In the 1990s, Tennessee was one of the top 10 football jobs in the nation.
During that decade, only Florida State, Florida and Nebraska had more wins among the top-level programs, and UT won a national title and three SEC titles.
But Tennessee is no longer a top 10 job.
In fact, it is not even a top 25 job — now.
That’s why Tennessee has been turned down by so many coaches in the last dozen years.
The stock value of a job comes and goes in cycles, and UT is on a down cycle.
Not only has UT had eight losing seasons in 13 years, it has not won the SEC East since 2007 and it is likely to be hit with major sanctions due to ‘’ stunning’’ and ‘’shocking’’ and ‘’serious’’ NCAA rules violations. The words in quotes are from UT chancellor Donde Plowman.
Alabama wasn’t all that attractive when it hired Mike Dubose, Mike Price and Mike Shula.
Oklahoma wasn’t all that attractive when it hired Gary Gibbs and John Blake.
LSU wasn’t all that attractive when it hired Curly Hallman and Gerry DiNardo.
But look at those three programs now.
The Tennessee job can – and likely will be — very attractive again.
But considering the number of players that have entered the transfer portal, and that UT hasn’t won the SEC East in 13 years and that the NCAA is about to drop the hammer, the ‘’brand’’ needs some polishing before it shines again.
I’m not so sure UT’s program isn’t in the worst shape it’s been since 1963, when the Vols went 5-5, scored 168 points and were till running the Wing-T, which cost them two terrific quarterbacks prospects who won a Heisman Trophy (Steve Spurrier at Florida) and a national championship (Steve Sloan at Alabama.)
UT’s five wins in 1963 were against Richmond, Chattanooga, Tulane, Kentucky and Vanderbilt.
John Majors didn’t inherit a lot of talent from a 6-5 team in 1977, but at least the Vols were not facing NCAA sanctions.
Lane Kiffin inherited two first-round draft picks (Eric Berry, Dan Williams) and four other NFL draft picks – all taken before Round Six.
Derek Dooley, Butch Jones and Jeremy Pruitt also took over teams that weren’t blessed with great talent, but, again, no NCAA cloud hovering above.
Tennessee’s next coach faces a monumental rebounding job.
If he puts together a quality staff and recruits well and finds a top-notch quarterback, he can become respectable and competitive in a hurry.
After all, Butch Jones won nine games in his third and fourth years.
NOTE: Tennessee’s new AD Danny White is expected to hire at least two from his Central Florida staff: Chris McFarlane and Cameron Walker (compliance). UT also recently hired from UCF Rhett Brooks (Dan’s son) as assistant strength and conditioning coach.