A Final Look at the Short Road from Kiffin to Dooley
This past week promised to be slow, until Lane Kiffin left for Trojan Town and started a coaching search party with a rock-painting contest and a T-shirt burning party.
Hammy Dusted Off Last Year’s Target List
After Kiffin dropped the bomb that set off the week’s nuclear chain reaction, Mike Hamilton hoped we would have a new coach by the end of Friday, or Saturday, or Sunday, depending on what you were reading. On Friday morning, when Tennessee was 0-for-4 or -5 or -6, again depending on what you were reading, it felt like we might not have a coach until the Orange and White Game, or maybe even an interim situation for a year.
Reportedly, Hamilton started off by contacting Jon Gruden, who evidently was not interested. Officially, Wednesday saw Will Muschamp, Texas’ next head coach-in-waiting issue a statement saying he would stay in Texas, followed by Troy Calhoun on Thursday afternoon indicating he would remain head coach at Air Force, although an earlier report indicated he was calling a meeting with his team pointing to his possible acceptance of the UT vacancy. So two candidates (or three, if you believe the Gruden contact) from the pre-Kiffin interview process of last year were again reportedly contacted for this week’s vacancy and Hamilton was again spurned. Gary Patterson, TCU’s successful head coach, also denied conversations or interest.
Folks were holding high hopes for Muschamp for no logical reason—why would he leave while being patiently groomed for one of the best gigs in the land? It made no sense. It also made no sense to me, and I said as much on the RTT podcast Thursday evening, that Calhoun would ever come to Tennessee. His experience at an academy environment wouldn’t fit at a program where it takes four positive drug tests before a player is thrown out of the program.
The Curious Case of Kippy
A half hour after Mike Hamilton addressed the media at 1:00 pm on Wednesday, saying that a search was already underway, Kippy Brown was holding a press conference calling himself a legitimate candidate for the head coaching job. He was now the Interim Head Coach. Kippy of course had been recently brought back to the Tennessee coaching staff by Kiffin, after a long stint in the NFL. Was the Sweetwater native the right guy for the head job?
The street/internet buzz didn’t seem to think so, until the Gruden-Muschamp-Calhoun cards suddenly folded. The immediate feeling seemed to be there was nobody out there who wanted to lead us, so we’ll take who we already got. After all, he’s a “Tennessee Guy” as he said in his press conference, he had coached under Majors and Fulmer, and knew the lay of the land.
What land? I believe it was Georgia and Ohio that he talked about in his pressy if I remember correctly. What about Florida? Texas?
Kippy was a native Tennessean. A Vol. But he just wasn’t the right guy for the future. He was more of a doer, not a leader for the stature of a big SEC school. There was no reason to do a panic buy just because we got rejected by a few coaches who simply were not interested from the get-go for a guy who was desperately interested.
Sadly, one blogger, Kevin Scott at Bleacher Report, called the Dooley-over-Brown choice racism, which is utterly ridiculous. Scott wrote that the Dooley hiring “is a sad reminder that racism in college football, especially in the South, is alive and well. It’s sickening, and it’s disheartening. You can try to fool yourself all you want, you can say it’s not there and that it’s all made up, but the numbers do not lie. Brown, just like many of his fellow African-American coaching colleagues before him, never stood a chance. In this day and age, that makes me sick.”
Scott issued a turnabout post on Saturday, attempting to “clear the air,” but in my view, his air is still quite filled with air pollution.
Saturday, the good Vol Brown was off to Seattle to ply his trade for the Seahawks under Kiffin’s former boss in the beautiful Northwest.
The Comfort Blanket
An hour after Air Force’s Troy Calhoun announced on Thursday afternoon he would stay in Colorado Springs, a North Carolina TV station released a story that former Tennessee assistant coach David Cutcliffe would become the next Tennessee head coach, and later, a story came out of Knoxville that Cutcliffe was forming a coaching staff in anticipation of accepting a job offer.
Enter former coach Phil Fulmer and current Vol DE Chris Walker. Fulmer was quoted as saying, “I think it would be special to have him back in Knoxville.” Walker indicated that “I would love to have him coach us.” The old divisions of a year ago were opening once again. You could feel the earth of the Vol nation begin to split in half. You could almost hear Peyton Manning’s voice chiming in all the way from Indiana as he was preparing for a playoff clash against the Baltimore Ravens.
I participated in the RTT podcast Thursday evening and said that Hamilton was going back to the comfort blanket, and if Cutcliffe were hired, it would be more like a wet blanket—Cutcliffe was simply the wrong man for the job. He’s a qualified offensive coach. He’s a good motivator and disciplinarian. But in today’s SEC, it takes something more than that. With Saban and Meyer as the standard-bearers, Cutcliffe falls far short if our goal is to win the league (isn’t it?). And, there are rumors about his health. The cutthroat requirements of the SEC are no place for that.
I went to bed thinking the worst was about to happen.
I woke up Friday morning to good news—Cutcliffe had released a statement that he was going to stay at Duke, presumably over disagreements over his requirements for assistants at Tennessee.
We averted a retreat back to Mommy and Daddy.
But where did that leave us? Kippy Brown’s name was still alive Friday, and sources indicated that he was scheduled for an interview later that day. There are no news reports indicating whether or not that happened. But given the rapid fire events of the day, it seems unlikely.
At 11:00 am, the Salt Lake City Tribune reported that Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham, one that I was personally interested in hearing more about, rejected Hamilton’s advances after meeting with the Vols. Almost immediately, rumors began to circulate that Derek Dooley was Tennessee’s next target.
On Wednesday evening, after Hamilton addressed the media saying that a search was already underway, I made a search of media outlets and blogs and posted on this site a list of candidates described by saying: “not what makes sense, necessarily, but what’s being mentioned, as of this evening, by folks who should know (better)…” I closed that article by saying: “Obviously, what this all means is that our next coach will be someone who is not listed on this post. Obviously. After all, I’ve relied in large part on the professionals for the current candidate list.”
The headliners were Muschamp, Calhoun, Cutcliffe, Brown, and Fulmer. Under the “Others” list were Nutt, Gundy, Edsall, Davis, Whittingham, Leach, Petrino, Chavis, and Leavitt.