By Mark Nagi
Fun fact about me. I love running on the beach. Something about hearing the waves, seeing the waves, and dodging the waves while plodding along under nine minutes per mile does something for the soul. I can’t really explain it, but it is therapeutic. I’ve felt that way ever since the first time I ran along the Atlantic Ocean.
So last week when I took my daughters to North Myrtle Beach for a few days over spring break, I couldn’t wait to run along the beach for the first time in about five months.
There was one problem… it was really cold.
Typically, my beach runs have been in the summer or the early Fall when the temperatures were still rather warm. I’d wake up right before sunrise, take in the scenery and avoid heatstroke. But this time around temps were in the 40s, with overcast skies and high winds.
In other words, it was freezing.
The place we were staying at gave us terrific views of the Atlantic. The skies were gray as far as the eye could see, and with Europe thousands of miles away, you couldn’t see any land.
I promise there is a point to this long introduction.
I could feel it and I could see it and I could hear it. I was out in the cold.
Just like Tennessee football.
When you are out in the cold like this, it seems like you’ll never see the sun and feel the warmth again. Tennessee football has been out in the cold since 2007, with few moments when you felt like the good weather was on the way. You had the win on Halloween 2009 over South Carolina. There was the 2013 upset of 11th ranked South Carolina, and the memorable 2016 victories over Florida and Georgia.
But those moments have been few and far between.
Tennessee booted Fulmer in 2008 and since then it has been a revolving door of coaches, athletic directors, university presidents, and chancellors. With that kind of turnover, perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the football program hasn’t been on steady footing.
Lane Kiffin bolted after 14 months and left Tennessee on probation. Derek Dooley was well over his head and the results proved it. Butch Jones recruited well but couldn’t handle in-game responsibilities. Jeremy Pruitt, like Kiffin, will likely leave Tennessee on probation but didn’t depart on his own accord.
I’ve been asked if Tennessee will ever get back to being what Tennessee was in the 1990s. My answer is always that of course Tennessee will one day be a powerhouse in college football, but that “one day” can be a long time.
When you are out in the cold, like Tennessee is, it feels like things will always be that way. Alabama went a decade without much measurable success. Then they got lucky. Alabama wanted to hire West Virginia’s Rich Rodriguez, but he turned them down at the last minute. That forced them to try to hire Nick Saban, who had previously turned them down.
Saban finally said yes, and the rest is history.
My point is that nothing lasts forever. Tennessee won’t always be mediocre. With the hiring of well-respected AD Danny White, it feels like things are moving in the right direction.
Only time will tell if that is actually the case.
For now, all Tennessee fans can do is grab a sweater… because the chilly conditions will be here for a while.