Monday, February 18, 2008

Something needs to change at Tennessee

After reading most of the blog posts, I think I won't hand out a Best of the SEC bloggers award for today. Instead, I think the Britton Colquitt situation at Tennessee deserves a bit more exposure.

Lawvol at Gate 21 has written a stern and comprehensive critique of Philip Fulmer's "disciplinary" actions. This is a great post which you should read in it's entirety, but here is the crux of the biscuit:

While I have been a pro-Fulmer voice for a very long time, if this sort of trend continues, that voice will change — not due to Fulmer’s performance on the field, but due to his inability to control his players while off the field. I am not willing to have the University of Tennessee and its reputation denigrated by a bunch of young men who apparently feel that the law does not apply to them.

Winning is not that important…

Furthermore, in my opinion, the penalty imposed by Coach Fulmer on Colquitt — while substantial — is not enough. I understand Fulmer’s desire to temper his discipline with mercy, but Colquitt has proven that he does not understand his mistakes. He has already been given more second-chances than anyone should receive. I understand that his family has a long tradition at the University of Tennessee, and that they have been wonderful supporters of the program.

Lawvol is exactly right. It isn't as if Colquitt is a first-time offender, or was just committing a one-off offense that most people were guilty of in college whether or not they were caught. The fact of the matter is that there has to be a point, a line, a barrier -- something -- that defines where behavior becomes so unacceptable that the only fitting punishment is dismissal from the team. Britton Colquitt would seem to have exceeded this threshold by a wide margin with this latest debacle.

Volwalk at Third Saturday in Blogtober is sick and tired of this crap:

Like Ghost, I believe Fulmer is a good, moral man, but where does this crap stop? This just tells me how important Coach Cutcliffe was on and OFF the field. I believe he was THE LAW around the Tennessee football facilities when he was there.

I believe it is time for Phillip Fulmer to go. The man has done great things in Knoxville, and I will always have respect for him and for what he has brought to Knoxville…but it’s time. Time for SEC Championships, time for consistent Top 10 rankings, time for the police blotter to be quiet in Knoxville…and I don’t think Coach Fulmer can bring any of these things anymore. I know there are Tennessee fans who are going to disagree with me, probably some on this blog site will say I am 100% wrong, and if so thats ok with me.

I am not a Tennessee fan, and I am reluctant to agree with his conclusion that Fulmer should be dismissed. But I do think the AD should have a conversation with Fulmer about how much damage the perception of his lack of severe punishment for severe transgressions is doing to the Volunteer football program. And make no mistake, it is. Parents do not want to send their children to programs where scofflaws run amok with only mild consequences. It gives one the feeling that the football program is like an old boys club or a corrupt police department that would rather cover up and make lawbreaking go away than face the reality that too many of the players are simply not held accountable for their lawlessness by the athletic department.

It's bad for Tennessee, bad for Fulmer, and bad for the kids. The AD at Tennessee needs to have a "come to Jesus" meeting with Fulmer, and express (hopefully) his dissatisfaction with the perception that Tennessee is a lawless program bereft of even the most rudimentary discipline, and that players must commit major felonies to have any chance at all to be actually dismissed from the team. It's an image that Tennessee needs to begin shedding, and that right soon.