Mike Strange: Plenty of room for improvement as UT turns to 2013-14

The ides of June means the NCAA sports year is all but done. The only loose end is in Omaha, Neb.

Since it doesn’t concern Tennessee, it’s time to review what hits and misses were generated by a $100 million budget in 2012-13.

UT saved the best for last, softball’s runner-up finish at the Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City.

Softball was one of only four sports in which Tennessee managed a presence on a national scale.

Football, of course, wasn’t one of them. The biggest news the Vols made on the gridiron was changing coaches. Again.

The women’s swimming and diving team finished third at the NCAA meet, the program’s best showing.

The men’s tennis team returned to form after a transitional year, advancing to the NCAA quarterfinals, where it lost to eventual champion Virginia.

Holly Warlick’s Lady Vols won the SEC regular-season basketball title and made it to the Elite Eight in the NCAA tournament. A return to the Final Four appeared imminent, but Louisville was better that particular night.

As UT continues to feel its way into an era of a combined men’s and women’s department, I have to say that, on the bottom line, 2012-13 looked remarkably like 2011-12.

Softball played in the 2012 WCWS but went home 0-2. This team maxed out in the championship round and simply lost to a great team, Oklahoma.

The other four sports that garner the most visibility were virtually treading water. Hold your applause.

Nobody thought football would repeat 2011’s grim march to November, but that’s exactly what happened. Another 5-7, another 1-7 SEC slate, another bowl absence.

Hence, another coaching search.

Men’s basketball duplicated the close-but-no-cigar scenario of Cuonzo Martin’s maiden season. Probably one win short of the Big Dance, the Vols varied only in losing in the NIT first round rather than the second.

Baseball remained an SEC doormat in Dave Serrano’s second season, a major disappointment.

That women’s basketball stayed on form was a valid reason for anxious fans to celebrate.

The ending — one step short of the Final Four — was the same as the year before. The relief was that Warlick didn’t allow slippage in the wake of Pat Summitt’s departure despite a huge personnel turnover on the court.

Five other teams at least qualified for NCAA tournaments: women’s tennis, soccer and volleyball and men’s golf and cross-country. None made any postseason noise.

The biggest decline from 2012 was in women’s track after the departure of several quality seniors. The Lady Vols didn’t score at either the NCAA indoor or outdoor meets.

To the chagrin of proud alumni, men’s track remains adrift since the two programs were combined.

By now, UT fans have turned the page to 2013-14, anticipating more occasions to celebrate.

Hope for the coming football season is rampant, thanks to Butch Jones’ impressive first six months. Raising the bottom line in 2013, however, will be daunting.

Men’s basketball has every reason to believe a return to March Madness awaits Martin’s third team.

Women’s basketball has every reason to believe Warlick is up to the task going forward.

After 12 seasons under Ralph and Karen Weekly, UT remaining a national power in softball is a given.

While baseball remains dormant, there is still power in Serrano’s résumé. Surely progress is in the on-deck circle.

But as the past year illustrated, when you compete in the nation’s toughest conference, you have to improve just to stay even. Moving up the food chain requires something special.

Mike Strange may be reached at strangem@knoxnews.com. Follow him on Twitter at Strangemike44.

© 2013 govolsxtra.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Comments » 28

rockypop writes:

Apparently, $100 million doesn't buy as much as it used to. I will admit though that Auburn is really getting screwed for the close to $100 million they are spending. Just think, as bad as things are for UT right now, what does Auburn have to show for their $100 million except one NC in football and literally nothing else - not one of their teams in other sports are even on the radar.

10seVol85_Part_Deux writes:

in response to rockypop:

Apparently, $100 million doesn't buy as much as it used to. I will admit though that Auburn is really getting screwed for the close to $100 million they are spending. Just think, as bad as things are for UT right now, what does Auburn have to show for their $100 million except one NC in football and literally nothing else - not one of their teams in other sports are even on the radar.

Their football team isn't on the radar either. Talk about a lightspeed dash into the toilet.

govols26 writes:

The ides of June is on the 13th...just sayin. In other news UT can improve?? Shocking...

VolYork45 writes:

Well...when you put it that way...haha. I think Tennessee can and will make improvements in 2013-2014. Football and baseball can only really go up..right? I think that while there may not be too much of a reflection by record, the football team/program will be much improved in 2013. Jones and his staff have this program on the (somewhat) fast track to success. Serrano, I still think, is the man for the job here at Tennessee. It's just tough when your roster gets so depleted by a former coach, then your best talent gets drafted from high school and from the team, then you have to compete with some of the best programs in the country. Vols are still a few years from an NCAA tourney, but I think with some of the kids that are coming in and coming back, this team can make an SEC tourney appearance next season. Growth in the pitching dept will be key. Men's Tennis is in good hands with Winterbotham. Men's BB under MArtin I think has the talent to really compete for the SEC title next season, and as long as there isn't a Dooley like collapse, should make the NCAA tourney. And I think we can all agree Women's BB and Softball are going to have another successful season next year. And in terms of APR, I have no doubts that will improve as well. I'm confident that the next academic cycle will be a better one, on and off the playing surface(field, court, pitch). Go VOLS!

CroKev writes:

Maybe it's time to bring back wrestling...

DC82_Vol writes:

With soccer at an all time high, I wonder why UT does not have a men's soccer team.

murrayvol writes:

in response to DC82_Vol:

With soccer at an all time high, I wonder why UT does not have a men's soccer team.

Soccer is the team sport equivalent of musky fishing.

