Cainer’s Corner: Vols new coach won’t please everyone

By: Eric Cain / @_Cainer 

We are officially on Day 5 of the Tennessee football coaching search and things are getting weird.

Or normal. We’ve been down this road before.

Fans are tracking planes and clinging to anything the rumor mill provides. The phrase ‘inside sources’ has never been more prevalent from your friend at the gym or your brother-in-law’s classmate who works at the university. Oh, and message boards are KING.

It’s truly a fun time for Tennessee fans. Also, a nerve wracking time. Nonetheless, fans are used to it.

There’s been four head coaching changes since Phillip Fulmer’s departure nearly a decade and a half ago. To say this process has been overplayed would be an understatement.

But that’s the world we’re living in here in Knoxville this week. We’ve heard names from Clemson’s Tony Elliot to Minnesota’s PJ Fleck. SMU’s Sonny Dykes to Penn State’s James Franklin and all the names in between.

But this time it is a little different.

How? Danny White.

The new Director of Athletics, who was introduced Friday in a press conference setting, has no ties to Tennessee. No one knows him – not even his staff at the moment. He’s been on the job for a little more than 72 hours. He’s using The Parker Search firm to help with the process and the search has been airtight.

Credit: Sam Forman / WNML Photos

Journalists are good at their jobs and this field is so close-knit that information will be leaked out. Some has already been leaked as multiple outlets have reported there’s been conversations held with Elliot and Franklin.

The Minneapolis Tribune reported Monday night that Fleck was not interested in the gig through conversations.

But this coaching search for the most part has been closed. Not a whole lot of information has been leaked and most are not as informed as they would have been with prior regimes – regimes that have Tennessee ties, thus Tennessee sources.

That’s a good thing for Vol fans. It appears this is a one-man show as White and the Parker group are going about this themselves.

But eventually, there will be a hire made and it won’t appease everyone. No hire does. And with the sanctions looming around the program with a reported 50 violations potentially – it’s likely to not be a slap on the wrist.

So, why would a sitting head coach (or recently fired coach) at the Power 5 level want to come here? Can you win a national championship at Tennessee? Sure. But with a potential multi-year bowl band and loss of scholarships (maybe even for two years), is a raise really worth it?

I say no.

Let’s be real. Tennessee reaching a bowl game in 2021 is no lock – even with a weak nonconference schedule. Missing out on the Gator or Music City Bowl is not the end of the world. But say Tennessee is sanctioned with the loss of four scholarships for the Class of 2022. Say that extends over to the Class of 2023.

Bad news.

I’m not saying that’s what happens, but recruiting is currency for college coaches. You take some spots away from a rebuilding program – it makes it that much tougher.

In a perfect world, Tennessee offers Matt Campbell 7 million + and makes him say no. But Matt Campbell likely doesn’t have interest in the headache that is Knoxville. Why would Gus Malzahn forfeit some of that $21 million dollar buyout to go through the ringer here at Tennessee right now?

More so, why would a rising coordinator at the Power 5 level want this to be their big break? I think Tony Elliot is a great play-caller and Tennessee would be in good shape to hire him away from Dabo Sweeney. But he’d likely begin his tenure behind the eight-ball here.

We can knit pick all day as to why or why not a coach should take the Tennessee job. As I wrote last week, this program has unbelievable support, both financially and from the fans. The Vols will land on a head coach at some point – likely this week.

But it won’t be who everyone believes is a slam dunk. It never is. One thing is for sure though – whoever it is will have their work cut out for them.

Tennessee is once again seeking a head football coach. The process, however agonizing or fun it might be for you, is still underway.

So, grab some popcorn and continue doom scrolling. Or grab some binoculars and aid in the plane tracking. It’s entertaining, nonetheless.