Pride of the Southland Neyland Stadium

Hire Hope

Hope is valuable.

The Powers That Be at Tennessee haven’t given us much reason to believe they will make a good decision in this situation. Not only were they completely out of touch in almost hiring Greg Schiano, they believed Schiano was a more valuable candidate than Mike Gundy, Jeff Brohm, and any number of other options available before everything got nuts on Sunday. It was a stunningly poor move on both a football and a fan relations front, one John Currie will have a long and difficult road to recover from, if he still can.

What do you do when you can’t trust the thing you love to make good decisions?

When the Vols hired Butch Jones, Tennessee’s faith was tested. But we could hope the coach who went 9-3 the last two years at Cincinnati with a pair of shared division titles could grow into the role at Tennessee. And fans showed up, early and often and even late into his final season, because we love Tennessee and we tried to love Butch Jones.

It’s been five years, only about 365 days of which, from one October to the next in 2015-2016, felt like a real return on the investment. The last year was the worst in school history.

We’re all here because we love Tennessee. What we need is hope.

And what we’re losing by the hour is faith in the decision makers.

I actually liked swinging and missing on Mike Gundy; it was a serious play for a serious coach. I don’t know what happened with Jeff Brohm, but fan reaction to the possibility/momentary probability should be educational for the decision makers, if they’re willing to listen.

It’s not exclusive to hiring Tee Martin. You certainly don’t have to hire Lane Kiffin. But you have to hire hope.

When faith seems non-existent, love gets very difficult. When you’ve already shown up for a decade now and been met with only disappointment, it gets more difficult to write the check for tickets. When you don’t believe those in charge are making good decisions about the future of the program, it gets more difficult to show up to support the program.

Tennessee needs hope. And even if there is little faith in the decision makers long-term, they can still make a hire that provides hope today.

Jeff Brohm would have done that, but he’s not the only one. Tee Martin would do that in a different way, but he’s not the only one either. Again:  we hoped in Butch Jones. It can be done.

As one example, consider the difference between Chad Morris and Dave Doeren.

Chad Morris took over an SMU team that went 1-11 in 2014. He went 2-10, then 5-7, then 7-5. Before that he was the architect of the Clemson offense from 2011-14. I don’t know if Chad Morris would be a good coach at Tennessee. But there is reason to hope. (There’s also reason to enjoy an offense that’s currently seventh nationally in S&P+ and 16th in yards per play. If you hire Chad Morris, you take some of that Mike Gundy money and buy a defensive coordinator.)

Chad Morris wouldn’t have been anyone’s first choice, before or after Sunday. But there is reason to hope.

It is simply a much harder sell with a more known entity like Dave Doeren.

Dave Doeren is the guy NC State hoped would make a difference. After a 3-9 first season, Doeren went 8-5, 7-6, 7-6, and is 8-4 this year. Tom O’Brien’s last three years at NC State:  9-4, 8-5, 7-5.

Chad Morris (and Jeff Brohm, and Tee Martin, and a bunch of other guys) is an unknown. He might be good. He might not be. But I can hope.

We already know much more about Dave Doeren. Another power conference school (and one with a lower standard of success, traditionally) already hoped he was the guy to move them forward, and so far he has only achieved the same things his predecessor did before being fired.

It is simply much, much harder to hope in Dave Doeren than an unknown.

Consider this as well:  five of Tennessee’s first seven games next year are vs West Virginia, Florida, at Georgia, at Auburn, and Alabama. That is a challenge, to say the least. If Tennessee takes a beating in some or all of those games, who do you want to take that beating?

If it’s Tee Martin, the narrative is patience. I have no idea if Tee Martin would be a successful coach at Tennessee if he took the job right now, but I do know no one would get more patience from the fan base. If he starts 2-5 and finishes below .500 his first year, fans would handle it much better. But they will also handle it better if it’s someone like Chad Morris, someone who walks in the door with more hope. Tennessee is likely to struggle next season no matter who is wearing the headset. But they’re 2-5 with Dave Doeren, he will get far less benefit of the doubt because he will inherit far less hope. Even though one year on the job doesn’t prove much of anything, some will say they’re already out on Dave Doeren because deep down they were out on him from day one. I fear Tennessee needs more hope than he can currently provide.

