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Welcome to the Malfunction Junction of college football.
Knoxville and its 100,000-seat Neyland Stadium (plus 500,000 television customers) only look like the environs of Alabama and Columbus. It's a thin similarity.
Ever since naming Phillip Fulmer the athletic director 13 years ago, football life Eastern Tennessee has been consistently miserable. Fulmer was worse at that job than almost everyone who'd ever held it. He had been a great coach who proved the Peter Principle.
And ever since a rabble-rousing local radio personality and Twitter hordes twisted the Vols into picking the wrong coach four years ago, the program has been plummeting.
That misery hit a loud note Monday when Jeremy Pruitt was fired for "cause," which means he did something worse than lose football games.
He cheated on recruiting. A lot. And often. And badly.
We know this because the school's chancellor said so while ushering Pruitt out the door. This was a train that football fans had seen a-comin' down the track for years.
Fulmer decided it was time for him to go, too. He retired the way parachutists retire when they are catapulted from the plane without a chute.
But here's where we get to new information. If you want to know how much has gone wrong in college football through the prism of Tennessee football, consider this:
Not only was Pruitt and his two top assistants ditched, the school also fired four members of the "on-campus football recruiting staff," the director and assistant director of football player personnel, and a football analyst/quality control coach.
It does not seem plausible or rational that 10 men are required to manage one bad football team. "Director of player personnel?" Is he officially in charge of the cheating, or does he just watch?
In Tennessee it takes a village.
In something of a unique ascendance of insipidity, Tennessee thus hired 10 men to coach its football team to total incompetence - and cheated to do it. The "team" that coached the team was even incompetent.
How bad would the Vols have been without cheating? Our mind is boggled. Yes, boggled.
At least the Houston Astros won a World Series when they cheated. Tennessee was so bad that it produced records of 3-7, 8-5 and 5-7 while cheating.
And if you cheat on recruiting, which is what Tennessee did, shouldn't your players be better than if you simply put out an open cattle call for anyone in the area to try out?
So Tennessee likely will be rolled into a ditch for a few years by NCAA penalties, though it's not as if they'd be going to a good bowl game somewhere.
The COVID pandemic cost UT $40 million in lost revenue this year from its athletic budget, most of it because of no paying customers allowed in the football stadium. A football stadium with 100,000 seats and no fans is really empty.
Thus, Tennessee paid millions to cheat on a sport that no one saw, and still lost.
In 2019, Tennessee spent $52.7 million on operating its football program.
A year later, the staff of cheaters still could not produce a winner.
David Rutter is the former publisher/editor of the Lake County News-Sun, and more importantly, the former author of the Beachwood's late, great "The Week In WTF" column. His most recent piece for us was A WTF Timeout. You can also check him out at his Theeditor50's blog. He welcomes your comments.
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