The Fault at UT Lies with the President

Shirley Raines would have avoided the mess at UT.

I just watched the architect of the University of Tennessee’s implosion in the past 20 days, Chancellor Beverly Davenport and new athletic director Phil Fulmer, try to avoid explaining what happened.

I was left with the impression that if my former sister-in-law, Shirley Raines, were heading this attempt to hire a credible football coach, UT would not only have a top-notch, experienced, creative football coach, but stability would reign (so to speak).

Shirley was president of the University of Memphis when it was searching for a football coach and didn’t have an athletic director to conduct the search. Shirley did it and wound up hiring Justin Fuente (now at Virginia Tech), who turned out to be arguably the best football coach in Memphis history.

Shirley’s retired, though, and she’s not at UT. Such a pity.

Beverly Davenport was about seven levels below impressive in this press conference and her hire of John Currie, the AD she fired today, over Fulmer and, more important, David Blackburn, a UT-Chattanooga AD with a UT background, is a glaring error. It is compounded by the constant missteps of the past two weeks and it falls on her desk, all of it. She’s the boss and she failed.

One irony in all this: Justin Fuente could well be the leading candidate for the Tennessee job if he doesn’t get the opening at Florida State. He’s a damn good coach. Shirley could see that.

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