The Dreaded Snowman
Kentucky Wildcats vs. Tennessee Volunteers
Saturday 24 November 2012 | 12:21pm EST
Neyland Stadium (102,455) | Knoxville, TN | SEC Network
If you are a golfer, you know what I’m talking about.
If you are a Tennessee Vols fan, you should know what I’m referring to.
With the embarrassing loss at the hands of Vanderbilt last Saturday, Tennessee (4-7) was dealt another season with 7 losses. The 1977 season, the first under the guidance of Johnny Majors, was the first 7-loss season in the long history of Tennessee Volunteer football. Now, Tennessee has lost 7 games in 5 of the last 8 seasons.
But, Tennessee has never lost as many as 8 games in any season. Never. Ever.
In fact, Tennessee is the ONLY school in the SEC that has NEVER lost as many as 8 games in a single season.
But there is another game left: against Kentucky this Saturday in Knoxville.
And that means that Tennessee, with a loss to their Border State Rival, would have this distinction wiped away: The Vols would no longer be the only SEC school that has never lost at least 8 games in a season.
There are usually many things at stake when Tennessee plays Kentucky. Sometimes it is a shot at an SEC Championship, and possibly a National Championship. Sometimes it is a shot at a BCS bowl game, or sometimes just any bowl game.
And sometimes it is just the pride, especially that of the seniors. And that is where the Vols are this season.
But the thought that we could lose 8 games this season — and lose 8 games in any season — is unfathomable. History tells us so.
Let’s hope that it doesn’t happen this season. Or any season.
It has been a historic week for the VolNation.
Coach Derek Dooley was fired. And because Dooley chose not to coach the last game of the season (thereby making it impossible for him to be the only coach to lead the Vols to an 8-loss season), Offensive Coordinator Jim Chaney becomes the only interim head coach in the history of Tennessee football (to replace a fired head coach). Chaney will be on the sideline on Saturday instead of in his customary booth location.
Other news saw UT Chancellor Jimmy Cheek announce that the University will endow the Athletics Department with $18 million (over three years) to add needed financial stability due to the impending coaching buyouts and hirings. This is huge news in the sense that it establishes the commitment from the top rung of the University necessary to enhance the odds that Vols football does not slip into the abyss of mediocrity and irrelevancy.
The source of the money is that previously donated by the Athletics Department to the University for academic scholarships and other academic endowments. AD Dave Hart most assuredly made the argument to the Chancellor and others that borrowing back the money previously donated will be paid back in spades once winning is reestablished by the football program — the revenue-producing machine of the University of Tennessee.
Could Dave Hart’s predecessor have negotiated such a deal with his bosses?
And in the coaching search odyssey, media outlets in Fayetteville indicate that Arkansas offered their vacant head coaching position to Jon Gruden, and Mr. Gruden declined, opening the door perhaps wider to the possibility of the former Vols graduate assistant football coach to assume Tennessee’s vacancy. There are no traditional media outlets reporting that Tennessee has offered the job to Gruden. But it wouldn’t surprise this writer to find out that such an offer has been made. Gruden would be a qualified replacement. And, it would be prudent for Dave Hart to make sure that the reason Gruden does not come to Knoxville to coach the Vols is that Gruden turned down an offer, and not because no offer was made.
Gruden not coming because of the lack of an offer would not be acceptable to the majority of the VolNation who assuredly want Gruden as their man. And more importantly it would set up a situation of incredible, and unfair, pressure on the new head coach and his staff to succeed and succeed quickly. The howls from the fan base would not stop until a December win in the Georgia Dome.
So, what about Saturday?
For starters, Kentucky (2-9) is a dreadful football team.
In between their lone two wins — against Kent State on September 8 and Samford on November 17 — the Wildcats lost eight straight games and fired their head coach, Joker Phillips.
Kentucky ranks among the bottom feeders of the 125 FBS schools in many offensive categories: 111th in passing yards; 94th in rushing yards; 119th in points scored; 115th in total offense.
But the Vols defense eventually caved against a nearly equally anemic Missouri offense a couple of weeks ago.
And given the complete upheaval of the Volunteer football program at the moment, anything could happen on Saturday. Anything.
Except of course Tennessee losing its distinction as the only SEC school to have never lost at least 8 games in a single season.
Tennessee 39 Kentucky 27