My first thought: A lot. At $2.05 million per year – with a raise pending – Phillip Fulmer should be putting a $2.05 million product on the field. At that price the product should be successful and entertaining ... not every year, of course, but on a consistent basis.
So, what qualifies as a consistent basis? I'm glad you asked. Here's my take:
DIVISION TITLES: I think Tennessee should expect to win one division title every three years. Florida, Georgia and Tennessee have won every SEC East title since the conference was split for divisional play prior to the 1992 season. Each of the three should expect to win an East title approximately every three years. I understand South Carolina and Kentucky are better than they were 15 years ago. I also understand that success is cyclical, which makes projecting UT, Georgia and Florida to win precisely one title each in a three-year span overly rigid. That's why I'm going to compromise just a bit and say three division titles each per decade is a reasonable expectation for the Vols, the Gators and the Bulldogs.
SEC TITLES: I think Tennessee should expect to win one overall league title every six years. Again, my reasoning is purely mathematical. Just as there are three power teams in the SEC East, there are three power teams in the SEC West – LSU, Auburn and Alabama. I know Arkansas claimed division titles in 1995, 2002 and 2006 but the Razorbacks have never won an overall title. Like UT, Florida and Georgia, I believe LSU, Auburn and Alabama should expect to win three division titles per decade. Thus, each of the six power teams should expect to win one SEC overall title every six years ... or two in a 12-year span. I know it would be simpler to say two titles per decade but I think that's being a tad overly optimistic.
BCS BIDS: I think Tennessee should expect a BCS bid every five years. I've already suggested the Vols should win an SEC championship once every six years, which would bring one automatic BCS bid. I think the Vols should be good enough to qualify for a BCS at-large bid once every 10 years. That, coupled with the automatic bid for an SEC title, would give UT two BCS bids in a 10-year span, or one every five years on average.
NATIONAL TITLES: There is no way to quantify this because there are too many variables involved – injuries, breaks, attrition and scheduling to name just a few. I thought Tennessee had the best team in America in 1995 but a disastrous second half at Florida kept the Vols from playing for the national title. Auburn goes 13-0 in 2004 but doesn't get to play for the national title, while LSU goes 11-2 in 2007 and does. Clearly, luck and timing are just as important to winning a national title as talent and coaching, so my closing comment is this: If your team is lucky enough to win a national title, relish it. Odds are, you'll never experience another one.