Rise Glorious, Tennessee…

They say that timing is everything in delivering comedy.  Timing is also very important in other aspects of life and sometimes it allows for juxtaposing two stories that would seem not to have anything to do with each other at first.  But then…

About a month ago, I ran across a report that the University of Tennessee Athletic Department had launched an “aggressive” 5-year Plan for Tennessee athletics.  The plan’s label is “Rise Glorious” a phrase that appears in the Tennessee alma mater.  In announcing the launch of this plan, the Athletic Director said that Tennessee can and should be a leader in college athletics on the field and in strategic thinking but that the university has not lived up to those goals recently and this plan will set things right once again.

Supposedly, the student-athletes – – his phrase and not mine – – at Tennessee will be integrally involved in Rise Glorious actions and activities thereby creating the sort of ownership spirit that will create a winning culture for the Vols.  It is not clear to me how that is supposed to happen or how that might help Tennessee win any games, but every long-term strategic plan must have some qualities of mysticism contained therein.

There are specific areas addressed by the Rise Glorious plan and – not surprisingly – on-field performance is one of those areas.  In that area, each Tennessee athletic program will create an “NCAA Championship Plan” for itself and one of the standards will be:

  • Tennessee will win a national championship in at least one sport every four years; and each sport will achieve at least one national Top-16 finish every four years.

That is an ambitious goal to be sure and one of the other elements of Rise Glorious – – an “SEC Championship Plan” – – is similarly aspirational:

  • “Each sport will win a conference championship at least once every five years; Tennessee Athletics aims to capture five conference championships in one academic year while averaging at least three conference championships per year over the next five years.”

What will it mean to the football program to win a conference championship sometime in the next 5 years?  Well…

  • The last SEC championship for Tennessee was in 1997.
  • Since 2007, the Vols’ combined football record is 85 – 88.

I think the chances of such a turnaround in the next 5 years for Tennessee football are slim indeed, but I will stipulate that there are elements of Rise Glorious that could point the program in a very positive direction; and I will note that last  year Josh Heupel coached the Vols to a 7-6 record in his first  year in Knoxville.  So, after reading about the announcement and the launching of Rise Glorious I made a note to myself to keep this in mind and check back in a couple of years.

But as I said at the top, timing is everything and maybe the first checkpoint for the achievement of goals in Rise Glorious  comes only about a month into the implementation phase.  I say this because last weekend the NCAA notified Tennessee that it had identified 18 rules infractions committed by previous head football coach Jeremy Pruitt including the following charges:

  • Pruitt and some of his assistants hosted prospects and their families during the “recruiting dead period” for unofficial and unrecorded weekend visits where payments in cash and/or in goods were given to prospects and/or their families.
  • Pruitt’s wife made cash payments totaling as much as $13,000 to recruits and/or their families.  [Aside:  There is some irony here noting that Pruitt’s wife has previously served as an “NCAA Rules Compliance Officer” at two other universities.]

You get the idea here; the violations are blatant; if only half-true, they are still important violations of the NCAA rules and that can bring the hammer down on the Tennessee football program – – as it seeks to improve its fortunes against the likes of Alabama, Georgia, Florida …  Tennessee is not likely to contest too many of these charges because based on an internal investigation, it fired Coach Pruitt for cause and allowed the previous Athletic Director – – Phillip Fulmer – – to retire from his position.

All I can say here is this:

  • Josh Heupel had a difficult task ahead of him to win an SEC Championship in football sometime in the next 5 years.
  • Punishment for those sorts of infractions will fall on Heupel’s shoulders even though he was the coach at UCF when they took place.
  • Penalties for infractions of this sort usually involve reductions in the number of permissible scholarships and/or limitations on visitations by recruits.
  • Forget winning an SEC Championship in the next five years for a moment.  If Coach Heupel can win the SEC East and make it to the SEC Championship Game any time in the next 5 years under the restrictions he is about to endure, he should be Coach of the Decade.

Finally, since everything today has been about the University of Tennessee, let me close with this observation by H. L. Mencken:

“There is, it appears, a conspiracy of scientists afoot.  Their purpose is to break down religion, propagate immorality, and so reduce mankind to the level of brutes.  They are the sworn and sinister agents of Beelzebub, who yearns to conquer the world, and has his eye especially upon Tennessee.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



One thought on “Rise Glorious, Tennessee…”

  1. I like the interstellar loftiness of the “Rise Glorious” pronouncements. It kind of feels like Norman Vincent Peale on steroids.

    But, then, that would be a rules violation.

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