A losing season, however, goes beyond how many tickets are sold. It can have a significant economic impact on all types of businesses across Knox County from hotels to restaurants to retailers.
While Tennessee fans keep a keen watch over who the new coach will be, so, too, are some businesses that say the implications of getting it right this time are more important than ever.
"We've had more UT stuff on clearance than I've ever seen, and I've been here for 10 years," Sports Seasons manager Ronnie Dove said. "There are about five or six big names being floated around that could boost sales and take some of those markdowns back up."
Thursday morning, Dove received a call from an apparel buyer who told him that if a big-time coach is named — say ESPN broadcaster Jon Gruden, for example — 95 percent of the UT clothing on clearance at the West Knoxville store no longer will be on clearance.
Sales for Big Orange merchandise could use a lift. For the past two years, Dove said Alabama and Florida items — separately, not combined — have outsold Tennessee items 2-to-1. "If we don't get a big-name coach, it would definitely affect us even worse than now."
Reaching target occupancy rates from September through November at the Holiday Inn World's Fair Park was a challenge as the team struggled, General Manager Mitch Holloway said. The downtown hotel had to change its cancellation and booking policy to accommodate fans who weren't interested in a two-night stay.
"We've had to be more flexible," he said. "It was a good football year, but we didn't have near the numbers we've seen in the past." As far as a new coach goes, he added, "There's a lot of buzz in the air. Whoever they're going to bring in, there's still going to be an excitement about a new season with a new coach."
Mike Clark, a season-ticket holder who owns Goal Post Tavern on the Strip, agreed, saying fans would rally behind the new coach for at least the first year. "I think it's still a wait-and-see game, but I think it's time for them to spend the money and get a big name, a proven guy."
For Clark, the impact can be summed up as simple as this: If you're winning, people will be in the mood to spend.
"Ultimately it's really about W's. You win and people will spend their money. People will come from all over to come to these games," he said. "And if you're not, they shorten their trip. Maybe they only come to the big games or none at all."