Friday morning, after returning from yet another meeting with another prospective head coach, Tennessee athletic director John Currie was canned. It was quick, kind of expected, and, really, just another blip in what’s been a teeth-grinding shitshow for the folks in Knoxville and a comical treasure trove for everyone else.
Currie’s time in Knoxville was brief—he was hired in February—but in those fleeting months, he presided over one of the more inept and hilarious coaching searches of any that’s been seen at any (formerly) major program in the past 10 years. Currie went into the winter tasked with finding a replacement for head coach Butch Jones. He started his quest by hiring mediocre lunatic Greg Schiano, a decision he quickly reversed after realizing he’d alienated seemingly his entire fanbase. Since then he’s only succeeded in creating a steady stream of reports about other candidates turning down the gig.
This morning, he was reportedly meeting with the Tennessee brass to rehash their strategy; it was, unfortunately for him, a meeting that accomplished just that, giving him the boot and opening the position up for some lifetime Tennesseean like Phillip Fulmer to fill the slot. But even with Fulmer or whoever it is that ends up taking the job, the search for an actually good coach is not going to be an easy one, as has been proven repeatedly.
Greg “Elite Father” Schiano wanted it, but Tennessee fans didn’t want him. Mike Gundy didn’t want it. Dan Mullen didn’t want it. Jeff Brohm didn’t want it. Dave Doeren didn’t want it. David Cutcliffe didn’t want it.
Again, those are coaches at Purdue, N.C. State, and Duke, and all of them turned down the Tennessee gig. Not just because the program is currently a hot fucking mess, but because they all legitimately have better, more secure jobs! At Purdue, N.C. State, and Duke! Cutcliffe, the former Tennessee offensive coordinator who spent 16 combined seasons on the sidelines or in the booth in Knoxville and helped mold Peyton Manning and a national championship offense, couldn’t even be wooed away. Hell, the only reason Doeren even set up the interview with Tennessee was to get him that contract extension he’s been lobbying for since October.
Since the axe fell on Butch Jones three weeks ago, plenty of decent coaching hires have been made—Chip Kelly went to UCLA, Dan Mullen to Florida, Joe Moorhead to Mississippi State. Meanwhile, Tennessee’s flailing whiffs have produced no returns, and the remaining coaching staff managed to ostracize (and then dismiss) one of their best offensive weapons again! (Some message-board dickhead will pop in here to exclaim Jalen Hurd wasn’t a team player. Kindly, fuck off.)
The thing that most undermined the Butch Jones Era was high expectations—I really wish I could say it was the rampant mismanagement and detestable PR responses to the university’s sexual assault issues, but it was really just the shitty football. In his five years at the helm, Jones posted three winning seasons, including back-to-back nine-win seasons in 2015 and 2016, both of which were supposed to end better than 9-4. This season, like the last two, was again supposed to be The Year, the one in which the Volunteers finally challenged for the SEC East without falling apart come November. Instead, they struggled to perform basic motor functions, leaving an 0-8 conference record and the withering husk of a man who once declared himself and his team “champions of life” in their wake of futility.
Maybe Phil Fulmer will swoop in, hire Mike Leach or Lane Kiffin or appoint himself head coach a la Barry Alvarez and bring the glory back to Tennessee. Maybe. More likely, though, they’ll hire Fulmer, strike out some more, and just cut the “interim” off Brady fuckin’ Hoke’s job title. At that point the rest of the college football world will be so tired of laughing that all we’ll be able to do is shake our heads.