John Adams: Pay raise proves UT football isn't all about winning

John Adams
Tennessee cornerbacks coach Tommy Thigpen talks with the media at the Neyland-Thompson Sports Complex Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012. (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Adam Brimer, Knoxville News Sentinel

Tennessee cornerbacks coach Tommy Thigpen talks with the media at the Neyland-Thompson Sports Complex Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012. (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

For those who think college football is all about winning, allow me to introduce Tennessee linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen.

He is part of a defensive staff whose student-athletes managed to hold Oregon to 59 points last September. After two months of coaching and practice, they held Auburn to 55. In between, Alabama hit them up for 45.

Within the SEC, UT’s defense ranked ahead of three teams in yards allowed per game. It was 13th in rushing defense.

And its linebackers coach received a $25,000 raise, which is $25,000 a year more than was doled out to anyone else on the staff, whose combined efforts produced a 5-7 record.

Something else about Thigpen: He was named the Rivals.com recruiter of the year.

So let’s hear no more of this “all about winning” nonsense. College football isn’t all about winning.

It’s all about recruiting.

And if you recruit well enough, the winning should follow, unless your coaching staff is incapable of keeping 11 players on the field at all times.

I’m not sure how Rivals chose Thigpen. Maybe it has a pass-efficiency-like formula that no layman could comprehend. Or maybe it noticed that a large number of college prospects recruited by Thigpen signed with Tennessee.

Thanks greatly to Thigpen’s salesmanship, UT wound up with a top-10 recruiting class. His success rate was even more significant when you consider the product he was pushing.

I realize he wasn’t selling swamp land. UT has great football tradition, state-of-the-art facilities, a stadium unlike no other in college football, and a head coach in Butch Jones, who has a great gift for relentlessly embellishing the program’s attributes.

It also hasn’t won an SEC championship since 1998, hasn’t been to a BCS bowl since the 1999 season and hasn’t been to a bowl outside the state since the 2009 season.

Given that recent history, you can’t just show a recruit a photo of Neyland Stadium and expect him to commit on the spot. You have to sell the past and future while minimizing the present.

Recruiting is crucial anytime. It’s more crucial when your talent pool has sunk to Tennessee’s depths.

Never mind how valuable clever play callers are. They aren’t miracle workers.

Steve Spurrier isn’t second to anyone as a play caller. Yet he didn’t start winning big at South Carolina until he succeeded in recruiting the best players in the state.

Auburn coach Gus Malzahn is a brilliant play caller. But his plays wouldn’t have been brilliant enough to land Auburn in the national championship game if he hadn’t recruited quarterback Nick Marshall from junior college to run them.

That’s not to suggest a head coach should form his staff based on sales records alone.

The top car salesmen in the country might sway a few four-star recruits in your direction. However, what would he do when those recruits arrived? Sell them a four-year warranty on their scholarship?

A coach can’t just convince good players to sign. He has to help turn their potential into production.

But for a program in UT’s situation, it has to get the best players before it can get the best out of them.

So I’m not questioning whether Thigpen deserved a $25,000 raise. I’m wondering why he didn’t get more.

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Comments » 12

mikeyvol#1421231 writes:

How about an online petition to get rid of John Adams? I'm thinking 100,000 signatures in two days.

Volswin1 writes:

in response to mikeyvol#1421231:

How about an online petition to get rid of John Adams? I'm thinking 100,000 signatures in two days.

Hilarious ! I'll be first in line to sign.

AtLannaVFL writes:

C'mon John! I'm actually a fan of about 28 yrs worth of your reporting on Vol football and now I'm starting to think that you're just too jaded to follow anymore.
What we have going on now with Tn football is a good thing. Not Lane Kiffin good...not Derek friggin Dooley good, but Big Orange Football Good. BuTch is the Real Deal and so are his assistant coaches. At some point, the fans--and reporters--have to start buying in to what BuTch is building. And it's an uphill battle but for the first time in A DECADE, I truly believe in our Head Football Coach.
Yes, it will take another few years, but even Gen Neyland himself couldn't turn this program around in the current environment any sooner. Get on board now or retire to an old front porch rocking chair where you can second guess every move Butch makes on the way back to a national powerhouse. How in the world could you attack/second guess the outstanding accomplishments of one of our own coaches? You're "not sure how Rivals chose Thigpen"???...Seriously John??!! You're not sure? I'm not sure why I'm still reading your articles. In the words of Chris Berman and his cohorts...C'mon man...
the honor and pay raise for Thigpen is well deserved and appreciated by all of us true Vol Fans! So Coach Thigpen...from all of us life-long Vol fans: THANK YOU FOR YOUR WORK FOR THE UNIVERSITY OF TENNESSEE FOOTBALL PROGRAM. You deserve a much bigger raise and more importantly the respect and appreciation of Vol Nation.

