One of the ways we've half-jokingly comforted ourselves over the past few months of our third football coach in three years, his team's habit of losing games after the final play, and the tragic end of Bruce Pearl's time as head coach has been to believe that it can't get any worse - that even if this is rock bottom, at least now we can start climbing.
But of course, the reality is it can always get worse, and unbelievably it almost did. A number of people have commented today on the idea that the Vols had Georgia Tech AD Dan Radakovich at the top of their board. This notion originally came from VolQuest, but was also commented on heavily by Chris Low at ESPN.com today.
(Sidenote: people keep saying that VolQuest reported that UT was all set to name Radakovich as their AD until this news broke, and I'm not entirely sure that's fair. I'm a paying subscriber to VolQuest like many of you and I have great respect for what Brent Hubbs and those guys do. We always try to be respectful of what's behind their paywalls and not openly share it here, and I won't copy and paste what was posted about Radakovich in the War Room last night. However, I will say that I'm not sure that sources saying something is "very realistic" is the same as reporting that it's going to happen. I make this point not only in fairness to VolQuest, but also to UT - that it wasn't necessarily reported that all we were waiting on was Radakovich's signature or anything.)
Where the Vols do look plenty bad is by having Radakovich at the top of their list to begin with. Chris Low does an excellent job saying everything that needs to be said about Jimmy Cheek's direction of the search committee in that ESPN.com article above, so I'll try not to pile on...but since we're still talking about the same guy who said this:
"I think the fans are very important to our program, but we’re here to manage the (athletics) programs. These are complex decisions we have to make. There’s certainly information that I’m privy to that the rest of the public is not privy to. We have to look at everything." - Jimmy Cheek, Chancellor
Good to know you looked at everything, Chancellor, and had the guy who attempted to manipulate the information surrounding possible violations at Georgia Tech at the top of your list. I'd point out how little faith the fanbase has in Jimmy Cheek to do anything right at this point, but since he's already made it clear he doesn't care what the fans think, we'll just move on.
We are eventually going to need a real athletic director, of course. This problem could be easily resolved if someone would talk Joan Cronan out of her retirement, but if not, we've gotta hire somebody.
We've mentioned before that the nature of the pendulum suggests the Vols would go outside the program to an AD with experience, instead of looking within their own ranks for their next AD. It may be a different conversation to discuss the value of hiring "A Tennessee Guy (or Gal)", but since Cheek and several of the other decision makers weren't really Tennessee Guys until very recently, I doubt they value that much.
If you do, then a guy like David Blackburn is a great choice. Chris Low is basically openly campaigning for him in that article above. He clearly saved us from any further damage with Lane Kiffin, he's been around, and again - he's a Tennessee guy.
It was easier to sell the idea of going outside the family when we're talking about the ADs of established BCS programs like Kentucky and Georgia Tech. But Low's article mentions that Bubba Cunningham, Warde Manuel, and Mike Thomas are now at the top of UT's list. If you're scoring at home, they are, respectively, the current ADs of Tulsa, Buffalo, and Cincinnati.
I totally understood and agreed with the idea of going outside the family to get a guy with experience. But not all experience is created equal, and though I'm no expert on the matter, I think it's safe to say that being the AD at any of those schools and being the AD at Tennessee are very different things (though it goes without saying that a guy named Bubba Cunningham was born to be the athletic director at Tennessee).
So what do you think? Would you rather see the Vols hire Blackburn, a guy who worked closely with Mike Hamilton and has no experience as an AD, but did great work in keeping Kiffin in check and is a Tennessee guy? Or would you rather the Vols still go outside the family for an experienced AD...even if that experience comes from Tulsa, Buffalo, or Cincinnati?