Posts Tagged ‘Complainers’

The Great Punkin Returneth…

Well, in case you hadn’t heard, Phillip Fulmer (a/k/a “the Great Punkin”) has been selected as the 2009 recipient of the Robert R. Neyland Trophy.  Fulmer will be formally presented the award at the East Tennessee Chapter of the National Football Foundation Hall of Fame awards brunch on Saturday morning.  Fulmer will also be honored on the field prior to the start of this weekend’s Orange and White game.  This award, named in honor of General Neyland, has been awarded by the Knoxville Quarterback Club for the last 44 years.

This year’s choice has a few people upset, or at least scratching their heads a bit.

It is hard to argue with Fulmer deserving the award.  The issue for some folks is the the timing, because now Coach Fulmer will be honored immediately prior to Lane Kiffin’s debut as the head coach of the Volunteers—the same team that Fulmer coached up until the end of last season.  One need look no farther than any of the various Tennessee web forums and blogs to see the proverbial “lines in the sand” being drawn by fans on both sides.

Never afraid to make a public statement when called upon to do so, the Blackjack General commented on the matter earlier today :

Coach Fulmer has had a tremendous impact on Tennessee.  He’s the second-winningest coach in Tennessee history behind General Neyland. It’s only fitting that he receives this prestigious award. I hope all Tennessee fans will show up early Saturday to show their appreciation for all he has done for our program, our university and our state.

Lane Kiffin: Commenting on Coach Fulmer being honored prior to the Orange and White Game | GoVols Xtra

Some will say (or already have) that the timing of Fulmer’s selection was intentional—that this was an orchestrated barb at the athletic department (most pointedly at Smiling Mike Hamilton) from Fulmer supporters on the Neyland Trophy committee.  Others will say that the award amounts to little more than incurable homerism on the part of some who refuse to let Coach Fulmer go.  On the other side, there is the argument that Coach Fulmer was an immensely successful coach and earned the award fairly, and that it is fitting he be receive the award at the first appropriate opportunity—the first year after he leaves Tennessee.  Others still will say that the only reason that some are complaining is because they fired a good coach and they know it.

Either way, it makes for some high drama…

I for one don’t see what the big deal is either way.  Lane Kiffin had nothing to do with Phillip Fulmer’s ouster.  Phillip Fulmer was a great coach for the Vols and remains a loyal Tennessean—I respect the man for what he has done.  Coach Kiffin has had to deal with much worse, as has Coach Fulmer.  There is no reason in this instance why the orange-clad faithful can’t have their cake and eat it to.

In my opinion, the “controversy” over this is nothing more than a few people with axes to grind on both sides of the fence trying to create a storm for/against Coach Fulmer being honored or for / against Coach Kiffin taking “the greensward of Shields-Watkins Field” for the first time.  What I haven’t heard from anyone is this:

The politicization of this event by “factions” does nothing but dishonor the memory of one person: General Robert R. Neyland.

The Neyland Trophy was created to honor the General’s legacy, and to preserve his mark on the landscape of college football.  To try and turn this award into a circus is, to me, repugnant.  To anyone that would add fuel to the fire in either direction and not support both Fulmer and Kiffin, I say “shame on you.” It is bad for the fanbase, it is bad for Tennessee, it is bad for Coach Fulmer, and it is bad for Coach Kiffin.  In my opinion it is wrong.

There is no reason that the fans cannot cheer their former coach for winning the Neyland Trophy and then, five minutes later, cheer their current coach as he brings his team out on to the field.  In the process of doing both, those cheers also honor General Neyland.  I support both Fulmer and Kiffin.  I also support preserving Neyland’s place in the pantheon of the game I love.

More than any of that, however, I support Tennessee first and foremost…

It is not about either man, it is not about making a statement for or against one coach or the other, it is not about using the event as a bully pulpit.  It is about supporting your team, your school, your “family,” and doing what is right.

So, who do you support?

