Vol Vent Line
If you still had any doubts whether Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton made the right decision, you should have seen the Wyoming Cowboys celebrating at Neyland Stadium.
UT's athletic director decided at the first of the week he needed a new football coach. The Vols provided confirmation Saturday afternoon.
The 13-7 defeat to Wyoming wasn't just another loss in a 3-7 season. It was one for the ages.
It's one thing to lose to your SEC rivals or in overtime to a talentless UCLA team. But this was the lowest scoring team in Division I-A, traveling across two time zones
How bad is Wyoming? It lost five consecutive games in the middle of the season by a 207-30 count.
How bad is Wyoming? Not as bad as UT.
I still wonder if this UT team has figured out how bad it is.
Players seemed shocked by coach Phillip Fulmer's forced resignation on Monday. It makes you wonder if they have been keeping score.
They just became only the second team in school history to lose as many as seven games in a season. The program has now lost 21 games in the last four years. And based on the performance against Wyoming, two more losses are hardly out of the question. That would tie UT's 1977-80 teams for the most losses in a four-year period.
It's not just the losing that has cost Fulmer his job. It's the reaction to the losing.
As I pulled into a UT parking garage 30 minutes before kickoff, a parking lot attendant said she had never seen so few cars in her 22 years of working that garage on game day. Neyland Stadium wasn't three-quarters full at kickoff and wasn't half full by the time the Cowboys ran out the clock.
Apathy does have its advantages. In almost any other season, a loss to Wyoming would have sent shockwaves through Big Orange country. UT fans are beyond shock. They have moved on.
"Who won?" wasn't the biggest question of the day. "Who's next?" was more important. The numbers on the scoreboard weren't as significant as the new phone numbers on Hamilton's Blackberry.
He has the ball in his hands. And he's running with it.
Forget the players and coaches. Hamilton is the star now. He can't save this season, but he can save the program.
Maybe he can land a big-name coach like North Carolina's Butch Davis. Maybe he will hire a coach with more potential than accomplishments.
But no matter whom Hamilton hires, the new coach should be able to improve on this.
In the middle of the season, I wasn't so sure if the next UT team would be any better. Now, I'm convinced. It can't help but be better. That speaks volumes for how this season has gone.
The Vols made the same mistakes in the 10th game that they made in the season opener. They were an undisciplined, mistake-prone team then. They're an undisciplined, mistake-prone team now.
Every week, we hear how well this team practiced. And after each loss, we hear about how much effort it gave.
But for all those supposedly good practices and all the effort, this team isn't getting better. It's getting worse.
Sports editor John Adams may be reached at 865-342-6284 or email@example.com.