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

UT's fortunes in fb (field wise) may take some time. However, with the signing of an Aeronautical Engineer the APR/GPA will get an immediate boost this Fall semester..GBO!

TommyJack writes:

Lots of mopes in our fandom.

CoverOrange writes:

in response to BIVOLAR_BEARE:

UT's fortunes in fb (field wise) may take some time. However, with the signing of an Aeronautical Engineer the APR/GPA will get an immediate boost this Fall semester..GBO!

He's not an aero yet and I knew quite a few that started in engineering that were somewhere else by their junior year. Calculus does that to people.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to CoverOrange:

He's not an aero yet and I knew quite a few that started in engineering that were somewhere else by their junior year. Calculus does that to people.

Bob Johnson. Darwin Walker. Both engineering grads who made the NFL, along with post-football professional credentials. It is possible to excel in both football and academics. Peyton was another, of course, but I thought I would mention a couple of engineers first. Even if Dobbs can't keep up with an engineering curriculum and football in today's more demanding era, he is still smart enough to raise the team's GPA in any other field he chooses.

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to CoverOrange:

He's not an aero yet and I knew quite a few that started in engineering that were somewhere else by their junior year. Calculus does that to people.

True, but he is still a very capable student/athlete. I believe he was also interested in the USAF academy, so it's not like he doesn't understand the commitment to studies it requires to complete a difficult program. BTW, inorganic chemistry was my stumbling block..

ActualUTAlum writes:

in response to DC82_Vol:

With soccer at an all time high, I wonder why UT does not have a men's soccer team.

Title IX. If we added men's soccer, we'd have to add two or three women's sports (depending on the number of athletes participating). It's a joke.

MikeNPS writes:

Yes, there is plenty of room for improvement in the Vols sports programs, but there is much more room for improvement in the News Sentinel's sports reporting and commentary.

CoverOrange writes:

in response to johnlg00:

Bob Johnson. Darwin Walker. Both engineering grads who made the NFL, along with post-football professional credentials. It is possible to excel in both football and academics. Peyton was another, of course, but I thought I would mention a couple of engineers first. Even if Dobbs can't keep up with an engineering curriculum and football in today's more demanding era, he is still smart enough to raise the team's GPA in any other field he chooses.

Didn't say it was impossible, just difficult under normal circumstances. I knew a 6-10 walk-on to the BB team under DeVoe that made it through the engineering school. But I know several others that had nothing but school to focus on and decided on other avenues eventually.

CoverOrange writes:

in response to BIVOLAR_BEARE:

True, but he is still a very capable student/athlete. I believe he was also interested in the USAF academy, so it's not like he doesn't understand the commitment to studies it requires to complete a difficult program. BTW, inorganic chemistry was my stumbling block..

Takes a lot of work and planning to get into the academies, kudos to him. I had several blocks but the inordinate number of professors whose primary language was calculus and english was third or fourth caused me nightmares.

utvolfan1955 writes:

Nice Vol video of Coach Majors and Coach Fulmer at same event
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZQLiy...

WaltGoVoIs writes:

"Nobody thought football would repeat 2011’s grim march to November..."

I did.

Walt

UT '81

utvolfan1955 writes:

in response to WaltGoVoIs:

"Nobody thought football would repeat 2011’s grim march to November..."

I did.

Walt

UT '81

What about November 2013?

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to WaltGoVoIs:

"Nobody thought football would repeat 2011’s grim march to November..."

I did.

Walt

UT '81

What was your prediction in 05'& 08'??

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to Ghost_Of_Neyland:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

If I remember correctly freshman 101 math was my first stumbling block. But it was 8 in the &^%$ morning and I usually was up all night playing tennis or cards or sneaking in to the gym for swimming or bball.

PLUS I just ain't no good with cipherin'!

Anyhow as an athletical-like fan I don't care as long as he passes...both on and off the field.hehe Sometimes it just comes right to me and I say it and laugh at myse....er sorry!

utvolfan1955 writes:

I know its important to know that Ghost_of_Neyland is a genius but the Vols got another commitment today
RB Brandon Powell
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4wFVk...

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to utvolfan1955:

I know its important to know that Ghost_of_Neyland is a genius but the Vols got another commitment today
RB Brandon Powell
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4wFVk...

Thx 55', great news and another example of a staff that refuses to be out-worked..GBO!!

utvolfan1955 writes:

in response to Ghost_Of_Neyland:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Its a shame that no one is up to par with the great 45reVolver's superior intelligence. Maybe someday I will be a genius in my own mind. I'm not a UT alumnus so I can't be a Vol fan, only an alleged UT alumnus can be that. I can only dream of the day I might be a Vol fan and a genius ...sigh

utvolfan1955 writes:

in response to Ghost_Of_Neyland:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

and you can dream of maybe someday not being a troll pretending to be a Vol fan, but that would only be a pipe dream

MilitaryBrat writes:

in response to Ghost_Of_Neyland:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

If you can't find anything good about what Butch Jones and staff are doing, then there must be some reason why you want him to fail.

Even if you feel that he is unproven, why the hate?
Do you want the Vols to succeed?
If not, then what team do you follow?

And why does it bother you that the fans want to get behind him, and hope he is successful here?

I never understand why people come on here and slam people because they want to be optimistic.

utvolfan1955 writes:

in response to Ghost_Of_Neyland:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

the post right above yours explains it

powellvol82 writes:

in response to Ghost_Of_Neyland:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

It appears you struggle with the detachment of your head from your arse

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