These are trying times to be an ex-Vol. Whatever happened to the good ole days?
Track's wound is the freshest. That's one reason the response I'm hearing from old Vols has a harsher tone than the other sports.
The other reason is that track's woes are more complicated.
It's not just that the UT men's program has faded from prominence during a three-year span.
It's not just that George Watts, a popular assistant coach with deep roots at UT, was fired last week along with another assistant, Norbert Elliott.
There's more going on than that.
Two years ago UT decided to merge its men's and women's programs. Bill Webb, the men's coach, had retired, creating another opportunity for the separate men's and women's athletic departments to move toward unification.
"The culture of the men's program and the women's program were wildly different,'' said Chris Fuller, the senior associate athletic director with oversight of track.
"One wasn't necessarily right and one wrong, it was the meshing of two really different cultures. I thought this was going to be a challenge for whoever takes it on.''
Watts, a former Vol runner and veteran men's assistant coach, wanted to take it on. He had the overwhelming support of the men's alumni.
J.J. Clark, head coach of the Lady Vols the previous seven years, got the nod. He became UT's first Director of Track and Field.
Clark's coaching credentials are impeccable. He has developed numerous Olympians and NCAA champions. The Lady Vols have won two NCAA indoor titles on his watch.
Another complication, Clark and Watts have the same coaching expertise, the middle distances, distances and cross country.
Because of Watts' significance to the men's program, UT wanted to make it work. He was given the title of associate head coach.
As we learned last week, it didn't work, for whatever reasons.
When I polled a bunch of ex-UT football players last month, they expressed universal support that second-year coach Derrick Dooley has the Vols headed back in the right direction.
The basketball community was stung by Bruce Pearl's ouster but the early reviews on Cuonzo Martin are generally hopeful.
The baseball folks are convinced Dave Serrano will rescue that program from foul territory.
The track alumni, meanwhile, are disillusioned if not outright angry.
Most of them opposed the merger in the first place.
"I thought it was relatively doomed from the get-go,'' said Patrick Gildea, a distance runner 2001-03. "In no way, shape or form did it really bring the programs together.''
They're upset that Watts was dumped. And some of them, at least, don't think Clark has given the men's program its due.
Clark begs to differ. He said the male and female athletes on the current squads get along fine. Furthermore, he will be taking on Watts' old coaching duties with the men's middle-distance runners.
"I will be giving my attention equally to both programs to achieve the ultimate goal,'' he said.
I've been around the UT track scene for a long time, though not as much in recent years. Prior to the merger, friction between the men's and women's coaches was at times apparent.
"We rooted for the women,'' said Gildea, "but there was a disconnect.''
Clark is clearly an accomplished coach. I believe him to be a good man. For UT's sake, I hope he ultimately proves skilled as a unifier.
"My goal,'' he said, "is to bring about a change from where we are, to make sure these young men and women graduate and also have a great chance to be national and SEC champs.
"And I can only imagine I would get support from our alumni in achieving these efforts.''
We'll see in time. Fuller said the alumni discontent is "a definite concern," just as it was for football during the turbulent two years that led to Dooley's arrival.
"I understand what those guys are going through,'' Fuller said. "Coach Watts touched a lot of lives.
"But J.J. has a clean slate now to pull the program together the way we think he can.''
It isn't going to be a sprint. It's going to be a long-distance haul. Throw in some hurdles, too.
And at this raw moment, the track is uphill.