Maybe Tennessee's track program felt left out.
Then, last week, as if compelled by a fraternal calling, the track program called out from obscurity.
"Hey, we're messed up, too," it shouted. "Check us out."
The message was delivered in two parts, both of which made the front page of the News Sentinel sports section. When was the last time that happened out of season?
J.J. Clark, the director of men's and women's track and field, fired two veteran men's coaches - sprint coach Norbert Elliott, and cross country coach and track assistant George Watts, a UT alum who had been at the school long enough to remember when the men's teams competed for national championships.
The dismissals came a day after UT All-American Dentarius Locke created headlines with something other than his 200-meter time. He told a Florida newspaper he wanted to leave UT but was denied a transfer.
"The program is changing here and it's not the way it was when I signed," Locke told the Tampa Tribune. "I didn't come here to be part of a rebuilding process. And the worst part is, the coaches here just don't get along. I have one coach telling me one workout to do, and another coach will tell me something totally different."
Imagine the media and fan uproar if that had been a UT football or basketball player talking. But a track athlete's critique - no matter how damning - is easily dismissed by most fans.
Charlie Durham isn't most fans. As one of the eight founders of the Knoxville Track Club, he had a firsthand view of Tennessee's transformation into a track power under former coach Chuck Rohe, who signed on with the Vols in 1963.
"When Chuck came here, Tennessee had a horrible team," Durham said. "He said, 'We're going to develop one of the best track and field programs in the NCAA.' I thought he was probably exaggerating. But the next year, we won the SEC."
And they kept winning.
The Vols won 15 consecutive conference championships from 1964 through 1978 under Rohe, and his successor, Stan Huntsman. Coach Doug Brown (1986-95) won a national championship and two conference outdoor titles. Bill Webb (1996-2009) won a national championship and three SEC outdoor titles. From 1964 through 2008, UT never finished lower than fourth at the conference outdoor meet.
Another streak now is under way. The Vols haven't finished higher than eighth in the league for the last three years, the last two after the men's and women's programs were combined under Clark's command.
"Being an old track guy, it's just disappointing for people like me to see the program go down the drain," Durham said. "We worked hard to be the best in the United States. In a period of two or three years, we're eighth-best in our conference. When you end up eighth in the SEC outdoor meet, that's just totally ridiculous."
If not for problems in UT's more mainstream sports, track's decline might go unnoticed with most fans. Now, it becomes another eyesore in the not-so-pretty big picture.
The baseball program hasn't made it to the SEC tournament since 2007, which is also the last year the Vols won more than seven games in football. And after six consecutive NCAA tournament appearances, uncertainty surrounds the basketball program, which awaits penalties from the NCAA as it makes the transition from fired Bruce Pearl to new coach Cuonzo Martin.
The widespread turmoil and failure are difficult enough for casual fans. They resonate even more with longtime fans like Durham, who has been an usher at Tennessee basketball games for more than 50 years.
"As a student at UT in the '50s, I look back at a 60-year period," Durham said. "It appears that the total athletic program has declined substantially. That includes everything but tennis and golf (in the men's program). The problem may be a lack of leadership and direction all the way down."
The leadership is ever-changing. In the past 10 years, the school has had five different presidents. In the past three years, it has had three different head football coaches. When the 2011-12 school year begins, Tennessee will have a first-year athletic director, basketball coach and baseball coach. Its president and football coach will be in their second year, and its men's track coach will be in his third.
Durham tries to be optimistic.
"Hopefully, things will get a little better in the next two or three years," he said. "They can't get any worse."