Adams: Decision has UT on its Heels

John Adams

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My first reaction to Tennessee canceling its two-game football series with basketball power North Carolina: The Vols should be embarrassed.

Second reaction: But it's good business.

Third reaction: They still should be embarrassed.

I can understand why any football coach - particularly one confronted with as many challenges as UT's Derek Dooley - wouldn't want to play North Carolina on the road in 2011. But that's why you have athletic directors at virtually every athletic department in the country except Vanderbilt's.

An athletic director should be able to figure out there are worse fates than a football loss to a basketball school. Running scared is one of them.

There's rational thinking behind the decision to buy out of the contract with North Carolina. You replace the Tar Heels with Buffalo, and you're rewarded with a likely victory and an eighth game at Neyland Stadium. Moreover, you enhance the Vols' chances of qualifying for a bowl after the 2011 season.

You think this year's schedule is tough? Next year's might have been tougher with North Carolina. It includes Alabama, LSU and Arkansas from the SEC West, as well as a non-conference game with Cincinnati. SEC depth charts are similarly daunting. The Vols have more senior starters than any other team in the SEC East except Florida, and no one would argue that UT has comparable young talent to the Gators.

So, replacing North Carolina with Buffalo could mean the difference between sitting out postseason play and playing in a lower-echelon bowl - a wintry week in Birmingham, Ala., for example.

How embarrassing is it for a program with UT's tradition not to qualify for a bowl?

Answer: Less embarrassing than buying out of a game with North Carolina.

It's a basketball school. It plays in the ACC. It's projected to finish as low as fourth in its own division. It has 14 senior starters and likely will lose a junior to the NFL draft.

You're running from that?

A couple of years ago, Rick Neuheisel was hired to rebuild a rundown UCLA program. His challenge was similar to Dooley's. Neuheisel's team was short on numbers as well as talent, so he couldn't have been looking forward to a two-game series with UT, which had come tantalizingly close to upsetting LSU in the 2007 SEC championship game.

But the games went on as scheduled. And the Bruins won both of them, in the Rose Bowl on Labor Day night in 2008 and a year later in Neyland Stadium.

UT players won't get a chance to beat North Carolina. But they can take out their frustration on Buffalo and whomever the Vols decide to sub for Cincinnati.

I'm not breaking news. I'm just assuming that since UT athletic director Mike Hamilton has deemed North Carolina too risky a challenge, he also will want to jettison the Bearcats from the 2011 schedule. After all, they're picked to finish fourth in the Big East this season and start only seven seniors. Scary stuff, huh?

I strongly recommend Miami of Ohio as a replacement. The Redhawks went 1-11 last season and are picked to finish last in the East Division of the Mid-American Conference.

Middle Tennessee State needs to go, too. The Blue Raiders were 10-3 last season and are picked to win the Sun Belt in 2010. So what if their starting lineup is loaded with seniors. Why risk messing with MTSU when you can make it disappear with a check? The Western Kentucky Hilltoppers are so much more appealing, as evidenced by their 63-7 loss to UT in the 2009 season opener.

Hamilton probably has them on speed dial.

John Adams may be reached at 865-342-6284 or adamsj@knoxnews.com.

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Comments » 105

VolFaninDC writes:

This is spot on!

woodwr#217203 writes:

If Dooley and staff stay, moving that game to 2012 or 2013 might have increased Volunteer's odds of winning.

North Carolina has not yet won their division let alone the ACC, in anyone's memory, and is unlikely be ACC champion in 2010 or 2011.

North Carolina has been competitive recruiting territory where UT got some of their best players, by suggesting the Orange get better bowls and ARE better than the sky-blues.

One thing Kiffin was right about was the importance of beating Georgia, where we HAVE to recruit, and the importance of beating schools we recruit against....... when we do play them.

The only thing worse than playing teams you ought to beat, is losing to one, and NC next year has that risk.

Cincinnati is a recruiting stretch for Tennessee and been to Orange=2008 & Sugar=2009 bowls almost went to BCS in 2007. UC will win or almost win the Big East in 2010 and 2011.

