An Alabama fan can look at a Tennessee fan today and say, “I know.”
Alabama has lived through all this before – minus the Pat Summitt news.
The Vols’ biggest problem was taking too long to recognize that it was time for Phillip Fulmer the coach to step down. The next biggest problem was once they realized it was time to move on, Tennessee cut his legs out from under him and tried to take the program in an entirely different direction in hopes of getting away from the Fulmer Culture.
Like Tennessee, ’Bama did the same thing seven years earlier when they finally decided that the hiring process needed to consist of more than considering anyone that inhaled secondhand smoke from one of Paul “Bear” Bryant’s Chesterfields.
The ‘Tide brought in Dennis Franchione because he was simply a good coach and was best suited for the job. Nothing else. Problem is, the “How To Run a Southern Football Team” manual doesn’t come with a section on “Hiring Outside the Family.”
Franchione was great. He was a no-nonsense coach. He wasn’t family. He was just a good coach who wanted results. Alabama was back. Well, they were back until Franchione was offered a job at Texas A&M and left town quicker than you can say, “Logan Young, Albert Means, and NCAA probation.”
Tennessee tried to hire outside the family and found a guy that seemed to be perfect. Lane Kiffin – everyone get on Lane Train. Kiffin was the exact opposite of Fulmer. He was mentioned in hip hop songs with references to weed and such. He brought excitement. He brought cocky back. He was offered his dream job in Southern California and left town. Oops.
WE ARE ALABAMA!
WE ARE TENNESSEE!
WHAT IS THIS GUY THINKING!?!?!?! NO ONE DOES THIS TO US!?!?!?!
Thus, you have the downside of hiring outside the family. The coach is there to win and further his resume. The university means nothing to him. When you see Fulmer, you see a guy who bleeds orange and would do anything for the university set upon a hill in the mountains of East Tennessee.
It didn’t go wrong for Tennessee the day Lane Kiffin bolted for USC. It didn’t even start when AD Mike Hamilton made the error in hiring Kiffin. It all began with one single tear at a press conference.
Although I was brought on board Third Saturday to write about Alabama, I can speak about the Vols because I live in Nashville. I’m the only person in my family born in Alabama. Everyone in my family was born in Tennessee. My dad is from Winchester, Tennessee. He went to high school with Fulmer. Fulmer’s uncle preached at my grandmother’s funeral.
This is my Vol resume. I ask your permission to continue. Thank you.
The end for Tennessee started the day Phillip Fulmer, dressed in a suit, sat at a table and said that he was asked not to return to Tennessee as head coach. I remember listening to 104.5 The Zone as they carried the press conference live.
Fulmer’s wife was by his side. Funny thing, because when Tennessee was winning everyone thought it was great that Fulmer’s family members were at every turn of the athletic department after a victory. It was all of sudden unprofessional and unbecoming that Fulmer would allow his family in press conferences when they started losing and the wheels were coming off.
Fulmer made it about two words before his voice cracked. His voice cracking led to a pause. Then, it happened. The tear fell. One single tear fell and cursed the Vols’ athletic department beyond measure.
Want to question the unbelievable power of a tear falling from a departing hero’s cheek?
Let me take you back to the first Saturday in December of 2009. Alabama and Florida were concluding a No.1 vs. No. 2 battle in the Georgia Dome where No. 2 Alabama spanked the Gators 32-13. The camera focused in on Tim Tebow in the closing minutes when all doubt had been erased about the outcome. Tebow Tears fell to the ground.
The tears of Tebow were so powerful, in fact, that Urban Myer was awoken from his slumber early the next morning by a faux heart attack. The non-heart attack was so bad that Urb retired, came back two days later, coached the next season, then retired again – all in the span of 12 months.
Not only did Urb have health issues, he also suffered through a terrible 2010 season. Tebow’s tears stained the entire Gator offense. The tears flowed to Columbia, South Carolina and gave Steve Spurrier the power to take the Gamecocks to their first ever SEC Championship game.
The power of Fulmer’s tears bled over to Columbia as well. Spurrier had no choice but to succeed. Knoxville and Gainesville’s curse was Spurrier’s gain. It makes too much sense to just be coincidence.
The curse may now be broken. Kiffin is gone. Urb is gone. Maybe that was enough to reverse a curse so deeply tear-stained.
Alabama beat the curse by hiring Nick Saban and it’s the spawn of Saban that may save the two most cursed schools in the SEC.
Yes, this story has taken a turn where Saban’s spawn will save a conference.
Saban granted Tennessee Derek Dooley. Saban granted Florida Will Muschamp. Saban says, “You’re welcome.”
Don’t ignore the warm feeling you get, Vol fan and Gator fan, the next time Saban talks with Tracy Wolfson on CBS at halftime and he looks into the camera and peers deeply into your soul. It’s a feeling of comfort. Embrace it.
Did you notice that your eyes are dry and your cheeks are no longer tear-stained?
Of course you did.
Saban wipes away all tears.
Holler at Eric on twitter at @ericfromspfld or check out other musings on ericfromspringfield.com