In keeping with the spirit of the times, Mike Hamilton should have begun by dialing the 334 area code.
That would have eventually gotten Tennessee's athletic director in touch with Tommy Tuberville, an SEC staple, a Southern football made man, as sure a thing as there was for what ailed Tennessee's wounded football program.
|Some Tennessee fans are already referring to Dooley as 'Mike Shula with a law degree.' (AP)|
In keeping with the spirit of the times.
Tennessee ripping Tuberville from Tech only days after he had agreed to replace Mike Leach seems almost tame compared to what has happened the last 1½ months in college football. Hey, Lane Kiffin bolted before the ink was dry on his Knoxville, Tenn., mortgage. What's a few days on the job when Kiffin lasted only 14 months?
Hamilton eventually played nice, getting Louisiana Tech's Derek Dooley on Friday to begin the healing. We'll see if nice works in these turbulent times. While Hamilton took the high road, Vols Nation had questions. Dooley (Georgia law, 1994) already was being called "Mike Shula with a law degree," by some Vols fans.
Hamilton got his man, just not necessarily the man to legions of jilted Tennessee fans.
For the rest of the college football world, hopefully Friday put some closure to perhaps the most contentious, unethical, wild, weird, deceitful and unbelievable six-week period in the sport's modern history. What has occurred since early December would usually make for a strange year in college football. For those of us who have covered it, we not only need a rest, we need a shower.
It would produce only mild surprise, then, if Hamilton had convinced Tuberville to come "home" to his SEC roots. If the former Auburn coach had waited a couple of days that's probably exactly what would have happened. But apparently Hamilton is one of those with a shred of decency left.
Elsewhere? It started for me on Dec. 5 in the Georgia Dome press box as Florida and Alabama prepared for the SEC title game. There were reports, some of them actually true, about the Notre Dame coaching search. It seemed that Chicago journalists, bored with the obvious -- that Brian Kelly would become the new Irish coach -- spent a Saturday sitting around dreaming up wacky scenarios. Stories had to be removed from well-respected websites. One actually said that Notre Dame had offered Bob Stoops $50 million over 10 years and that was after Stoops had denied interest in ND three times.
When Kelly actually took the job, Cincinnati receiver Mardy Gilyard set the tone for the coming days.
"He went for the money," Gilyard said. "I'm fairly disgusted."
As Tennessee's search wound down, a lot of us were disgusted. In slightly more than a month's time, Mark Mangino, Jim Leavitt and Mike Leach left their jobs for alleged mistreatment of players. Leach sued his former employers and it sounds like Leavitt intends to.
Men with a combined 23 years of head coaching experiences, with thriving careers, now face the possibility of never coaching at a BCS school again. All of it played out on multiple media platforms with angry lawyers, coaches in denial and wounded players taking center stage.
|Tennessee turns to Dooley La. Tech names OC Scelfo interim coach Coaching Changes | Talk about the hiring!|
Dodds and Ends
We were left to ask how far coaches can go? What was one man's discipline has become another man's abuse. What is the line these days and how often are coaches crossing it? At the least parents and players felt empowered. The rest of us have to worry how long some of this alleged mistreatment has been going on.
"Every coach here," one Division I-A coach told me this week at the American Football Coaches Association convention, "has grabbed a facemask."
It has long been clear that major college coaches are becoming the most powerful persons on campus, maybe their entire state. For better or worse.
"We have created a monster," said Dr. Lynn Lashbrook, president of Sports Management Worldwide and a former college football coach and AD. "We feed a celebrity system. You've got personalities that drive the business. I think these guys lose their checks and balances."
Defrocked South Florida coach Jim Leavitt could have been an example when he spoke to walk-on Joel Miller in his office late last year. Miller's allegations that Leavitt had choked and hit him eventually led to the coach's firing a week ago.
"Before you say anything," Fanhouse.com quoted Leavitt as telling Miller during a private meeting, "just know I am the most powerful man in this building."
That's the same Jim Leavitt with a master's in counseling from the University of Missouri.
It didn't end there. In the early-morning hours following that SEC title game, a 911 call came from Urban Meyer's home in Gainesville, Fla. Shelley Meyer frantically told the operator that her husband was suffered chest pains. We later found out he was on Ambien, a prescription sleeping pill.
That was far from what we were told was "dehydration."
The night after Christmas, Meyer announced his resignation, a victim of burnout. Arguably, the nation's best college coach became the living, breathing symbol of stress in the profession. While most of us were shocked, almost every coach in the nation understood.
But 18 hours later Meyer was back, inspired by that day's Sugar Bowl practice. Overnight the resignation changed to an indefinite leave of absence. Fans, players, his coaches, even his family, were at least misled and remain confused.
Is Urban done, the victim of overwhelming stress or is he risking his health, maybe his life, by coming back?
"He needs to be very careful ...," said Andy Talley, the I-AA coach of the year at Villanova, who suffered a heart attack eight years ago. "It's a matter of surrounding yourself with good people then mentally letting go and trusting people around you. In his particular case, if he doesn't get to that point it's not going to matter because he's going to kill himself."
|Dooley and his family: Wife, Dr. Allison Dooley; son, John Taylor; daughter Juliana; son, Peyton. (AP)|
It was an unfortunate injury but to anyone who spoke to McCoy that night it was devastating. College football's winningest quarterback had tears in his eyes and basically asked God why his career was ended on a fluke hit.
In this Internet world, though, some critics questioned McCoy's manhood, suggesting he should have at least tried to return to the game. Texas eventually felt compelled to release a statement from its trainer, saying that, yes, McCoy really was injured.
Before the bowls began last month, the Big Ten went very public with its intention to begin exploring expansion again. This time the threat seems real. Commissioner Jim Delany has the Big Ten Network he needs to make as valuable as possible.
The only two schools that make expansion sense -- Notre Dame and Texas -- probably aren't coming. Hookers, though, have had more tact than Missouri with its shameless prostitution of itself for Big Ten admission. News flash, Mizzou -- little ol' Rutgers probably enhances the Big Ten Network, especially on the East Coast.
The snooty Big Ten can talk all it wants about inviting an "institution" and not a "team", but expansion is always a money grab. Like the ACC expansion a few years ago, this one will alter the college football landscape. Particularly vulnerable is the Big East, which could lose Rutgers, Syracuse or Pittsburgh.
As the Big Ten tried to reorganize, USC's Pete Carroll bolted. As an era ended, the tumult continued. The news broke a week ago, less than a day after Alabama became national champions and the same day Leavitt was fired.
By the time Tuesday night rolled around, we thought we were immune to the tremors -- but we were wrong. An earthquake hit. Kiffin departed for USC, arrogantly saying on his way out the door that he'd left the program in better shape than he found it. No, Lane, you didn't. Not when assistant Ed Orgeron reportedly tried to convince Tennessee recruits to delay enrolling so they could come to USC.
Southern Cal AD Mike Garrett was either desperate or dumb -- maybe both. Due to appear before the NCAA infractions committee next month, Garrett brought back a former Trojans assistant who committed at least six secondary violations at Tennessee.
As the nation watched, Hamilton scrambled for three days to find a replacement. To some he looked as desperate at Garrett. Some Tennessee fans are already calling the new coach Derek Dooley, "Mike Shula with a law degree," out of disappointment that Hamilton didn't hit a hiring home run.
Tommy Bowden was available. If Hamilton wanted another famous surname, why not call Mike Stoops? Bobby Petrino has shown a certain willingness to rip up stakes and leave -- he lasted as many games with the Falcons as Kiffin did with the Vols, 13.
Why not, then, plunder? Times have changed for the worse -- in just a month and a half.