No one holds losing to back to back BCS conference champions against you, but beating Cincinnati would or will count for something.

hcjournals#206623 writes:

Let's make this perfectly clear....Anyone.......Anytime.......Anywhere........Got it? Good.....can't believe we are having this conversation.....I generally think Mike H is doing a pretty good job. But we don't need him to try to manipulate a good season for us....That's why Florida State joined the ACC....Remember? We don't back down from anyone.....I guarantee you the players are getting hacked off at this.....I would be.....We are not backing down....We better not.....

TommyJack writes:

Adams playing to the masses. Unusual.

hcjournals#206623 writes:

Let me put it like this....Did North Carolina come to us to get out of this game?...............................No...............what does that tell you? We need that game now more than ever.........Wake up.....WTF...........

dvhill100 writes:

I understand trying to soften the schedule, but with them made so far in advance, you don't know what you are getting. You then have to man up and take it as it is. I don't expect them to stand tall, but they have to at least stand. UT didn't do that.

DannyVol writes:

Whether you agree with it or not, this column is nothing more than a hate-filled tirade written by a bitter man in the wrong town. Adams doesn't care one iota about UT cancelling the NC game; it was simply an opportunity for him to tell us once again that there will be struggles this year, that we might make a 'lower echelon' bowl next year, and that we lost to a 'rundown' UCLA team two years in a row. That's all this is.

Don't let him fool you, folks. Look at this year's composite schedule and think about the past fifteen years. Who plays and has played nothing but cupcakes to begin the season and who plays and has consistently played quality opponents? Speaking of 1-11 Miami of Ohio, Florida opens with them. But for Adams, that's only a punchline if UT were to schedule them.

And he wonders why he can't cover practices.

DannyVol writes:

One more thing: I understand that a sports columnist is not and shouldn't be a cheerleader for the program he covers; but when the columnist has decided to become the program's biggest detractor, that's as bad as "homerism" - and much worse for hardcore fans who are naturally drawn to site named "GoVolsXtra."

Just like being a homer journalist, being a detractor means the writer has abandoned two key principles of journalism: objectivity and a responsibility to his readership.

vut56#231073 writes:

in response to DannyVol:

One more thing: I understand that a sports columnist is not and shouldn't be a cheerleader for the program he covers; but when the columnist has decided to become the program's biggest detractor, that's as bad as "homerism" - and much worse for hardcore fans who are naturally drawn to site named "GoVolsXtra."

Just like being a homer journalist, being a detractor means the writer has abandoned two key principles of journalism: objectivity and a responsibility to his readership.

Since this reflects my feelings, I will just say, amen. Further, as much as JA, and some fans, want to jump on MH, consider that he has a great obligation to his employer to balance the budget. No one can deny, from what is known, that this is a good financial move. What is good for the University's economic picture, that does not cost the fans, should be considered good for the fans.

More money to recruit better players to put on a better show. There is a far different picture to paint than the one Adams drew by just coloring the squares.

miketn6 writes:

Adams is 100% correct on this one. Please go to the UT Sports website and comment directly to the athletic department.

CoachFulmer writes:

Spot on. Good work Mr. Adams.

nola_vol writes:

Economics. Period.

The country is heading toward a likely depression, with high inflation almost assured in the following several years. We just won't see 95,000 in Neyland for long at current ticket prices with the economy the way it is.

Additionally, the demographics for money-spending Vol fans are heavily tilted toward retiring baby boomers. The numbers of their UT-loyal parents are dwindling in the stands, as are their contributions. Inflation hits retirees the hardest. It's not a pretty picture for a large, heavily invested program like UT football.

Hamilton MUST make money (bowl games) every chance he gets now, because hard times are a'coming. TV contracts and bowl money are our best chance to offset what we'll lose at the gates.

bwaldron writes:

Rarely do I agree with Mr. Adams. I do this time. While I understand the reasons for our decision and can try and make a case to myself as to why it was correct, ultimately my reaction is as it was when I first heard this: embarrassment.

Regardless, go Vols!

rockytopatl writes:

in response to TommyJack:

Adams playing to the masses. Unusual.

The masses are right about this one.

carolina_vols writes:

I would rather lose to UNC than beat Buffalo. This sends the wrong message to the team and prospects.

