Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Big Orange Influence

For sports fans, everyone wants their team to win and be the best. We bleed our school colors, go into a mild state of depression after a loss, and have the fight song for a ringtone. As a part of the Vol Nation, our love of the Vols runs much deeper than that. Sure I wear orange on gameday, have a Power T coffee mug and a flag hanging from my balcony, but some fans will do anything to show that they want nothing but W's from the Vols. And when I say anything, I mean anything.

It all started back in 2008...when the curse of the "Come & Go" coach began. 

Although he brought us a National Championship back in 1998 and the 2nd-highest number of W's of any head coach in UT history, Phillip Fulmer (the legend) brought on a downward slope of Tennessee victories starting in 2005 with a 5-6 losing season. Scrutiny from the Vol Nation began to slip in over the next three years as fans began to question Fulmer's ability to keep the Vols on top. After suffering a loss to Wyoming to close the 2008 season, Fulmer "stepped down" as leader of the big orange pack after being notified by athletic director Mike Hamilton of his immediate dismissal.

Without any coaching changes or signs of improvement over several years, Fulmer just needed that spark to make changes within the program and get things back to like they were in '98. After wearing out their patience and acceptance of L's, the Vol Nation demanded the removal of a Tennessee legend and him be replaced by this a#$&@!%...

The arrogant, smug, "too big for his 'britches," recently-fired man known as Lane Kiffin came to Knoxville. Sure he seemed like a great fix for UT, "yeah he just came from the NFL and he's good lookin', he'll get us back to No. 1." Little did we know the real "big orange screw" was waiting for us at the end of the season. After increasing the Vols offensive output by 60% and ending the 2009 season 7-6, that can only overshadow the bad for so long. Personally, I strongly dislike Kiffin because he got our recruit hostess program in a TON of trouble (I am a recruit hostess now). SO after 14 months, Kiffin bailed out on the Vols, not even spending 2 minutes in the press conference to answer questions out of respect. Although people were mad and disappointed, Lane Kiffin leaving Rocky Top was the BEST thing to ever happen! Karma caught up with Lane when he was caught for extensive NCAA recruiting violations at USC, and then fired from USC when the athletic director wouldn't even let him on the team bus after a game. The Vol Nation simply said "screw you Lane, on to the next one."

The administration waisted no time in filling our beloved head coach position, with the hiring of the lawyer turned coach...Derek Dooley. Sure Dooley inherited a sunken program and was constantly having to fight the uphill battle to regain the top spot in the SEC. What Tennessee fans soon realized was that the only anchor that was keeping this program "sank" was Dooley himself. The only "coaching" aspect this man had going for him was his last name, the one that belongs to the great hall of fame coach Vince Dooley. I'm not a Tennessee football player but from working for him for one season as a recruit hostess, I knew that he was not a "coach" in the sense that he was there for the glory and not to build up young men and a strong-football-tradition Tennessee program. After 3 losing seasons in a row and only 1 bowl game appearance, the Vol Nation rose again to express their frustration, scrutiny and demand for the firing of Derek Dooley. So, so long to the orange pants and suave hair, and have fun being a low-paid, low-grade assistant coach.

After what seemed like forever of searching for a new leader, UT found this flat top hairdo up North...
Our savior...BUTCH. JONES.

I speak from knowing him personally when I say that Coach Jones is the man that will bring UT back to national prominence of being that team to beat. His passion for the game, the men he coaches, and the tradition that is Tennessee football is just what the Vol Nation has been praying for. In the year that has been on Rocky Top, Coach Jones has brought the spirit of Tennessee and what it means to be a Volunteer fan back to us. He truly cares about the players in helping them grow as athletes, educated men and valuable members of society. I see a bright (with orange hue) future for Coach Jones as he leads to Vol Nation back to the national glory that we once knew.

Okay, we can see that the Big Orange community strongly influenced the firing of two football coaches. Now lets take a look at the most recent coaching uproar that is Tennessee Mens basketball:

Bruce Pearl, the Boston-native with a set of lungs on him, came to the Univeristy of Tennessee in 2005 after the "retirement" of Buzz Peterson. He became the 2nd fastest coach to reach 100 wins in UT history, took the Big Orange to our first Elite 8 appearance in the NCCAA tournament in 2010, and brought on a NCCAA recruiting scandal of epic proportions. He rocked an orange blazer at every home game, interracted with fans regularly, and brought a sense of "swagger" to Tennessee basketball. After committing the recruiting infraction and lying about it, UT could not be associated with a lying head coach, even if he was winning games and bringing spirit to men's basketball. Pearl stayed away from coaching for 3 years and was just recently hired to be Auburn's next head basketball coach.

And then, UT hired a man whose first name no one knew how to pronounce. Cuonzo Martin had a decent basketball past, from playing in the NBA for 3 years to being a head coach for 3 years. He didn't have the resume we were hoping for to bring us back to "Pearl Prominence" but the Vol Nation figured we'd give this guy a shot. I like Coach Martin, he is a very very nice man to talk to and the players loved him. But in true UT fashion, the fans don't want "nice." They want W's and trophies. During the middle of this past season, a petition began floating around web for the immediate release of Coach Martin and to bring back Bruce Pearl! Like WHAT? Who would have ever thought we would fire a coach, then turn around and re-hire him 3 years later?? The petition received over 36,000 signatures, a pretty good slap in the face to Coach Martin. After all of this petition buzz died down, it was released that Coach Martin had received a head coach offer from Marquette. Martin turned it down casually...but that announcement was made on April Fool's.

On Tuesday April 15, Coach Cuonzo Martin of the Tennessee Volunteers became Coach Cuonzo Martin of the California Golden Bears. The Vol Nation's demands to have Martin fired came back and slapped us in the face, by leaving on his own after I swore that "Tennessee was the only place for him." As much as I hate to admit it, Coach Martin finally put Vol fans in their place. Although he's leaving for a >12,000 arena and the state of California in general, I wish him success and happiness.

So what have we learned from this?

Not only are Volunteer fans "ride or die" for the big orange, but large fanbases such as ours can even have an influence on the future of our coaches. Fulmer, Dooley and Martin, all examples of our a nation of fans can express disappointment or hatred of a coach's performance and next thing you know BOOM...he gone. Sports is always a game of out with the old and in with the new but if the new has a losing season at Tennessee, his tenure for the Big Orange might end being short lived.

post signature

No comments :

Post a Comment