John...it's time to get on board or sign off. Love ya dude but it's time to go.

utfans#211352 writes:

John did not say Thigpen didn't deserve award he said he didn't know how Rivals chose him and wondered if it was a formula, if you read the end he says he doesn't question him getting a raise just wondered why he didn't get more. The article is about the importance of recruiting . I don't get the anti Adams stuff, he is an ok writer. Not great but ok.

vut5686#1405392 writes:

Here is the thing: read in its entirety, this is not a bad article and concludes with a punch line that makes a good point. The problem is the headline and dragging in all Vol negatives to make his point. Far better that he zeroed in on Thigpen's actual schedules, efforts, techniques, etc., and just centered on the successes that merits the raise. That would, of course, have required some effort and research. We will be gracious and assume some one other than John chose the headline.

JA just cancels a worthy thought line by emphasizing the negatives. That trait is what gets him criticized.

Butterbeans writes:

Is it really the job of a sports reporter to "get on board"? Why does everyone expect Adams to be a Vol cheerleader when his job is to observe and comment. Seems no good reporter would ever be "on board".

jmaples54 writes:

in response to Butterbeans:

Is it really the job of a sports reporter to "get on board"? Why does everyone expect Adams to be a Vol cheerleader when his job is to observe and comment. Seems no good reporter would ever be "on board".

posters like mikey and lanna either
1) have limited ability to comprehend*,
2) don't like his writing style regardless of the message,
3) are overall negative people, or
4)think they are even funnier than adams and are egged on by folks like volswin, who think their comments are "hilarious."

Adams-bashing has become sort of a tradition for the same kind of fans who think a petition to replace the coach is smart, effective and reputable. these guys don't know how nonsensical they appear and probably don't care.

*the point of the article is to compliment thigpen.

bUTch__please writes:

Here...let me rip Thigpens guts out for the linebackers performance. Nevermind that there was no speed on the backend, the best LB we have was in a redshirt year and the countless top ten teams played. After that, I'll suggest that if he can get the results recruiting like he did to a destroyed/failed/washed out program like this...he deserves 20 times as much.

...then I'll call that a compliment.

volbald writes:

$25,000.00 is not a big enough raise for Thigpin. UT is still being penny-wise and pound-foolish. ESPN keeps noting that Coach Jones is being paid $5 Million a year. I don't understand why the N-S writers keep saying it's less than $3 Million. The $5 Million must include the side contracts. Right now, two of the top 5 highest paid coaches have losing SEC records - Bielema at Ark. and Jones at UT. Hopefully UT's excellent recruiting will change that sooner than later so that Jones and staff are being paid millions to recruit and win. If necessary hire another linebackers coach to coach and pay Thigpin still more to recruit top 10 classes. UGA and then Auburn did that for Rodney Gardner.

mikeyvol#1421231 writes:

in response to jmaples54:

posters like mikey and lanna either
1) have limited ability to comprehend*,
2) don't like his writing style regardless of the message,
3) are overall negative people, or
4)think they are even funnier than adams and are egged on by folks like volswin, who think their comments are "hilarious."

Adams-bashing has become sort of a tradition for the same kind of fans who think a petition to replace the coach is smart, effective and reputable. these guys don't know how nonsensical they appear and probably don't care.

*the point of the article is to compliment thigpen.

1 pretty good comprehension
2 tired of the same tired negativism
3 extremely positive person.
4 not trying to be funny
5 never, ever, signed a petition

Coach Thigpen receives a great honor and recognition for his work at UT. John Adams uses his typical sarcasm to put it down. You might need to review your "comprehension".

psychovol2 writes:

This is a great football staff and they all should have gotten raises and 25k isn't near enough for the job Thigpen did. I want this staff to stay together for the sake of continuity; something that's been sorely lacking on Rocky Top for a long time. Fulmer was a lot better coach when he had his coordinators. Without Cut it was a different ball game.

ThirdCreek writes:

I liked Adams' article which is on the mark. Hard to justify pay raises for a staff that went 5-7.

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