VOLinAthensGA writes:

Backing out of this would be a supreme embarrassment to the Vol Nation. Mike, if you are listening, please, please, DON'T DO IT! There is honor in a loss and I LOVE our out of conference challenging games. Think of our Vol fan base in NC, think of the fact that none of our fans want to add another boring 12 noon game that half the stadium is empty in the 3rd quarter!!!!! C'mon. NO GUTS NO GLORY!

rockytopatl writes:

It's not a good financial decision if the stadium is empty for the Buffalo game. I'm certainly not going. Stay home. Don't buy PPV (the game certainly won't be televised.) Show them that we won't stand for administrative cowardice.

VOLinATL writes:

I am so thrilled that, as a season ticket holder, that I will have to pony up for an 8th game next year against a garbage team. Can you say more empty seats at Neyland? Maybe I will give them to a Bullafo fan...at least they might give a flip about the game.

Ironcity writes:

in response to bartlett79:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Bartlett no one will argue UNC is a basketball school. Even though our basketball team is better then our football team we still value football more. John has only written down what almost every fan has thought.

VolunTenMile writes:

Is it too late to swap Oregon for Maryville College? Just wondering.

JohnnyU writes:

I'm with Adams on this one. Rationalize this all you want, this is running scared, something Tennessee should not do, regardless of the circumstances. Not scheduling them is one thing, but backing out of a scheduled game, one year out? Not good for how your program is perceived. I have generally been a Hamilton supporter, he has made some good moves and some questionable moves, this is a bad decision, in my opinion.

volman79 writes:

in response to DukeDeLuca:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I agree 10000000% hamilton is a idiot.he has made this once proud program into wake forest decent in basketball and barelly average in football. Thanks hamilton. I hate you!

JMP_Vols writes:

A lot of people overreacting and too worried about outside perceptions. Tennessee has always played one of the toughest OOC schedules in the SEC. We have nothing to prove in terms of scheduling quality opponents. Cincinnati will still be strong in '11 and MTSU won't be a pushover.

I'd be more upset about spending the $750,000 it took to break the contract. That's a lot of money.

buzz29 writes:

Nice try John. You probably think Custer's charge at Little Bighorn was a good idea, too. It's always easier to encorage bravado from behind a desk.

VolNavy writes:

John, Forget to take your meds today?? Then get a grip..

I believe this move has more to do with cunning than cowardice. How about doing a little homework on this one. I took the USA Today Top 25 Coaches' Poll and compared the powerhouse Texas Longhorns schedule (pre-season #4) to the lowly Tennesse Vols (unranked) schedule. Now I know that this is the 2010 season poll and we're talking about 2011, but it does give a good reference point.

Texas plays 2 top 25 teams in their first 8 games (Oklahoma #8/Nebraska #9). If the Vols kept NC on the schedule, 5 of our first 8 games would be against top 25 teams including Alabama #1 and Florida #3.

So the Vols drop #18 NC and now only have 4 top 25 teams to face. Please explain how that equates to weakness???

VOLliven2it writes:

Hamilton=Embarrassment for UT on this one. It cannot be taken back if he does it. Economics do matter but honoring a contract or verbal commitment we scream about when the Chris Sims types go back on them, is important also. How can anyone think this is a moving forward approach? I agreed with not playing Coach Twinky and USC in the 2011 opener but this was an already scheduled game under contract. WAKE UP MIKE! We need to play the ones we schedule period!
Adams may have gotten this one right even if for the wrong motivation.

Pullingguard writes:

Scared, afraid of being disected by a ACC team and loading up with second rate competition is the reason for changing schedule.. Another one is to have a schedule that gives Dooley a chance to look good and to protect Hamilton on his hireing of Dooley (although I think Dooley will be a good thing for UT football) UT is breaking the tradition of scheduling tough out of conference teams.. Never will we see Norte Dame, UCLA, etc., on the schedule as in the past. The football program at UT has fallen and Hamilton is making sure the schedule fits the downtrodden program. It's a blackeye for the program and especially to Hamilton.

boonhower writes:

Give Adams a Harumph. I'm not even going to bother sending Hamilton a nasty email this time. He doesn't care what I have to say. He's going to continue to degrade this program for as long as we don't we don't have a real President of the university.

