The Dave Hart Era concludes as it should: falling down the stairs on repeat.
Things aren’t so sunny on Rocky Top, as you may have heard. Tennessee is now in its fifth month without an active Athletic Director after Dave Hart retired in August. The most disappointing football season since 2008 recently concluded. As it stands, the power and pride of the Tennessee name has declined steadily. The Learfield Director’s Cup, which measures success across eight sports in an NCAA-supported ranking, very kindly elected to confirm this issue for fans and observers alike. Tennessee ranks 14th of 14 SEC schools in a fall sports ranking including eight fall sports played across FBS and FCS levels.
Tennessee’s dead last finish is their second in the last three years (12th of 14 in 2015-16). At the same time, Tennessee ranks below three in-state schools: Middle Tennessee State, Vanderbilt, and Chattanooga.
The full report is found here. The sports included in the report are FBS college football, FCS college football, women’s volleyball, men’s water polo, men’s soccer, women’s soccer, field hockey, men’s cross country and women’s cross country.
Let’s push aside the fact for now that Tennessee isn’t exactly known for their water polo or field hockey success. Also, Tennessee does not have a men’s soccer team. This is fine! Still, the main issue remains: Tennessee’s once-consistent success across the board in fall sports has eroded entirely.
Tennessee’s women’s volleyball program hasn’t attended an NCAA Tournament since 2012. Neither has women’s soccer. Both cross country programs, once perennial SEC heavyweights, have combined for zero SEC championships since 2005.
Moreover, the only program to keep Tennessee from being entirely unranked, period in this report was Tennessee football. Due to Tennessee’s 24th place finish, they received 50 points in the poll. Accordingly, Tennessee is now tied for 113th at fall sports with the following schools:
- Loyola Chicago
- St. Francis (NY)
- American University
- South Alabama
- Alabama State
Indeed, you read that right: the leadership of Dave Hart placed Tennessee in a position where they’re as good at fall sports as Alabama State. Congrats, Dave! In fact, Tennessee tied for 60th out of 65 Power 5 FBS programs across the nation.
Lastly, I understand that winter/spring sports have traditionally saved Tennessee’s bacon in these rankings. But there’s evidence to show those are rapidly declining, too. Here’s the winter rankings from the last 12 years:
And here’s the final, all-season rankings from 2001 to 2016.
What are the steps to ensuring Tennessee’s across-the-board success at sports? First and foremost, perhaps hire the guy who made this happen with minimal resources. The next steps should be pretty easy from there.
Credit for original idea and information to @Lloyd_Testerman on Twitter.