The Tennessee Fanbase Finally Says No

At a press conference on November 12, after firing Head Coach Butch Jones, Tennessee Athletic Director John Currie made the following statement, “We will begin an exhaustive search for the person of the HIGHEST integrity and character, with the skills and vision to propel Tennessee to championships.”

This past Sunday, Currie tried to hire Greg Schiano the former Rutgers and Tampa Bay head coach and current defensive coordinator at Ohio State. Once word began to spread that Schiano would be the next head man at Tennessee, an outpouring of protests began on social media and on campus as Tennessee fans, former players, politicians, and local businesses almost 100% rejected that decision, causing Currie to back out of the memo of understanding with Schiano.

While many people in the media and the protesters focused on Schiano’s alleged role in the Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State, my first reaction to outright rejecting the idea of Schiano as the new Tennessee Head Coach had nothing to do with the scandal but rather because Schiano was never on my list of potential solid candidates to be head coach at Tennessee and I felt the athletic department could do much better.

Yes, Schiano did a wonderful job of turning Rutgers from a doormat to a competitor in the Big East Conference from 2001-2011, but his overall record in the conference was 28-48 and finished only one season (2006) ranked. The former Big East is no SEC when it comes to football. Add on to that the fact that Schiano is basically a more aggressive, defensive-minded Butch Jones known for bullying and rubbing his players the wrong way. That would not have flown here in Knoxville.

When rumors that Schiano would be the next head coach began to swirl, I told my friends and co-workers. Their response was mostly disappointment and annoyance. That initial reaction had nothing to do with the Sandusky Scandal (those details surfaced later), but it had everything to do with Schiano as lousy a choice and Tennessee AD Currie for making that lousy choice.

Another reason the national media has focused on is that Tennessee fans were going to reject everyone not named Jon Gruden becoming head coach at Tennessee. Honestly, I never believed Gruden was coming and, despite what many fan message boards would have you believe, most Tennessee fans did not believe that either. Honestly, just mentioning Jon Gruden in your article and the clicks will start pouring in. Again it is Schiano the fans did not want.

Yes, Tennessee is coming off its first ever 4-8 season and first ever winless season in the SEC, but the cupboard is not bare. There is still plenty of talent on Rocky Top plus the fanbase will get behind a coach they can believe in. There are still plenty of coaches out there who would have been a much better choice including, Mike Leach, Lane Kiffin, Kevin Sumlin, Bobby Petrino, Mike Norvell, Jeff Brohm plus many others who do not have the baggage or attitude Schiano would bring.

Would the fans be 100% behind any of these hires? Probably not, but there would not have been an absolute backlash like the one that happened on Sunday. Tennessee fans have become sick and tired of being stuck in mediocrity since Philip Fulmer was forced out at the end of the 2008 season. After bringing in Lane Kiffin, Derek Dooley, and Butch Jones, Vol Nation was not ready to accept another pretender head coach. Tennessee is a top 10 program all time in the history of college football and fans, administrators, former players, and even politicians should want a coach who can get us back to that level. Tennessee has the money and resources to get a coach like that. Remember, Alabama had been wallowing in mediocrity in the decade prior to Nick Saban arriving on campus.

Vol Nation became fed up with how things were going and made their voices heard and for once, the men in power listened to the people. Now AD John Currie has to bring in another coach to guide the Vols and the fans will be there in full voice when the 2018 season kicks off against West Virginia.

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Shibley’s 2017 Pac-12 Preview

This will be a fun conference to watch out west. It looks like a three team race at the top, but unlike the Big Ten, the teams below the top three are all pretty solid and may cause an upset or two.

North Division

Champion: Washington

The Huskies offense will keep on chugging along with QB Jake Browning and RB Myles Gaskin leading the way. That should hopeful make up for the void in the secondary as the Huskies lost three defensive backs to the NFL. However, Chris Petersen is a proven winner who did so much with less when he was the head coach of Boise State. Now the rebuild is complete and it is time to maintain it also helps that the Huskies would avoid playing USC until the Pac-12 Championship game.

Best of the Rest: Stanford

Want to talk about consistency? Look no further than the Stanford Cardinal. Head Coach David Shaw’s team won 10 games last season and it was considered by many to be a down year (I’d love for that to be a down year at Tennessee again). Yes, dynamic do everything Christian McCaffrey is gone but the Cardinal know how to fill the voids and just keep on winning.

Anyone Else?

Mike Leach has brought Washington State back from the dead. With QB Luke Falk chucking the ball all over the place, the Cougars can get off to a great start with five straight home games to open the season, concluding with USC coming to Pullman on a Friday night.

South Division

Champion: Southern California

It is really tough to ignore the nine game win streak that USC closed the 2016 season with climaxing with the thrilling win over Penn State in the Rose Bowl. Sam Darnold is the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy and everything looks dandy for the Trojans. A few things to consider: While Darnold is awesome, the Trojans still have to replace three starters on the offensive line, plus the majority of the receptions from last season. It will also be very tough to replace All-American CB Adoree’ Jackson.

