While we've been discussing Phillip Fulmer, other inside-the-family names continue to pop up. But look, some of these people already have jobs, okay? Pat Summitt? She's busy. Peyton Manning? Hopes to be busy again sometime soon. Bruce Pearl? Can you show-cause (as a verb!) an athletic director?
I mean, those ideas are pure fantasy. We've got to deal in reality if we want this proud university to get back to her glory days of winning so much that no one cares about anything else. And we also know that to be the UTAD, you've got to be part of the family. Maybe not a graduate, but at least have some local presence, influence, or history, because we clearly know what we're doing around these parts. Each of our candidates has clear and direct ties to Tennessee, either as a graduate, through family, or by birth.
So we here at RockyTopTalk would like to present our ten best candidates to replace Mike Hamilton as athletic director. As this is serious business, these candidates should be taken super seriously.
10. Elisha Archibald Manning III
The Godfather would certainly be a wise choice. Archie brings decades of football savvy to the table, and knows a thing or two about raising the next generation to be successful. He's familiar with the media - this job would give him a chance to get out of that studio and back in the stadium. We should put Archie in charge just so he can name Peyton the whatever-in-waiting he'd most like to be. Quarterback coach? Offensive coordinator? Drum major? Whatever. We get Archie now, we get Peyton when he retires, and we get Little Peyton Jr. when he's eighteen. Like the saying goes at Archie's alma mater with Miss Americas, we'd redshirt five star quarterbacks left and right under his watch. You don't want to learn from Manning, you don't really want to play quarterback.
9. Roy Kramer
If you're too young to know who Roy Kramer is, just find a fan of any other SEC team in the 90s and ask them what they think about the Maryville native's relationship with the University of Tennessee. An expert in conference expansion and, for better or worse, the BCS.
8. Barbara Dooley
Might actually be more qualified to run an athletic department than some of the candidates Jimmy Cheek will actually interview. Wife to a Georgia legend, mother to Precious, answers to no one. Freed from the gag order currently imposed by the head coach, she'd go head-to-head with her son in the press conference every week for best material. Knows the enemy having spent plenty of hours with Finebaum. We would see an immediate increase in contributions from the vital female senior citizen demographic. Her getting the job would seem like a cheap Hollywood story, except the program would actually win and Mrs. Dooley would get an Oscar for playing herself.
7. Woody Paige
Only as part of a package deal that sends Skip Bayless to Vanderbilt as the program's first real athletic director, and then the two are forced to physically fight each other every Saturday during the offseason for our entertainment.
6. Samuel L. Jackson
5. David Keith
Only if he applies in character as Jack Parkman:
4a & 4b. YOUR CHOICE OF: Al Gore OR Fred Thompson
The two best resumes on the board. Thompson has been director of the CIA, White House Chief of Staff, and president of NASCAR. But it was his time as rear admiral where he learned the importance of anticipating the manuevers of your enemy:
Because this business will get out of control. It will get out of control and we'll be lucky to live through it.
However, even Thompson's resume probably can't match up to what Al Gore was able to accomplish after being elected President in 2000. But enough Tennesseans putting aside their political differences to fully support either of these two men is the real fantasy. So, let's go in a different direction that all Tennesseans will have far less trouble supporting:
3. Ric Flair
Though he claims to be from just about every major city in the south, Flair was born in Memphis, so that's a win for basketball right away. You might say, "But wait, isn't Ric Flair a Florida fan?" Clearly, you've never watched wrestling. We get this thing done by SEC Media Days, and Flair ambushes Jeremy Foley with a chairshot at the podium. Heel turn, wooooooooo! Then he goes to Columbia and slaps the figure four on whoever's in charge there until they change their entrance music.
Flair supposedly retired from professional wrestling three years ago, but apparently just can't walk away. So this job would be a nice alternative to seeing a sixty-two year old man bleed for a few minutes. But imagine: coaches in robes. Not just rings, but championship belts for players. Derek Dooley does a fine job with postgame interviews, so let Bob Kesling interview Flair in the pregame, just before kickoff, and show it live on the Jumbotron. This would be worth at least one win per season. His most important hires would be Jerry Lawler for public relations and Kevin Nash for compliance/punching coaches. The way things are going for Flair, he'd stay at this position until it literally killed him.
2. Dolly Parton
Local girl done best. The Sevierville native (and recipient of an honorary doctorate from UT, no less) is the best choice to take the economic growth the department saw under Hamilton's watch and ensure it continues. She'd turn The Strip into Pigeon Forge...but, you know, with class. Dealing with a complaint UT students have had for decades, an elaborate ride would be built to get you from your dorm to the top of The Hill, infuriating former students who now claim The Hill as a badge of honor but would've killed for such a thing during their time. Students unable to find work would instantly have new opportunities in soap making, gem mining, and more. We'd move all the bald eagles from their current home at Dollywood and have them join Challenger at Neyland Stadium, just to make Auburn fans mad.
(By the way, if you were thinking, "I bet no one has taken the time to create a thorough wikipedia entry for Dollywood, you'd be very, very wrong.)
Pretty soon we would be known as "Dolly Parton's University of Tennessee", but that's okay because we'll inexplicably make a billion dollars. We'll have to put up with some new halftime shows, but as long as she keeps that butterfly logo off of our uniforms, she can stay. Neyland Stadium will smell like funnel cake in no time.
1. John Ward
How could we possibly do any better.
More than thirty years as a university employee. Spearheaded the growth of the Vol Network while always understanding that its true strength was its listeners. No lie: the man has a law degree from Tennessee AND a background in advertising. You want revenue? Natural. Gas.
No matter how bad it got under his watch, John Ward would step to the podium and with only his words make us believe it was going to be okay. And when it got great under his watch, he would have exactly the right words to somehow make it even greater.
Truth is, if you told me John Ward was going to read the phone book on Friday night at Gus's, I would be there. He has power and influence over multiple generations of UT fans. A university in need of a better story demands its greatest storyteller. John Ward for AD.