– So it goes…About Lawvol


An Open Letter to the Vol Nation: A Manifesto on Past, Present, and Future

No Pass Out Checks | Gate21
[Note:  This post is exceptionally long—even for me—and I apologize for this.  I simply felt that a lot of these things needed saying, and I really haven't heard them elsewhere.  Thus, if you'll forgive my long-windedness,  I promise there is a point to this.  I just felt this that this isn't a simple issue, and thus I needed to explain.  -Lawvol]

Of all the posts I have ever written as a blogger, all the comments I have ever posted on message boards and other blogs, all the public professions I have ever made regarding the Tennessee Volunteers, this one is by far the most difficult one for me.  I’d really rather not be in the position of feeling it necessary to write this.  To fail to address the issue, however, would be to ignore the giant looming cloud over the heads of all of the Vol-faithful, regardless of their thoughts or position.

www.tennesseefansite.com-2Obviously, I am talking about the “situation” with the Tennessee Football coaching staff.

For the record, I am a Phillip Fulmer fan.  I believe that he has done more for the Tennessee program than anyone else over the last fifteen years.  I credit him with taking Tennessee from the mish-mash of the middle tier of college football and propelling the Vols to the very pinnacle of success.  I credit him with bringing the program into the modern era.  I credit him with making many of the things to which we as Tennessee fans have become accustomed possible.  I like Coach Fulmer, or the “Great Punkin” as I routinely refer to him (with no slight or insult intended).

I guess that makes me a homer

To the best of my recollection, the only time I have ever openly criticized the Tennessee coaching staff was during the past off-season when off-field incidents involving Vol footballers were escalating alarmingly, by my mind calling into question the integrity of the program and the University of Tennessee itself.  Aside from that, I have always refrained from going after the coaches like so many seem to want to do.  I wrote a little about this after the UCLA game, stating:

… I would say that I am more appropriately a Homer for all coaches across the landscape of college football who are constantly questioned, rebuked, and derided by tens of thousands of come-lately armchair geniuses.

It is a peculiar characteristic of so many fans that they believe that simply being a follower of a team for a given length of time makes them an expert on how things should be done.  Make no mistake, as a sports blogger, I am as guilty of this offense as anyone—at least to some extent.  There are things that anyone with a brain can assess and analyze based purely upon common sense, life experience, and the fluff that resides between our ears.

* * * * *

These sorts of basic truths are fairly and frankly within the grasp of us all, and thus the rightful ability to comment on such profundities resides with each and every person who follows college football.  In much the same vein, I think it is reasonable for many (note, I did not say “all”) long-term fans of the sport to comment on what a given team does, or in most cases, did.

Beyond that, however, it seems to me that trying to profess what the best way to coach a football team—a team to which most have no access except through their televisions—is an endeavor which necessarily makes the speaker feel smart and important, while simultaneously making them look foolish and arrogant.

I have absolutely no idea about what it takes to coach a major college football team.  I’m completely clueless.  Furthermore, I have no idea what it is like to play on such a team.  Again, clueless.  I am also willing to bet that most who are attacking Phil Fulmer and the Tennessee coaching staff at present share my level of experience and insight.  So, at a minimum, I guess I am among equally-ignorant equals when it comes to assessing the coaches.

Unlike many others, however, I am not going to attack the Great Punkin, Dave Clawson, John Chavis, or any of the other coaches.  I am simply going to speak about what I do know and speak from the heart:

Though I first watched Tennessee under Coach Majors, most of my life as a Tennessee fan, student, and alum has been during the tenure of Coach Fulmer.  I think he is a man of integrity, a man of honor, a skilled and adept football coach, and a great leader and teacher for the young men he coaches.  I have such deep respect for what he has done.  In his 17-year career as Tennessee’s head coach, Fulmer is 148-47-1 (.759), he has won 10 or more games in a season nine times, he has won or tied for the SEC East title seven times, he has won 2 SEC Championships, and the 1998 National Championship.  I remember all of these “good old days” like they were yesterday.