Wireless1 writes:

I agree with DannyVol...JA is an anti-homer. While he might think that "stirring the pot" is bringing success, he ought to realize that I only receive one KNS at home while in the past I had the KNS delivered to both my offices...just so I could read the sports.

Secondly, as a season ticket holder, I'm glad to see an additional home game next year...can you imagine having UNC, Florida and Alabama on the road all in a 6 week stretch. Give me a break. If UNC really wanted to play us, they would have found a way to move the game.

JMP_Vols writes:

in response to Pullingguard:

Scared, afraid of being disected by a ACC team and loading up with second rate competition is the reason for changing schedule.. Another one is to have a schedule that gives Dooley a chance to look good and to protect Hamilton on his hireing of Dooley (although I think Dooley will be a good thing for UT football) UT is breaking the tradition of scheduling tough out of conference teams.. Never will we see Norte Dame, UCLA, etc., on the schedule as in the past. The football program at UT has fallen and Hamilton is making sure the schedule fits the downtrodden program. It's a blackeye for the program and especially to Hamilton.

We have home-and-away series this decade with Ohio State, Nebraska, and Oklahoma.

92volalum writes:

Bottom line vol nation is that we are a very bad team and the coaches and AD know it..... so they are trying to position us where CDD will look good after this year because if he doesn't qualify for a bowl this year.. which good chance he won't... and then gets waxed in his second year Hammy and CDD will be on the hot seat....its called CYA :)

We really haven't been a true power since 2000. we all believed we were but the wins and losses vs. top 10 teams prove otherwise....

I know i'm not a true vol fan because I understand the facts and not drinking the kool-aid but at some point vol nation we have to all go WTF... how did we get this bad!!!!

stevefrommemphis writes:

in response to nola_vol:

Economics. Period.

The country is heading toward a likely depression, with high inflation almost assured in the following several years. We just won't see 95,000 in Neyland for long at current ticket prices with the economy the way it is.

Additionally, the demographics for money-spending Vol fans are heavily tilted toward retiring baby boomers. The numbers of their UT-loyal parents are dwindling in the stands, as are their contributions. Inflation hits retirees the hardest. It's not a pretty picture for a large, heavily invested program like UT football.

Hamilton MUST make money (bowl games) every chance he gets now, because hard times are a'coming. TV contracts and bowl money are our best chance to offset what we'll lose at the gates.

Well, I don't have any sympathy for them. UTAD wouldn't be in this situation if they hadn't tried to turn Neyland Stadium into the Taj Mahal in the middle of a deep recession. I hope they don't sell a single ticket for Buffalo beyond those season ticket holders are forced to purchase. I'm going to offer mine for free to any Univ of Buffalo fan willing to make the trip to Knoxville.

Even with the huge SEC contract, UT is having to treat its season ticket holders like "sheeple" who will blindly take whatever they dish out. Who's going to take Carolina's place on the 2012 schedule? Farragut or TSD? (No insult to Tenn School for Deaf intended, as they do a lot of good work - plus I imagine when they make plans to play a game, they honor their commitment.)

Colliervol writes:

in response to vut56#231073:

Since this reflects my feelings, I will just say, amen. Further, as much as JA, and some fans, want to jump on MH, consider that he has a great obligation to his employer to balance the budget. No one can deny, from what is known, that this is a good financial move. What is good for the University's economic picture, that does not cost the fans, should be considered good for the fans.

More money to recruit better players to put on a better show. There is a far different picture to paint than the one Adams drew by just coloring the squares.

Personally, I think it's more about the money than it is softening the schedule. I've always said that Mike Hamilton is simply the accountant who is charged with balancing the budget and trying to keep it in the black. This decision sure looks like that to me. (We pay $750,000 to get out of the series and make $4 to $5 million for that extra home game.) Sounds like good business to me. In these days where money cutbacks to colleges are everywhere, you will see more and more decisions like this.

