Winter is coming.

currie

 

 

This morning Vol Nation rolled out of bed to a kind of blustery, grey weather that is all to unusual to autumn in East Tennessee. Funny hats, masks, and props are scattered about the streets of Ft Sanders, left by someone too cold or too preoccupied to come back for them. The party is over, Winter is coming. And with winter comes a medley of questions for Chancellor Davenport, AD John Currie, and Vol Nation as a whole. Butch Jones finally, beyond a reasonable doubt sealed his fate last night. Like the busted Halloween mask discarded in the gutter off of 17th Street, the Jones veneer has cracked beyond recognition. At this point, there is no question Tennessee will move on from coach Jones.

Vol fans began on this journey through the doldrums of mediocrity ten years ago, when AD Mike Hamilton decided to fire hall of fame coach Phillip Fulmer.Hamilton was two athletic directors ago. Fulmer was three coaches ago, and then Chancellor Jimmy Cheek is also long gone. Director Dave Hart did a good job of stabilizing our programs, refilling the coffers with money, and handling the retirement of sports icon Pat Summitt. But now the job rests on an entirely new set of shoulders.

Butch Jones likes to say that he is “the caretaker of Tennessee football.” That’s not entirely true. Butch is charged with creating and leading a quality football team, but the buck does not ultimately stop with him. John Currie is the caretaker of Tennessee football. Hart and Jones brought us out of the biblical “pit of despair”, and made us a respectable program again. Now it is time to take the leap and become an elite program again.

Today, Florida fired head coach Jim McElwain after an embarrassing loss to rival Georgia. McElwain was 22-12 at Florida and has won back to back division titles. On the surface, the firing looks like a knee jerk reaction from Florida. Sometimes, elite programs make brash moves. That is how they remain elite. Mike Hamilton decided to retain Derek Dooley in 2011 after Tennessee’s firstloss to Kentucky since Reagan’s second term began. Last night, Kentucky handed Jones and the Vols their second such loss. Dooley posted a 5-7 record again the next year and the Vols slipped further into anonymous mediocrity.

The timing of a coaching change is tricky, and with the recent rule change allowing high school recruits an early signing period, there’s no blueprint for a mid-season change. The only thing that is for sure, is that with every sound byte, every illicit gesture on the field, every fight in practice or tweet from a player, the situation in Knoxville grows more and more toxic.

Winter is coming, and with it a great many questions for Director Currie. When should he fire Butch? Should he fire Butch? Who should he target to replace him? There will be a trial by fire for this young athletics director, and Vol nation as a whole. If Currie follows suit of his predecessors and misses on this hire, we may be forced to except a new standard of mediocrity in our football program.

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