Team comments on Alabama loss, public negativity
Derek Dooley talks about wide receiver Justin Hunter
If both the Tennessee and South Carolina coaching jobs would come open at the end of the season, which one would you prefer?
The answer would have been so easy before the 2005 season in which a talented, experienced Tennessee team was a consensus top-10 pick.
As for the Gamecocks, they had just made another coaching change after losing at least five games for the 14th time in 16 years.
During the same 16 years, UT never won fewer than eight games and failed to finish in The Associated Press Top 25 only once.
But since South Carolina hired Steve Spurrier, the programs are no longer football worlds apart. As the teams prepare to meet Saturday in Columbia, you could even argue that Spurrier has helped make South Carolina a better coaching job than UT.
What Spurrier has accomplished doesn't compare to what Nick Saban has done at Alabama. Spurrier's progress has been more gradual and led to no conference or national championships. Yet you can't compare South Carolina to Alabama any more than you can compare it to UT at its peak.
From 1892 through 2004, the Gamecocks played in a grand total of 11 bowls. In seven seasons under Spurrier, they have played in six. He already has won more bowl games at South Carolina than any other coach in school history.
South Carolina is 6-23-3 all-time against Florida. It's 3-5 under Spurrier.
It's 17-46-2 all-time against Georgia, but 4-4 under Spurrier.
It's 6-22-2 all-time against UT, but 4-3 under Spurrier.
He might not have damaged the Vols as greatly as he did when he coached Florida to SEC dominance in the 1990s, but he has added to their growing list of problems. South Carolina's usual place on UT's schedule has been the Saturday after Alabama. That once was regarded as a scheduling break for the Vols.
Not anymore. South Carolina has won three of the last four games in the series, contributing to what has become a brutal October for the Vols, who have dropped to 3-4 after a 2-0 start.
The SEC East was so much easier in the 1990s when Florida and Tennessee usually could determine divisional championships between themselves. First, Georgia became a factor; then, South Carolina.
Tennessee still has accomplished so much more than South Carolina in football. And it has a bigger stadium and better facilities.
Even though South Carolina hasn't been as successful, it also has a passionate fan base. The recruiting base is a bigger plus than its fan base, especially for a coach trying to decide between the two jobs — South Carolina's or UT's.
Spurrier hasn't proved you can win a championship at South Carolina. He has made the job much more appealing, though.
Tennessee will be reminded of that this weekend. A victory that was once taken for granted by UT would now qualify as a major upset.
It also would be the biggest victory of the Derek Dooley era.
John Adams is a senior columnist.