Coach Fulmer has done a lot, a whole lot…

By the same token, things simply have not been good for the Vols for some time now.  Here are a few statistics:

  • Last SEC Championship: 1998 (No Coach in UT history had a longer drought and retained their job)
  • Last BCS Game Appearance: 1999
  • Only one Top-10 finish this decade (2001)
  • Last 50 Games 32-18 (.648) [Johnny Majors was 39-9-2 (.780 wins only / .820 wins & ties) over his final 50 games]
  • Failed to finish in the Top-25 twice this decade in any poll and finished 25th in the AP in 2000 (unranked in Coaches Poll)
  • Signed a recruiting class outside the Top-20 in two of the past three seasons
  • 5-12 versus Florida all-time
  • 14-13 in the last 27 SEC Games
  • 28-27 (.509) versus Current SEC Coaches
    • 0-4 versus Urban Meyer (Florida)
    • 1-2 versus Les Miles (LSU)
    • 3-4 versus Mark Richt (Georgia)
    • 1-3 versus Nick Saban (LSU & Alabama)
    • 5-8 versus Steve Spurrier (Florida & South Carolina)
    • 3-3 versus Tommy Tuberville (Ole Miss & Auburn)
  • Coach Fulmer has a winning record of 15-3 against Rich Brooks (Kentucky), Sylvester Croom (Mississippi State), Bobby Johnson (Vanderbilt), and Houston Nutt (Arkansas only)

Over the last decade (since 1998) the Tennessee Volunteers under Fulmer are:

  • 1-8 (.111) at home versus Top-10 Teams
  • 17-23 (.425) versus ranked teams
  • 13-21 (.382) versus Florida, Georgia, Auburn, LSU, and Alabama
Statistical Analysis Courtesy of: Tony Basilio.com

These numbers speak volumes…

Of course, I am enough of a realist to understand that no team—whether Tennessee, Southern Cal, or the Green Bay Packers—can have a championship year every year.  Every great team has bad years.  It just seems that it has been a long time since Tennessee has had a truly good year.  I freely acknowledge that in 2007 Tennessee had what, on paper, looks like a good year.  In 2007, the Vols went 10-4 and won the SEC East.  That said, even the most stalwart Vol fan would have to admit that Tennessee won the SEC East in a highly unorthodox manner.  Tennessee was beaten in the 2007 season opener versus California 45-31.  Two weeks later the Vols were annihilated by the Florida Gators 59-20 and were subsequently thumped by the Alabama Crimson Tide 41-17.  The only reason that the Vols made the trip to the  SEC Championship Game was that—under league rules—the tie went to Tennessee since the Vols defeated the Georgia Bulldogs in head-to-head competition.  In other words, the Orange and White backed into the Eastern Division title.

Prior to that, really since the 2001 season, the Vols have underperformed versus SEC and national rivals, and have—at best—been a mediocre team from a statistical perspective.  During that time, I cannot recount the number of times that the Vols have barely beaten teams that were wholly inferior in terms of talent.  What’s more, the Volunteers have regularly failed to meet the expectations of fans and analysts when considered against teams with similar recruiting classes and resources.  Then of course there was the 2005 season, or—as Joel at RTT describes it—“The Season of Which We do not Speak in which Tennessee recorded a 5-6 record.

It seems that Tennessee has struggled at every turn since winning the 1998 Championship…

Jump forward to this year and the UCLA game, in which Tennessee loses to a UCLA team which the Vols were projected to beat handily.  As I and others have said, there is absolutely no reason that the Vols should have lost that game.  To make bad matters worse, since defeating the Vols, the Bruins have gone on to lose two more games in which they failed to score a single touchdown for the first time in 44 years. (HT Get the Picture)  Tennessee then managed a lackluster win over a clearly out-matched UAB team before playing the Florida Gators.  As I said in my “Marching Orders” piece earlier this week, that game was one of the poorest displays I’ve ever seen from a Vols squad.

Although I cannot really recall when it all started, the Tennessee fanbase began growing restless as early as 2002.  Even then, there was a small but vocal minority of fans that felt it was time for Fulmer to go.  Those voices of criticism were largely ignored by the masses until now.  After the Florida defeat, those voices have swelled to the point that they can no longer be ignored.  Just looking at the Vol-blogosphere, there are fewer and fewer that support Fulmer and even more voices criticizing than ever before—including 3SIB’s Ghost of Neyland, SouthEastern Sports Blog, YMSWWC, Curveballs for Jesus, BasilioMoonDog, the absurd Coacho Ocho, and Gate 21’s own HSH.

