Coach in Place Before Xmas?

With a scarcity of news regarding UT's ongoing search for a new head football coach emanating from the eastern front Tennessee fans are left to relate, debate, speculate, anticipate and wait, but now they know how long that wait is likely to be.

n a move designed to quail concerns and to provide a timeframe for UT's 2009 football commitments as well as other prospects awaiting the decision, UT AD MIke Hamilton announced that he expects the process to be concluded between the end of November and the middle of December. Whether that's a coach named or one in place is unclear and would probably depend on his job status and team's post season commitments.

There's nothing inherent in that timeframe that eliminates any candidates except that it doesn't exactly jive with a coach that might have a team in the national title picture. The good thing about the timeframe is that it indicates progress is being made and a viable short list is in play. It gives UT's commitments time to meet the new boss and it gives the new boss a chance contact prospects, assemble most of his staff and host prospects on January visits.

It's a dicey situation anytime a school is making a change of this magnitude especially a program as tradition rich as Tennessee's. Getting it right is job one for Hamilton, and although an iron curtain has descended on hiring process, he is proceeding in the most effective and sensible manner at his disposal. It is the approach that will yield the best candidates because they avoid the discomfort of interviewing for a job they don't get. Just as the program bypasses the embarrassment of offering a job that isn't accepted.

The use of a third party provides plausible deniability as backdoor channels are established with a coaching candidate through his agent. Say what you will about the decision to make a change but it's hard to argue with Hamilton's systematic style.

The private company UT has contracted to research candidates and make recommendations based on needs and availability is similar to the one that assisted in the hiring of Bruce Pearl. Not only did that turn out to be an inspired decision but it enabled Tennessee to sidestep the mine field of misery it had during it's very public attempt to replace Kevin O'Neil as head basketball coach and later Buzz Peterson.

While it's hard to dispute the effectiveness of a broker who can make an analytical, dispassioned, professional recommendation on a replacement for head football coach, it does bring up a question as to whether the same firm can make a recommendation to replace an existing coach through a similar process?

If so what would they have said about Fulmer? A scouting report may have suggested his strength was as a recruiter and as an able ambassador for a football program he has coached and played for better than three decades. He wasn't a top strategist and didn't make adjustments adeptly. He was loyal to a fault where his coaches were concerned.

Ultimately Fulmer was successful at Tennessee because he recruited well and assembled some outstanding talent from 1993 to 1998, taking advantage of down years at Georgia, Alabama, LSU, South Carolina and North Carolina. In final analysis Fulmer's biggest fault as a coach was he was more reactive than proactive. The crash and burn 2008 season was predicted here for 2009 but the change of offenses triggered the collapse a year early. The sub par signing classes of 2006 and 2008 paved the way for the fall as did some major busts and outright losses from the 2005 top ranked recruiting class.

Replacing Fulmer with someone who can be a force on the recruiting trail is a must. However he also needs to be someone that can evaluate and develop talent as well as get personnel in the right positions. Having a chess player who can visualize football as a board game is also a much desired quality. Oh it would also help if he has high-powered offense that is entertaining because in an era of omnipotent media it's not enough to just win.

That's why it's a tall task for Mr. Hamilton, to say nothing of Tennessee's next head football coach.

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