Will this nightmare ever end?
Let's just get this out at the start. I grew up a Tennessee fan. I've been going to Neyland Stadium for games with my dad since I was old enough to walk. I've seen over 100 games in my lifetime live, many times with our family planning vacations around following the Vols. I've been told I'm a fanatic. I don't deny it.
So there's really no way I can possibly write about the University of Tennessee and its coaching search from an unbiased reporters' point of view. I'm a fan. This is something that I'm passionate about beyond logic or reason.
Now that we've got that out in the open, let me be frank: This coaching search is an abject disaster. There's at least a small possibility that we're watching one of the most successful programs in the history of college football destroy itself.
It's beyond comprehension how leadership at the University of Tennessee can be this incompetent. It's scary how much sway fans have had in making this search even more difficult. This mixture of ineptitude and fanaticism has been the perfect recipe for creating a laughingstock.
Face it Vol fans: We're a complete joke right now.
John Currie, the current UT Athletic Director, deserves his fair share of blame. If rumors are true, many influential boosters have this mess at their feet too. But the fans - a group I consider myself a part of - aren't blameless.
Late Sunday, I posted on my Facebook page how I didn't want Greg Schiano. I wanted to stress though that he had nothing to do with the Penn State allegations (though, if true, are awful). I just didn't like the thought of Schiano, with his history of being a difficult personality, being the next UT coach.
Lots of others felt this way, and expressed their thoughts in a variety of ways. In the end, Schiano's agreement to be the next UT coach was nixed.
As somebody who has spent a tremendous amount of time and money following the Vols, it made me proud to know the paying customers still had a chance to make their voices known. As a media member, I was terrified at how something can grow on social media and spread like wildfire. Twitter trolls with the power to ruin people's chances of employment - is that where we're at now? Speculation and hearsay and mob mentality overpowered reporting, sourcing, and investigating.
Since Sunday, all UT has heard from other coaches is no. First, Mike Gundy decided to keep his mullet in Stillwater.
Jeff Brohm decided Wednesday he'd rather stick around for a second year with the Purdue Boilermakers, spurning an offer some UT beat writers reported was a done deal.
North Carolina State coach Dave Doeren got his chance to delight Vol fans Thursday. Doeren, whose record in the ACC the last four years is slightly worse than the four-year stretch Butch Jones just posted in the SEC, used the offer to leverage an extra year on his Wolfpack contract.
So who is next to either rescue the program, or draw the ire of the UT fans?
Personally, I'm all for Lane Kiffin. I know some fans reading this want to throw this paper in the trash now, but I truly believe the reason people dislike Kiffin is because they knew we lost a good coach. The way he left was not desirable, but losing him hurt because everybody believed he could compete and defeat SEC powers like Florida and Alabama.
Bringing back the Lane Train seems unlikely, so why not go and get Tee Martin? Linking the coach to the last time the Vols were the toast of college football seems like an easy decision. So of course, Currie won't make that one.
Maybe they look at Kevin Sumlin, who was dismissed at Texas A&M. He's shown the ability to beat Alabama.
If I had the power, I'd stall the search and take the wheel away from Currie - reportedly the owner of a $5M buyout. I don't see any scenario where Currie can introduce the next UT coach.
Put Phillip Fulmer in charge of the search committee, fly Peyton Manning into Knoxville and make a big deal about them being united in representing the University of Tennessee.
After that, just wait a week or two. UT still has $7M - if the report about Gundy's offer is true - to throw around. That's more than all but three college coaches and four NFL coaches make. Show the ability to have people in power with reasonable, logical thinking and then throw the cash on the table.
Or just keep doing what the administration is doing now. Then they can find out when the next coaching hire is made in 2-3 years that $7M isn't available. It's hard to make money when people don't care about your product anymore.