By Frank Gale
Tennessee fans the past few weeks have certainly had their collective emotions thrown about like a Frisbee. They have seen Athletic Director Dave Hart set out to make the most significant hire during his short tenure in Knoxville. The stress level among those who follow the Big Orange increased with each passing day without a new coach. Finding the right coach to save a SEC football program is not an easy task. Hiring the fourth coach in five years makes it critical to get it right.
We have seen the search start with an ex-pro coach, who was on just about everyone’s wish list, to a coach that is at a basketball school in an inferior conference. If reports surfacing during this search are believable, then Tennessee is no longer seen as the great landing spot for experienced head coaches. Apparently, more than just the Big Orange Nation has observed the UT slide from prominence over the past five seasons.
Trying to follow all the twists and turns in this search process has not been easy, with more than one member of the media being fed erroneous information along the way. It appears that a few of the coaches on Hart’s list used this process to negotiate a raise where they are currently employed.
The down side of a coaching search is having the target of that search become known during the process. With social media in play, it is becoming harder to keep potential coaching targets under wraps; although, Arkansas certainly was able to pull a big surprise during their search. Maybe Hart has one too. Only time will tell.
This week several names have surfaced and one of them could be introduced as the new coach before you have a chance to read this. Remember, this is also a process that could take a while longer as Hart makes sure he is making the right hire. His legacy as an athletic director is tied to this hire, which will most likely be one of his last in his career.
I have always been told that everything happens for a reason. If coaches A, B and C decide not to leave their current situation, then it only means that the right person is still out there. Not every coach can take the pressure that he would experience as Tennessee’s head coach. This is the big stage and not that many are prepared to handle it. Hopefully, that right coach is being introduced before the weekend.
The new coach will arrive to find a group of returning players that have plenty of untapped potential and, with positive direction, can be successful on the field. The great facilities in place will not hurt his recruiting for the future, either.
The Big Orange Nation awaits the announcement of who will be entrusted with leading the Vols into the future. That coach will need every Tennessee fan behind him as he starts the journey to return the Vols to prominence. My one wish in all of this – Please bring a defensive coordinator to Rocky Top that the players can relate to. Go Vols!!!!
(Frank Gale is a Chronicle correspondent and his column appears regularly.)