What to do with Delmonico?

Over the past 10 years, the Tennessee baseball team has made two College World Series appearances – that's great. Over the past 10 years, the Tennessee baseball team is more than 30 games below .500 in SEC play – that's poor. But which is more important – the College World Series or consistent play?

Maybe you think two College World Series showings offset a woeful SEC record. Maybe you're OK with your team not being competitive for the better part of 10 seasons, if it can make it to Omaha now and then.

Before Rod Delmonico arrived, Tennessee had been to one College World Series. He's taken Tennessee to three in 17 years.

But, he's also had quite a few of his teams miss the SEC Tournament, meaning they didn't even finish in the top eight in the conference.

UT baseball under Delmonico has often been feast or famine.

When Delmonico was asked about his job security before the SEC Tournament, he said if UT wanted to fire him, it would cost a lot of money.

Not a smart thing to say. That's not what a fan or athletic director wants to hear.

Delmonico doesn't handle questions like that very well. In his defense, not many coaches do. Most get defensive when asked about their job security, especially when the seat starts getting hot.

Asked about Delmonico's comment, UT athletic director Mike Hamilton said he had no response. Was he miffed? Probably.

Asked if Delmonico would return as Tennessee's baseball coach next season, Hamilton said it wasn't appropriate to discuss that topic while the Vols are trying to win an SEC Tournament title. He said he would evaluate at the end of this season.

For the record, Delmonico has three years left on his contract. The buyout would be between $400,000 and $450,000.

If Delmonico were definitely coming back, wouldn't Hamilton have said so? On the other hand, if he'd made a comment, it would have violated his policy of not discussing a coaches' plight until season's end.

If you're Hamilton, what do you do with Delmonico?

Making the SEC Tournament isn't a job saver for a coach. And it shouldn't be. That just means you were good enough to finish eighth in your conference. Hamilton has said as much.

Now, if the Vols get an NCAA Tournament bid and parlay that into winning a regional and advancing to a Super Regional, now you've done something.

Hamilton said the goal is to compete for championships, and Delmonico does that once every four or five years. He follows up a terrific season with a couple of poor seasons. That lack of consistency bothers many fans. It must bother Hamilton.

It's also a concern that while you're trying to refurbish Lindsey Nelson Stadium, your baseball team is struggling and you don't have a big donor stepping to the plate.

Why haven't former Vols like Todd Helton, Joe Randa, R.A. Dickey, Bubba Trammell been big contributors? They've earned Major League paychecks. They have enough to help UT renovate an aging stadium.

Only five SEC baseball coaches have won more games than Delmonico, who is gunning for win No. 700 today.

That's impressive. But the roller coaster ride that Delmonico has taken UT baseball on needs to stop. It's apparent that Delmonico has lost some of his teams in the past, or lost interest in some of his teams.

The true ability of a coach is to respond when things aren't going well.

Regardless of what happens the rest of this season, I don't think Delmonico will get fired. But if he doesn't challenge for the SEC title next season, if he doesn't make the NCAA Tournament, if he doesn't win more than 35 games, when the roller coaster comes to a stop next May, he might be asked to leave.


Inside Tennessee Top Stories