Last week's SEC Media Days delivered the league's 14 football programs to a jumbled mass of news outlets.
ESPN was there. So was KOMU-TV from Columbia, Mo. The News York Times sent a scribe, as did the Lake Charles (La.) American Press. In all, more than 1,000 media representatives descended on the Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover, Ala.
Like all the SEC programs, Tennessee, winners of just 11 SEC games in the past four years, jockeyed for attention. There wasn't much to be had.
The Vols spoke, but few were listening.
"For lack of a better term, their irrelevance has grown and grown by the day, I guess," CBSSports.com national columnist Dennis Dodd told the News Sentinel on Saturday.
Attention bestowed to Tennessee in Hoover was scarce. Few national columnists bothered to look up from their laptops, likely resulting as much from UT's Media Day time slot opposite Alabama and Nick Saban as much as its own lack of success.
When UT coach Derek Dooley stepped to the podium in the Wynfrey's main ballroom, he offered a brief opening statement, then answered 10 questions. The average coach at SEC Media Day was asked 17 questions, with LSU's Les Miles leading the way at 27.
Dooley's press conference flew by in a scant 15 minutes.
Saban spoke for 37 minutes.
"(Tennessee) is kind of in limbo," Dodd said. "We're waiting to see where it goes — if it trends upward and they start competing again in the (SEC) East or if they spin their wheels in the mud, which has been the case. Otherwise, there's just nothing there to write about."
Neither of the two CBSSports.com columnists on hand, Dodd and Brett McMurphy, chose to delve into Tennessee's tale. Columnists from Sports Illustrated, Yahoo!, ESPN all passed.
"There's no buzz there, to me," Dodd said. "You're either making news off the field or on the field in the SEC. Tennessee is doing neither, to their credit for one and not to their credit for the other."
A handful of newspaper reporters took the bait, all writing mirroring stories on Dooley's delicate job status and his statement that, "You're not going to have Tennessee to kick around anymore."
The Orlando Sentinel's Matt Murschel noted, "It's been very rocky on top of Rocky Top," while an Associated Press story said Dooley "knows that talking about improvement isn't good enough anymore."
Antonya English of the Tampa Bay Times said, "Dooley came out swinging, defending his players, program and declaring that the rest of the SEC better take notice."
Mark McCarter, a columnist for The Huntsville (Ala.) Times, said of Tennessee: "It's not rebuilding. Let's call it renovating. A national champion 14 years ago, a focal point of the state for decades, it has fallen into disrepair."
In late June, Dodd ranked all 125 FBS coaches in a "Hot Seat Rating." Only two coaches, Dooley and Arkansas head coach John L. Smith, drew five-star ratings.
That was expected to be the theme of Dooley's Media Day dance.
The music didn't play, though.
Dooley's main ballroom press conference, the fleeting 15-minute affair, never steered toward his job security. A few questions regarding Dooley's job were lobbed in auxiliary interviews with radio, television and internet outlets, but the big stage brought nothing. He was asked about freshman backup wide receiver Drae Bowles, but not the hot seat.
"Once you get past Derek Dooley and Tyler Bray, there's just no compelling reason to write about them — you're just repeating yourself," Dodd concluded. "They've got to get out and start winning."
Brendan F. Quinn covers Tennessee men's basketball. Follow him at http://twitter.com/BFQuinn