Hope isn’t just about morale. It’s about ticket sales and patience. It’s about keeping love alive even when faith is dormant. Reasonable fans – which I always believe are the vast majority of Tennessee’s paying customers – will always be invested if you give them hope.

(Also, in the hope department:  Les Miles. It is baffling to me that he can’t even get an interview. It’s easy to view this as a crisis, which makes one look for safety, and Les Miles is the safest pick on the board. I can easily find hope in Les Miles.)

If the Vols hire Doeren, I will support him. I won’t take it out on him. But hope will be more difficult to come by at a time when Tennessee needs it most. And patience will wear thinner, faster at a time when Tennessee is likely to need more of it.

Even if we lack faith in the decision makers, they might be able to see how such a hire is beneficial to them too. With Tennessee’s name in the national sports news for reasons they don’t like, I’m sure it’s tempting to just hire someone and try to move on. But it is far better for those decision makers in the long run to not panic, at least listen to the people, and make a hire they can find hope in. The longer we can hope, the longer we’re invested. And, in this case, the more time they might buy for themselves before the unrest skips right over the head coach and goes to the top of the ladder. It’s already there tonight. But there is still time to make a hopeful hire that benefits both them and the fans.

The conversations about why we have no faith in the decision makers needs to take place anyway. But Tennessee also needs a football coach; even if not tonight, relatively soon. There are still good options out there. You don’t have to panic. And you should never underestimate the value of hope.



  1. Thanks Will, tonight all I have is Hope, HOPE that someone will come to their senses and step up before the stadium that I love so much crumbles to the ground. HOPE that the powers that be, hear you, hear all of us because this is just not football to most of us, it is a way of life. It is Saturdays in the fall, it’s the Vol Navy along the river, it’s the stadium rocking to Rocky Top, it’s the chill bumps on your arms as the T opens up and the team runs out. To us that love Tennessee football, we are diehard, we bleed orange, we celebrate with the team when we win, we cry with the team when they lose. The last few days have been gut wrenching, the highs of the possibility of Mike Gundy, the lows of the almost certainity of Schiano. We need to have HOPE that the powers that be, be attentive to other possibilities before they move on to the next opportunity. I heard alot of players say that they just want honesty, well that is what fans want too. Thanks again for being the voice of so many of us. Maybe, just maybe someone is listening and will make the RIGHT choice and Tennessee football will be back….

  2. I just hope Doeren turns down the offer and stays at NC State.

  3. I don’t think they will have to wait till the fall to see the differences in the financial end. I have seen many people say that if they hire the NC coach, they will end their donations/support immediately. It will be hard to do 340 million in renovations if no one is contributing to the cause. That is why they need a “come to Jesus meeting” NOW!

  4. I think that Hope has been contacted about the opening and declined the job.

  5. Tying ourselves to Dave Doeren for multiple years will set us back multiple years from the path back to relevance. And even if it’s not Doeren I don’t have any faith in Currie, et al to hire someone who will get us on that path in 2018. And even if Currie, et al WERE to somehow make a good hire, the fans won’t trust or get behind that coach simply because he was hired by Currie, et al. (I am not including Tee in this scenario because it seems that Currie has closed the door on that.)

    The only path forward that I can see that gives us any HOPE is to ask Brady Hoke (or Shoop if Hoke isn’t interested) to serve as interim head coach, completely clean out the athletic department, make hiring a new – competent – athletic director top priority for now, and then let the new AD hire a head coach sometime next season. It’s almost like giving ourselves the death penalty for a year, but I really think that is a better alternative than making a desperation hire in Dave Doeren. Doeren will see half of Neyland Stadium empty from day one, IMO.

