After last Saturday's overtime win over Vanderbilt, Tennessee has defeated the Commodores 28 times in their last 29 tries. It's not the sort of long-term competitive balance that typically leads to a spicy, engaging, bitter rivalry.
But it appears that as long as Derek Dooley and James Franklin are in charge of their two teams, the Vols and 'Dores are going to be a rivalry worth watching all the same. A YouTube video of the Vols' locker room celebration leaked over the weekend, one in which Dooley says "the one thing Tennessee always does is kick the (expletive) out of Vandy" and the Vols sing they "don't give a damn for the whole school of Vanderbilt." Here's the video (language warning):
Monday, Dooley said that he was "disappointed" the video had surfaced.
"That’s kind of the world we live in. It’s like there’s no sacred place," he said. "I think probably all 120 (FBS) coaches out there in football have a side to them where they loosen up with the team that they don’t do in public ... It’s a post-game, emotional, have a little fun ... and then you close the door on them when you leave.”
In Dooley's defense, there's no doubt he had no desire to see that celebration become public, and equally little doubt that he and his team ought to be able to celebrate however they like inside their own locker room without it becoming a scandal. (If every postgame locker room scene became public, we'd wind up writing a post like this every week.) But you'll also note Dooley in no way apologizes for, retracts, or condemns the celebration
But to hear Franklin tell it Monday, it won't be as simple as closing the door this time:
“That’s a wound that I’m going to leave open that’s not going to heal. We’ll leave it open for a year and we’ll discuss it next year ... We’ll watch it as many times as we’ve got to watch it next year.
“I look at it as respect. Some people act like they won the Super Bowl, and they beat a team that the two previous years had won four games total. Obviously, we are closing the gap and threatening some people and making some people uncomfortable. We’ll see. We’ll leave it at that. We’ll move on. But we’ll have a lot of discussion about this next year when the time is right.”
Franklin has a point here: emotional as the game was, it's likely been a looooooong time since Tennessee felt as good about itself for beating the 'Dores as it appeared to in the video. It's safe to say that between the Vols' decline from their Phillip Fulmer-lead glory years and the feistiness shown both on- and off-the-field this year from Franklin's team, the Commodores have their in-state "rival's" full attention these days.
That doesn't say particularly good things for the state of Tennessee football. But it does say good things about the state of the rivalry between the two teams--and at this stage, the lackluster SEC East needs all the storylines it can get.