So here I am…

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Big Orange Roundtable: Week 2

This Week’s Host: The Power T

Week Zwei

(That’s German for “2″)

This week’s Big Orange Roundtable is hosted by none other than The Power T, who has served up a heapin’ helpin’ of questions for we “Volggers” to consider. Being that I am all about riding the coat-tails of others (and the fact they haven’t kicked me out of the Roundtable … yet) here are Gate 21’s thoughts on all that is this week in the world of Tennessee Football.

(Questions in Sort-o-Teal-like color)

1) A position of strength for the Vols this fall should be wide receivers. Which 2 guys will emerge from the pack to start the opener against UCLA alongside Lucas Taylor? Why?

First of all, I think that Lucas Taylor is going to be a starter — probably from start to finish. He is the most tested and reliable of the receiving corps this year. As for the other spots, well, it gets more difficult there.

The conventional wisdom would be to go with Austin Rogers and Josh Briscoe (not to be confused with Briscoe Darling) — both have had significant playing time and key catches. They were solid down the stretch (especially in the overtime win against Kentucky, where Rogers saved the day with a huge 2-point conversion catch), however, they both had a few key weaknesses which hampered their overall production. Both had some big drops at key moments, and both appeared to have some shortcomings at times when it came to field awareness. That said, both of these upperclassmen now have an additional year of experience under their belt, and will no longer have to live in the shadow of the amazing and talented Robert Meachem.

The “Other” Briscoe

That said, I really like what I saw from Gerald Jones in his limited playing time last season, and something in my gut tells me that this talented sophomore will secure — at a minimum — 50% of one of the remaining starting spots. Based upon what I understand Dave Clawson’s offensive model to be, it seems that Jones would make a perfect fit — especially when it is time to go deep.

I am a huge fan of using the Tight End as an additional passing threat (something that I have a feeling we may see under Dave Clawson’s tricked-out-offense), and I hope that we end up using Jeff Cottam more in that role to complement and build upon the strengths of this year’s receivers — thereby making the Vols less one-dimensional and tougher to defend against. Either way, it seems to me that — despite losing a gamebreaker like Meachem — the receivers will be much stronger as a unit this season on the whole, largely due to experience and having more than just one go-to receiver. I feel this is especially true considering that, with Jonathan Crompton under center, it is fair to assume that opposing defenses will now have to honor the possibility that No. 8 may come running at them “Straight Outta Crompton” as well as throw to one of the wide-outs.

Read the rest of this entry

The Price of Success … Complaints

Tennessee VolunteersDue to my preoccupation with adding my new Tennessee Home for the Visually Offensive to Gate 21 this week, I have refrained from writing about all of the chatter about the BasketVols performance against Alabama this past Tuesday night. In particular, numerous folks “in the knowhave been going on endlessly about one particularly ill-advised play by JaJuan Smith. If you watched the game, you know exactly which play I’m talking about.

JaJuan SmithAfter making a heads-up steal from Bama, JaJuan Smith attempted to feed Tyler Smith with an alley-oop dunk, off of the backboard but instead allowed the ball to be intercepted by the Bammers, who proceeded to dance up the floor and score a quick 3-point basket.

There is no question that it was a bone-headed play. There is no question that JaJuan Smith saw the possibility for a SportsCenter highlight, and wanted to grab a piece of that action for the Vols. There is no question that the play — and its resulting 5-point swing — could have made a difference in the game. That’s not what I am here to debate.

The hub-bub about this play, however, arises not so much from the play itself, but rather from Bruce Pearl‘s reaction. Instead of of pulling JaJuan out of the game — and give him some time to think about it on the bench — Coach Pearl left JaJuan on the floor, and merely spoke to him during a break in the action. A lot of folks have criticized Pearl for condoning this “showboat” behavior.

Read the rest of this entry

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