Miss scandal gave college football a controversy befitting the stupidity of 2017. But it wouldn’t be 2017 if college football failed to upped the ante on insanity, now would it?

OK, so maybe stupidity doesn’t accurately describe the Vols coaching search. This ordeal has elements of history — the fan-led revolt against the imminent hire of Greg Schiano on Sunday gained the Twitter hashtag #VolshevikRevolution.

Fulmer’s inclusion now adds a literary layer. The former national championship-winning coach and last Volunteers coach with a team in the SEC Championship was fired almost a decade ago, just one down season removed from that SEC title game appearance.

His intervention in the hiring process and ascension to power is the greatest Count of Monte Cristo adaptation college football’s ever seen.

Why, there’s even an element of theater. Professional wrestling is nothing else if not an Americana stage performance. And of course a wrestler is involved. We may not be far from Mayor Kane’s Tennessee Vols facing President The Rock’s Miami Hurricanes in the College Football Playoff.

The protest that prevented Schiano’s hire over the weekend is a double-edged sword. Fan investment of time and money makes them shareholders of a sort in the product. Administrators can often remove themselves from this crucial demographic. The swift, passionate response to news of Schiano’s hire is an interesting case-study of the power the people — a case-study society might consider applying to politicians and corporate titans making decisions without their constituents or consumers’ best interests in mind.

At the same time, response to Schiano exposed one of the more dangerous elements of social media. Unfounded rumors based on third-hand information and without any evidence making someone radioactive for job speaks to the responsibility we all have when given access to an unfiltered platform.

The Schiano story has been covered ad infinitum, though, so I’m broaching nothing new. At this rate, what’s new to me — Fulmer’s Count of Monte Cristo act — will already be old news.