By Steve Williams
I read John Currie’s April 6 open letter to Vol Nation on UTsports.com with interest, and I’m glad the new Tennessee athletics director had a “busy, but very rewarding six days!” in his first week on the job.
I’m also glad to hear Currie is going to be writing such letters on a regular basis as part of fulfilling one of his objectives to have a transparent program. Too often in the recent past UT fans have been kept in the dark particularly when things weren’t going Tennessee’s way.
Former football coach Derek Dooley disappeared for months after that embarrassing loss at Kentucky and Dave Hart, the last AD, was unheard from so long after he announced his retirement last summer, he had to set up a press conference to basically tell us he was still alive and busy.
Currie tells us he’s going to be upfront in his dealings with Tennessee’s fan base, and promises to explain his decisions even if they might be unpopular ones. That’s fair, because as we all know, you can’t make everybody happy all of the time.
So, Currie had a good first week, got around to see a lot of people, including athletes and coaches, and did a lot of listening to what they had to say.
His first morning on the job started with a “cup of coffee and a great chat” with football coach Butch Jones. Boy would I like to have been a fly on the wall for that.
As many of my friends know, I like to have a good cup of coffee to start my day as much as anybody, but I do hope Currie totally realizes the seriousness and concerns many Tennessee fans have about the football program.
Currie just got here. Tennessee football fans have been going through tough times since Phillip Fulmer was forced out in 2008 (and John, from what I’ve heard, you certainly know about that).
As he evaluates the football program, Currie needs to keep in mind too that last season was suppose to have been the breakthrough year for Butch. His Vols were preseason picks to win the SEC East for the first time since 2007. They didn’t. They lost to South Carolina and Vandy!
One might say Coach Jones had a free pass at the end of the disappointing 2016 season, with Hart a lame duck AD.
Currie must remember these things when he evaluates this football program. It shouldn’t be Season 1 going forward. That wouldn’t be fair to Tennessee fans that have been suffering for years.
The athletics program overall at Tennessee, when looking at the winning and losing aspect of it, is not where it needs to be and has seen much better days.
Tennessee hasn’t won a SEC championship since back-to-back titles in 1997 and 1998. It hasn’t won the SEC East Division since 2007.
The Vols’ basketball program has captured only one SEC title (2008) in 50 years. Rick Barnes will be going into his third year as head coach next season. How long should it take a veteran coach with his resume to put the Vols in a post-season tournament? Would an up and coming young coach suit Tennessee better?
The Lady Vols under Holly Warlick captured a SEC regular season basketball crown in 2015 and a conference tourney title in 2014. Their last Final Four appearance was 2008. Holly does have the nation’s No. 1 rated recruiting class coming in.
This is suppose to be Dave Serrano’s make-or-break year in baseball and he knows it. In fact, Serrano has said himself that just making the SEC tourney isn’t enough and he considers making an NCAA Regional a legitimate post-season berth.
Currie won’t have to make a decision on the future of the baseball program. It will be made for him on the field, one way or the other. For the record, Tennessee’s last SEC title in baseball was 1995 and its last NCAA tourney appearance was 2005.
Tennessee’s softball program under Ralph and Karen Weekly is a perennial contender, although the Lady Vols haven’t won a SEC championship since 2007. They were runners-up to Alabama in 2011.
Tennessee finished eighth overall in the 2015-16 SEC All-Sports rankings, with its men placing 12th and its women fourth.
As Currie can see and should know, a sense of urgency is needed from him on this subject.
Our new AD concluded his first letter to Vol Nation by writing, “My family and I share your high expectations and are honored to join you on the journey!”
Welcome aboard. Enjoy your coffee. Now get busy, please.