    • I wonder if Brady Hoke would sign up for that.

      • I would think it would be a good opportunity for him to showcase his ability to land another HC gig elsewhere. And if he didn’t want to do it, next man up. Would serve the same benefit for Shoop.

    • Like the article talked about, there are a few others out there that give some potential for hope, beyond just Tee. And like the article states, Doeren isn’t really one unfortunately.

      But, at this point, I’d be ok (I don’t know if ok is really the right term, but resignedly accepting without outright disgust at this point) with Hoke or Shoop for like a year audition. Especially if it came with the news that Currie was out and Blackburn or Fulmer (or really anyone with some competence) was in at AD too.

    • I’m really beginning to wonder whether firing Currie fixes the problem. Thinking it goes even deeper than that.

      • Sadly, I think you are right. Nonetheless, Currie’s approval rating is 0.0. A new hire – even one chosen by the same corrupt powers that be that hired Currie – would start off north of that, even if not by much.

        And would not have the past five days on his/her resume.

      • In regards to this, my hope is that this situation has maybe been enough of an eye opener to the some on the Board and to the other boosters not named Haslam. Maybe they can collectively pull it together and get an new and competent AD, then shield that person enough to run a real HC search.

        A scenario in which the first part happens very soon. But unfortunately, the second half would probably have to happen next year or beyond 🙁

    • I just don’t see anything to be gained by placing a one-year band aid on the situation. Hoke didn’t show anything in the last 2 games that makes me think he can hold it together for a year, nor has Shoop shown anything in 2 years as a DC.

      If you want to tear down the AD, that’s fine, but I see no benefit to prolonging the uncertainty with a prolonged interim.

      • I don’t expect Hoke to show us anything we haven’t seen. It would just be a stall to get someone in place who is competent to hire a football coach. We don’t have that right now. And if we let him hire someone (I shudder to think of who he will turn to now that Doeren has turned him down,) we are stuck with that person for multiple years. It would do more damage than basically taking a year off.

        Just my $0.02.

        • I’m beginning to think that might be the best play left. There are still a couple that might be okay, but much longer, and stabilization might be the best thing for a year. It’s like when your vehicle (car, bike, whatever) starts shaking uncontrollably. That’s us right now, and trying to do anything other than slowing down to stop the shakes may be too much for us.

          • While I think it is probably our best option, I have no real hope that it will actually happen. It would require too many big egos to admit that they have made major mistakes.

    • And if it’s Leach I take all of this back.

  6. Fantastic article Will.

    I love all of the thoughtful articles that you guys put out here.

  7. If Currie closed the door on Tee, then he is who I would choose. These average Joe’s above would be nothing short of surrender. Les Miles would be flashy, but someone competent would have to help him hire coordinators. And for the Love of Love! Brady Hoke is very bad at football. Let’s put the Tee back into Tennessee!

  8. Spot on article based on where the search has led to IMO.

    Love the interplay between faith, hope and love. Keep up the good work!

  9. I’m not saying it’s fair, but when the game is believed to have passed you by, it’s over.

    When Fulmer was fired in 2008, he was 58 years old, 6 years younger than Miles is now. He had a title and had won about 75% of his games, just like Miles. Was he ever seriously considered for another job? Wikipedia tells me he was interested in/interviewed for Louisville when they hired Charlie Strong, though I don’t remember that.

    The idea of stability sounds nice, but what is there to recommend Miles as being right for this situation? He walked into an LSU program that had just won a national title and kept them there. He got Oklahoma State to 9 wins, but they’d reached that level under the previous coach.

    I think you have to take a high variance option at this point, preferably somebody who has experience building up to success.

    • I would probably look longest at Chad Morris at this point. But you also shouldn’t hire a sitting coach just to hire a sitting coach. If the decision makers are that down on Tee, I think Les is an excellent fire extinguisher.

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