I wasn’t too spiritual as I attended church Nov. 18.
Yes, I was there to worship and serve as a member of my church’s Guest Services team, but my mind was elsewhere.
I was distracted by events in Knoxville, Tenn., over which I had now power. Like many Tennessee fans, I waited to see if — or when — Derek Dooley would be fired as the Tennessee head football coach following a loss to Vanderbilt the night before that dropped the Volunteers to 0-7 in Southeastern Conference play and 4-7 overall on the season.
I might have been at church and away from my computer, but I still had my smart phone and was constantly checking my trusted websites to see updated status on Dooley. News of his firing came some time around 10:45 or 11 a.m.
I shouldn’t have been so caught up in the drama surrounding the Volunteers, but I am a Tennessee alumnus and do love the team. Most people probably already know that “fan” is just the shortened form of fanatic and southeastern college football fans are fanatically in love for their team.
I wonder how many Auburn fans were checking their phones while at church this past Sunday to learn Tiger football coach Gene Chizik’s fate.
A new kind of anxiety kicks in for fans once the coach is fired — it comes with hoping our team will be the one that lands the coach everyone talks about.
The big name I’ve seen on Tennessee message boards is former Oakland Raider and Tampa Bay Buccaneer head coach Jon Gruden. Gruden was a Tennessee graduate assistant in 1986 and married a former Tennessee cheerleader. Early rumblings were that he had been in contact with potential assistant coaches testing their interest in following him to Knoxville.
If not Gruden, maybe Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher. Word is he might be persuaded to leave Tallahassee, but he might be more interested in Auburn than Tennessee if both schools were options.
Tennesseeand Auburn aren’t the only schools in the Southeastern conference seeking a football coach; Arkansas and Kentucky also are on the look-out for the next guy to lead them.
Arkansas has been in search mode since then Razorback head coach, Bobby Petrino, took his infamous motorcycle ride with his mistress last spring — a trip that landed him in a neck brace and out of a job. Word has it that the Hogs also are interested in Gruden, but if Gruden were to coach at the college level, Tennessee is the leader for his services.
That brings us to Kentucky, which has always been, and probably always will be, known as a basketball school. Word has it that the Wildcats might be interested in Petrino, and I can’t help thinking he would be a huge mistake for any program. Yes, the guy wins, but he has more baggage than an airport lost and found.
The next few weeks will be interesting as we wait to see who will be hired to fill the SEC openings. Even fans who lack a horse in the race care to see who will go where, and what impact the new coaches will have on their favorite teams.
A home run hire like Gruden could quickly land Tennessee back in a place of SEC East pominence. And things would get very interesting if Fisher ended up at Auburn, where his biggest rival would be Alabama, which is coached by Nick Saban, his former boss at Louisiana State.
If Kentucky pulls the stringand goes with Petrino, it will be interesting to see what ethics guidelines appear in his contract.
And since we know Petrino won’t return to Arkansas, who would be second on Arkansas’ list if Gruden goes to Tennessee?
Yes, it will be a tough few weeks as we wait to see just how things play out with our favorite teams.
Randy Dickson is the Crestview News Bulletin’s sports editor. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, tweet him @BigRandle, or call 682-6524