FWBVol writes:

In another story on this topic it was mentioned that the discussion to drop the UNC games, or move them to other years, has been going on since Phillip Fulmer was the head coach and continued last year under Kiffin.

I would prefer to see us play the Carolina series, but unless you are one of the power brokers in the athletic department our opinions don't carry much weight.

stevefrommemphis writes:

in response to VOLinATL:

I am so thrilled that, as a season ticket holder, that I will have to pony up for an 8th game next year against a garbage team. Can you say more empty seats at Neyland? Maybe I will give them to a Bullafo fan...at least they might give a flip about the game.

Don't forget that you'll have to pony up again in 2012 for a game against another garbage team taking the place of North Carolina.

I haven't decided yet what to do with my Buffalo tickets. I may stand outside UT ticket office and give them to some walk-up who was going to buy tickets from UT. I may post message on Buffalo message board giving them away for free. First option would be the one guaranteed to punish UTAD by taking revenues away from UTAD.

TommyJack writes:

in response to rockytopatl:

The masses are right about this one.

Nope. We lose to the Heels, most of you guys would be the first calling for CDD's (and MH) head. Got to crawl before you walk again. Most on here just can't accept the fact that this program is down. Way down. Time to regroup.

Volunatic writes:

I hate agreeing with John Adams' columns.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to nola_vol:

Economics. Period.

The country is heading toward a likely depression, with high inflation almost assured in the following several years. We just won't see 95,000 in Neyland for long at current ticket prices with the economy the way it is.

Additionally, the demographics for money-spending Vol fans are heavily tilted toward retiring baby boomers. The numbers of their UT-loyal parents are dwindling in the stands, as are their contributions. Inflation hits retirees the hardest. It's not a pretty picture for a large, heavily invested program like UT football.

Hamilton MUST make money (bowl games) every chance he gets now, because hard times are a'coming. TV contracts and bowl money are our best chance to offset what we'll lose at the gates.

Ouch! Scary note of realism you have injected, nola! That said, count me among the "embarrassed" for UT dropping the UNC series. Since I live in the Greensboro, NC area, I expect to get a LOT of razzing from the Tar Heel fans. I agree that the 2011 schedule is a real bear, with away games at Florida and Alabama to name just two, but we already play in the toughest conference in America. The schedule is tough EVERY year. Until we rebuild the program, we will have our hands full with just about anybody. During the rebuilding process, I would rather lose to a good team than beat up on a weak one. Heck, we might even lose to a "weak" one or two, heaven forbid. I get the hostility many fans on here show for Adams, but I think he may have a point in this case.

MiddleoftheRoad writes:

Embarassing.

I agree J.A.

KCHS63 writes:

My Georgia fan close friend said it best: "I HATED Lane Kiffin, but he wouldn't have DUCKED anyone!" This from someone who thinks Coach Dooley was a great choice for UT. I think so, too. Also like a lot of what MH has done for the athletic program. But....this was a horrible decision. When my friend first called me, he said "Thanks for making the SEC the laughingstock of the country one more time!" Geeze, how humiliating.................

stevefrommemphis writes:

It appears to me that UTAD has been turned into a laboratory for testing all the business theories they teach in Clemson MBA program. Too bad they apparently didn't teach what Warren Buffet said, and I paraphrase: "Sometimes the best decision is to not do anything and just go play golf."

stevefrommemphis writes:

in response to stevefrommemphis:

It appears to me that UTAD has been turned into a laboratory for testing all the business theories they teach in Clemson MBA program. Too bad they apparently didn't teach what Warren Buffet said, and I paraphrase: "Sometimes the best decision is to not do anything and just go play golf."

Warren Buffett, not Buffet, though I imagine Warren Buffet said it also.

Colliervol writes:

in response to Pullingguard:

Scared, afraid of being disected by a ACC team and loading up with second rate competition is the reason for changing schedule.. Another one is to have a schedule that gives Dooley a chance to look good and to protect Hamilton on his hireing of Dooley (although I think Dooley will be a good thing for UT football) UT is breaking the tradition of scheduling tough out of conference teams.. Never will we see Norte Dame, UCLA, etc., on the schedule as in the past. The football program at UT has fallen and Hamilton is making sure the schedule fits the downtrodden program. It's a blackeye for the program and especially to Hamilton.

