The Chattanooga Times held a Facebook live event on Saturday that featured new Tennessee athletic director John Currie. When asked about the challenges he is facing Currie was blunt. He simply said "We have to win more."
Despite the huge advantages that Tennessee athletics enjoys, they are underachieving at historic levels. Currie certainly has his work cut out for him.
Money is not a problem at Tennessee. The Vols have the ninth highest revenue of any school in the nation at $126.6 million. Facilities are also not a part of the problem. The Vols boast the nation's fifth largest football stadium. Since 2008, Tennessee has opened new facilities for tennis, basketball, swimming, golf and softball. During that same time, Neyland Stadium, Lindsey Nelson Stadium and Thompson-Boling Arena have also undergone significant renovations. Tennessee has spared no expense in an all out effort to win in every sport in which they compete.
With money flowing in and world class facilities it's difficult to explain exactly why the Vols sports programs have been an utter embarrassment. However, there is no denying that Tennessee athletics leaves a lot to be desired.
The football program has not won an SEC title in 18 years. To put that into perspective, the incoming freshman class at Tennessee has not experienced the Vols winning a championship in their lifetime. It's been a decade since the Vols have even won a divisional title and that was a tie with Georgia. The Vols football team has finished with a losing record in 5 of the last 12 seasons.
Tennessee has paid Butch Jones in excess of $16 million dollars to compile a 30-21 record. Jones is now the 15th highest paid coach in the nation and makes just $600,000 less than national championship coach Dabo Swinney. Despite Tennessee shoving suitcases full of money at Jones he has never produced a regular season with double digit wins and his best single season SEC record is 5-3. In the SEC, Jones has a winning record against only lowly South Carolina and Kentucky. Let that sink in. Despite being paid $4 million a year, Jones hasn't even been able to eke out a winning record against Vanderbilt.
The bad news doesn't end with the football team.
The Vols baseball team finished 29-27 and a pathetic 9-21 in conference play to claim dead last in the East. That's familiar territory for Vols baseball as they have finished last in the East in 7 of the last 9 seasons (they finished next to last in the other 2 seasons in that span).
The men's basketball team limped through a 16-16 season in 2016. They finished 8th in the SEC with an 8-10 conference record. The once proud women's team finished 5th in the SEC with a 10-6 conference record.
The losses keep mounting with virtually every athletic endeavor the Vols undertake. Despite the SEC dominating men's golf with Vandy, Florida and LSU in the top 6, the Vols are unranked yet again. The SEC won yet another track national championship as Florida outscored the nation and the Vols went home empty handed.
The SEC placed three teams in the top 10 in women's soccer including 5th ranked Florida. In typical fashion the Vols finished the season ranked 87th in the nation. Vols tennis finished 9th in the conference with a 3-9 record.
The Gators yet again swept the SEC All-Sports Trophy while Tennessee finished 13th in men's and 6th in women's for an overall 10th place finish. The SEC currently has several highly ranked teams in the Learfield Directors’ Cup standings led by 7th ranked Florida. Again, in typical fashion, the Vols are ranked 49th.
While the Gators have won at least one SEC team title every year for 39 consecutive seasons, the Vols habitually wallow in the shallow end of the standings. I will admit that it is unfair to compare Tennessee to Florida as the Gators 234 all-time league team titles are the most in the SEC and in the last 10 seasons, UF leads the league with 58 titles.
One has to wonder though, why Tennessee can not find success of any kind in any sport. They have the money and the facilities and yet they continually go home without any hardware except meaningless self awarded trophies like Bristol Championships.
The excuse that football is all that matters is a mere attempt at diverting attention from a rotting, ineffectual and completely impotent athletic department. The football program is nothing to point to as it has just recently pulled itself up from being an embarrassment to simply being bad. However, if the Vols don't want to win in the other sports then why spend time and money competing? If one is to believe that Tennessee will line up to play a sport without a desire to win, then they may as well shut down Tennessee athletics all together. Honestly, it's hard to tell if that process hasn't already begun.
Tennessee athletics is obviously broken. Perhaps beyond repair.