It is good to be back! I’ve missed our daily visits and a lot has happened since we were together in January. So let’s spend today catching up and tomorrow I’ll jump into spring ball.
So what have I missed?
**–The “other” Dooley takes over in Knoxville: Last January I was getting ready to board a plane to Europe when my cell phone all but exploded. Lane Kiffin had just bolted Rocky Top to take the job at USC. After a tough coaching search where several people, including Duke’s David Cutcliffe, said no, Derek Dooley, the head coach and athletics director at Louisiana Tech and the son of Georgia’s Hall of Fame coach, was hired to clean up the mess.
The younger Dooley, a law school graduate, will bring a more organized and businesslike approach to the job. There won’t be photos of Southern California players hung on the walls of the Tennessee football complex, which is what the other guy wanted to do.
I just got back from Knoxville as part of my spring football tour which began last week. I will update you on that visit soon. For now, I will simply say that Dooley and his staff have a lot of work to do.
**–Big Ten expansion: After Notre Dame said no to the Big Ten in 1999, this issue stayed on the back burner for Commissioner Jim Delany for over 10 years. Now it is very much a front burner issue for two reasons: 1) A number of the league’s coaches are getting tired of being out of sight and out of mind for two weeks at the end of the regular season. The SEC, ACC, and Big 12 are basking in media attention on championship Saturday while the Big Ten goes dark; 2) There is a lot of money to be made by the Big Ten on the next round of TV contracts by finally going to (at least) 12 teams and creating a conference championship game. The timing is right and if Notre Dame is smart—and not too proud for its own good—this time it will say yes.
**–Masoli out at Oregon: Tennessee fans were probably dreading that Sept. 11 date with Oregon, which was supposed to return 18 starters from a team that went to the Rose Bowl. But quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, who was supposed to be a serious candidate for the Heisman Trophy, decided that stealing stuff from a fraternity house was more important than his college football career. So he has been booted off the team (at least for 2010) and Darron Thomas will probably be the quarterback when the Ducks come to Knoxville. Now the game, which comes the week before Tennessee hosts Florida, looks winnable for the Vols.
**–Urban Meyer is back in the saddle again. When Urban Meyer writes his memoirs, the 2009 season will be remembered as one long stretch of bad road. There were significant off the field issues for players, a Tim Tebow concussion, the mishandling of the Brandon Spikes eye-gouging incident, a $30,000 fine by the SEC commissioner, the pressure of being No. 1 all season along, a serious beat down in the SEC championship game by Alabama, his announced retirement and then un-retirement in the space of 12 hours due to some health issues. Whew! Just writing that made me tired.
After taking some time off after recruiting, Meyer is back on the sidelines for spring practice in Gainesville. He plans to take more time off after spring ball is over. Good for him.
Look, I didn’t agree with everything Urban Meyer did last year but the man is a very good football coach. Regardless of who you pull for, you should know that college football needs good coaches to stay in the game, not get burned out by it and leave.
And another thing: I’ve been readying in various places that Urban Meyer “owes” us—media, fans, etc.—a full explanation as to what happened and what’s currently going on. Sorry, that dog won’t hunt. I wish Urban Meyer would tell me the whole story. I wish he would sit down with me when I visit Gainesville tonight and Tuesday. But that’s not going to happen.
But as I see it he owes that explanation to only four people: His wife (Shelly), his boss (Jeremy Foley), his current and his future players (and their parents). That’s about it.
Everybody involved in Florida football—coaches, players, media and fans—needs to take a deep breath and try to enjoy the 2010 season. It’s football, folks. It’s supposed to be fun. Florida went 13-1 last season but I don’t believe the Gators had a whole lot of fun.
**–Just asking: On Jan. 9 Tommy Tuberville was named the new head coach at Texas Tech. On Jan. 12 Lane Kiffin made the shocking announcement that he was leaving Tennessee for Southern California. If Tuberville had been available, would Tennessee have pursued him? Would Tuberville have said yes? Lubbock or Knoxville? I’ve been to Lubbock and the people there are great. But that’s not a tough call.
**–Shocking! Bryce Brown may leave Tennessee!!!!! Brown, believed to be the nation’s No. 1 recruit in 2009, is no longer a part of the Tennessee program. Dooley says Brown will remain in school so his departure is not a done deal yet. I don’t think Mr. Brown, from Wichita, Kan., ever unpacked his bags once he got to Knoxville. As long as Montario Hardesty was healthy, he was not going to play a whole lot. After hearing that he was the No. 1 recruit in the nation, I believe Mr. Brown thought he would come into the SEC and be a star as a freshman. When reality hit—and that reality is that Mr. Brown is a good (but not great) running back—he became unhappy. He will move on. His brother, who grew unhappy at Miami, is now at Kansas State. Going home might be the best thing for him.
Okay, we’re off and running. We’ll join you Tuesday with our Five Burning Questions about the SEC East as we head into Spring ball. Again, it’s good to be back.
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