Best of the Rest: Utah

The Utes are always near the top of the division thanks to a consistently solid defense. The offense needs to be able to make more big plays if the Utes are to get all the way to the top. With all the talent USC has, plus the Utes have to travel to Los Angeles to play USC, I do not seeing them getting any higher. At least this season.

Anyone Else: 

Josh Rosen is back from injury to lead UCLA again. Of course this is a make of break year for the Bruins and head coach Jim Mora after the bottom fell out after Rosen went down last season. The first game against Texas A&M is crucial to alleviate some of the pressure.

Colorado is the defending division champions. While many believed they overachieved last season, it is not like this program is going back to the division basement any time soon.

PAC-12 CHAMPION: Washington

One of the biggest factors against USC this season is that they play 12 straight games without a bye to start the season. That does not give the Trojans much room for error is injuries start to pile up. Meanwhile, Washington will have that offense rolling long enough for the defense to catch up and the Huskies will be going full-bore by the end of the season.

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Shibley’s 2017 Big XII Preview

If you like offense, then this is the conference for you. Get ready for some insanity. Despite the Big XII adding a championship game this season even thought they still only have ten teams, I do not think it will make much difference as these team will all beat each other up all season.

Champion: Kansas State

The teams getting the most hype as champions in this conference either have a first year coach (Oklahoma) or I do not trust to close (Oklahoma State) so this season I am going with consistency.

Bill Snyder is turning 78 and has been a model of consistency at Kansas State. Last season the Wildcats had an extremely young team getting a combined 135 starts from underclassmen and went 9-4 with a couple of 4th quarter letdowns against West Virginia and Oklahoma State. This season just seems right for the Wildcats. While they will definitely not go undefeated this season, they have an experienced team, a do it all senior quarterback, and a coach who has been there before. Add in the fact that Snyder underwent treatment for throat cancer in the offseason plus rumors that this will be his last season, I am going with the storybook ending.

Best of the Rest: Oklahoma and Oklahoma State

It seems a little strange having the Bedlam Game in early November instead of the end of the season, but that’s what we have. Both teams have dynamic and explosive offenses led by star quarterbacks, Baker Mayfield and Mason Rudolph. They will put up plenty of points, but I have doubts for both teams and it revolves around their head coaches. Lincoln Riley got the job in Norman after long time coach Bob Stoops suddenly retired this summer, so while he has been with the program for a few years as offensive coordinator, this is his first season as head coach. Meanwhile, Mike Gundy is a bundle of energy that his team and fans feed off of. The problem is, Oklahoma State has always found a way to lose a game or two that they really should not and I think that will cost them again this season.

Anyone Else?

TCU is going to have a nasty defense (at least by Big XII standards) so the Horned Frogs will definitely be a tough out, especially if quarterback can cut down on the interceptions and the wide receivers stop dropping the ball.

West Virginia has a marquee quarterback in Florida transfer Will Grier, however the Mountaineers are desperately thin on defense, especially on the line and in the secondary.

Texas has a new high profile young head coach in Tom Herman plus a solid quarterback in Shane Buechele. The Longhorns might still be a year or two away from true contention.

With all the offense, lack of defense, and the fact that the championship game will be a rematch from the regular season, who knows what may happen in the Big XII.

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What’s in a Name?

Last night ESPN confirmed that they had moved their scheduled play-by-play announcer from the University of Virginia’s opening home football game against William and Mary. The announcer is Asian-American Robert Lee. Here is ESPN’s full statement on the issue:

“We collectively made the decision with Robert to switch games as the tragic events in Charlottesville were unfolding, simply because of the coincidence of his name. In that moment it felt right to all parties. It’s a shame that this is even a topic of conversation and we regret that who calls play by play for a football game has become an issue.”

ESPN apparently made this decision because they were worried people would be offended having an Asian-American with a name similar to the man who commanded the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia broadcast a football game in Charlottesville, Virginia.

For reference here are the two men in question:

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See any similarities besides the name? I did not think so. I am also pretty sure fans with a working brain would also be able to tell the difference as well.

Honestly, if ESPN had just kept Lee as the announcer there might have been a few memes or comments on Twitter about it during the game itself and that would have been the end of it. However, once ESPN decided to move Lee to another game and let news outlets get wind of it, this story became a much bigger deal than it otherwise would have been.

Furthermore, the University of Virginia vs. William and Mary game was scheduled to be streamed on ESPN’s digital networks, and not on any of ESPN’s television channels, so the vast majority of the people that would be watching the broadcast would be fans of the schools playing.

Just like a week ago when ESPN apologized for holding an auction draft (even though auction drafts have been a part of fantasy sports for years). ESPN is paying too much attention to a small fraction of its viewing audience that makes noise online but does not represent the vast majority of people who watch ESPN on a daily basis.

Hopefully this silliness does not become the norm.