"Blackeye" when they put an additional $4 to $5 million in the coffers of a cash strapped university? Curious logic. I guess UT is just in existence to stroke the egos of its football fans.

Spare me any comments about embarrassment or "scared". We have a Health Science Center facing a $30 million shortfall. The University is cutting faculty and expenses everywhere. And I am guessing that few on this site have had the pleasure of writing checks to cover 8 to 10% tuition increases every year for the last four as I have. This is a MONEY thing. What part of that is so difficult to understand? The "softening" of the schedule is merely collateral damage.

Personally, if I get dissatisfied with something, I stop spending money on it. If you don't like it, there are other things to do.

Colliervol writes:

in response to nola_vol:

Economics. Period.

The country is heading toward a likely depression, with high inflation almost assured in the following several years. We just won't see 95,000 in Neyland for long at current ticket prices with the economy the way it is.

Additionally, the demographics for money-spending Vol fans are heavily tilted toward retiring baby boomers. The numbers of their UT-loyal parents are dwindling in the stands, as are their contributions. Inflation hits retirees the hardest. It's not a pretty picture for a large, heavily invested program like UT football.

Hamilton MUST make money (bowl games) every chance he gets now, because hard times are a'coming. TV contracts and bowl money are our best chance to offset what we'll lose at the gates.

Nola, please do not inject fact and logic into this discussion. There aren't many who will understand it.

Exfix writes:

My first reaction: embarrassment. Say what you want, but JA is right. Economics, tough schedule, blah, blah, blah...We just backed out of a game against the ACC and an ABOVE AVERAGE team. Who does that? We do apparently. I was neutral on MH before, but this sucks.

Lizardgrad89 writes:

You all need to understand (including Adams) that this game had little to do with losing to North Carolina.

Here's the 2011 schedule before the change

Montana
Cincy
@UF
NC
BYE
UGa
LSU
Bama

That's wicked hard, even with the bye week. Looking at that schedule, is it surprising that the AD & coach want to put a breather in the middle?

I totally get why the dropped UNC, and IMO, it had little to do with UNC.

Lizardgrad89 writes:

Note: North Carolina and Bama are also away games, didn't post that correctly. Sorry.

Exfix writes:

in response to Colliervol:

"Blackeye" when they put an additional $4 to $5 million in the coffers of a cash strapped university? Curious logic. I guess UT is just in existence to stroke the egos of its football fans.

Spare me any comments about embarrassment or "scared". We have a Health Science Center facing a $30 million shortfall. The University is cutting faculty and expenses everywhere. And I am guessing that few on this site have had the pleasure of writing checks to cover 8 to 10% tuition increases every year for the last four as I have. This is a MONEY thing. What part of that is so difficult to understand? The "softening" of the schedule is merely collateral damage.

Personally, if I get dissatisfied with something, I stop spending money on it. If you don't like it, there are other things to do.

Your comments make no sense. Revenue from football stays in the athletic department, which is comfortably in the black by the way. Those dollars won't help the Health Science Center or your tuition increases, and the money earned by that game may be offset by decreased interest/donations/ticket purchases from an irritated fan base. This whole ordeal takes us down a tier in the college ranks. No respectable, "storied" program would have done this.

crappieking writes:

in response to Colliervol:

Nola, please do not inject fact and logic into this discussion. There aren't many who will understand it.

I agree with you Nola and Colliervol about the tough times now and more coming. It really is about the money, but the masses will never see that. I admit, it doesn't look good to want to back out. I am in W.TN also and am already getting ragged by my Tiger fans. Hopefully Nov.6th will shut them up for a while. I have to say that Hamilton is really not doing it for me right now. Reasons?

1. Kept Fulmer too long
2. Lane Kiffin debacle
3. Todd Raleigh hire
4. Character of a lot recruits

The Bruce Pearl hire is really the only thing he has done that stands out. I will have to give it more time, but if this Dooley hire falters, Mike's in trouble.

scvols writes:

I don't like it, to beat NC at NC would help recruiting, a lot.

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