A bad school year took another turn for the worse Monday night in Dayton, Ohio. Tennessee fans shouldn't have been surprised.
The Lady Vols' 73-59 loss to Notre Dame in the Elite Eight of the NCAA women's basketball tournament wasn't an isolated incident. It was a continuation of a school year gone wrong.
A casual check of the usual measuring sticks might suggest otherwise. UT's football team played in a bowl game. Both basketball teams made the NCAA tournament.
But the usual measuring sticks don't apply in 2010-2011.
The football and men's basketball programs have been found guilty of major NCAA violations. Basketball coach Bruce Pearl, one of the most successful and popular coaches in school history, has been fired. All the post-season ventures have produced calamitous results.
It has been a crash-and-burn kind of year. And beneath the disasters, there has been an undercurrent of incompetence at the administrative level. Those guys apparently can't announce a simple personnel decision without having to issue an apology.
Don't get me wrong. I don't begrudge UT making a fast hire. Given the suddenly declining status of the UT men's basketball program, I wondered if athletic director Mike Hamilton might have to hold up a "Coach Wanted" sign on an interstate ramp. Any coach who even hinted at saying "yes" should have been bound in a chair and held without food and water until he signed a contract.
But even though this had to be wrapped up quickly, some administrative-type could have at least texted the news to Summitt.
She's not just another coach. She is the university's most recognizable face and best ambassador. Moreover, she makes a habit of befriending and supporting whoever is running the men's basketball program.
And this is no time to ignore a supporter.
Chris Fuller, an associate athletic director at UT, was asked about the Summitt slight on the Sports Animal on Tuesday morning. He later told News Sentinel staff writer Michael Silence via email that the basketball search committee was "very aware of the Lady Vols preparation for the tournament and any lack of communication with Summitt was unintentional."
It's encouraging to know the UT administration didn't make a conscious effort to insult its most famous coach. Instead, it was simply doing what it does best - committing PR blunders.
On another encouraging note, Fuller wrote in the same email that "we will certainly apologize to Coach Summitt."
Fans more readily can overlook such gaffes when their teams' seasons end right. But the seasons have ended all wrong.
The football team was left with a losing record when the Music City Bowl went North Carolina's way in overtime. The trauma was compounded by a controversial call at the end of regulation play, after the Vols seemingly had a victory in hand.
The men's basketball team suffered one of the most embarrassing setbacks of the NCAA tournament. The fallout from the 30-point loss to Michigan in the first round was exacerbated by comments from Hamilton several days earlier.
He remarked on radio that - despite his previous supportive comments - Pearl's job was in jeopardy. It's questionable whether the team was more stunned by that or Michigan.
Good thing Hamilton apologized later, huh?
The Lady Vols' season was a rousing success for the most part. They came within a victory of their 19th Final Four and were only one win short of becoming the fourth team in school history to win at least 35 games.
Yet the ending was so unexpectedly brutal, it will overshadow much of what the team accomplished. The Lady Vols looked uncertain and unprepared at the outset, and thoroughly incapable down the stretch against Notre Dame.
Just another reason for UT fans to proclaim "good riddance" at the end of this school year. In the meantime, they can rally around the baseball team.
John Adams is a senior columnist. He may be reached at 865-342-6284 or adamsj@knoxnews. Follow him at http://twitter.com/johnadamskns.