Cuonzo Martin and the Tennessee Vols were in the midst of an awkward divorce. Neither really wanted to be in a relationship with the other. Vol athletic director Dave Hart expected Martin to take the Marquette job, but at the last minute Martin told Marquette no. So just over ten days ago Tennessee released an unplanned commitment letter between Martin and the Vols. Clearly, that "commitment" is now no longer. Tennessee and Cuonzo both got their wish, the divorce is final.
So now the question becomes this -- what will Tennessee pay to hire a replacement coach? If the Vols are willing to pay in the neighborhood of $2.5 million a year then there are many top-tier candidates. That kind of salary would mean that Tennessee is paying top-ten college basketball coaching money. There aren't many schools that can pay top-ten coaching money. Tennessee can.
The men's basketball program has been right around the top five in the country for much of that last decade in total attendance. Three of the last four Tennessee coaches -- everyone except for the woeful Buzz Peterson -- has been to a Sweet 16. The Vols have been in the NCAA tournament for 11 of the past 16 seasons. This is without a doubt one of the top four basketball jobs in the SEC. Kentucky is the unquestioned number one job in the conference, but Bruce Pearl recently argued that Tennessee was number two. His argument was pretty simple, Billy Donovan makes Florida's program, not the other way around. (Pearl's top six SEC programs in order were Kentucky, Tennessee, Florida, Arkansas, Vanderbilt, and Missouri). That's a fair list. Given that Arkansas hasn't even been to the Sweet 16 since 1996, approaching an entire generation, it's hard to argue that Arkansas is superior to the Vols. I don't believe Vandy and Mizzou are either.
As is, Cuonzo leaves behind a mediocre collection of talent, but Vol fans know this. Expectations will be realistic for a new coach.
So who will that new coach be? It really depends on what Dave Hart can spend. The finances of Vol athletics have stabilized a great deal of late. Dooley's buyout is, mercifully, mostly gone. Butch Jones has the football team on the right track. Vol athletics has dug out of its buyout hole.
Hell, Cal will actually be paying Tennessee over a million dollars for Cuonzo to leave.
Here's an early stab at a guess.
Halloween weekend is the best NFL cheerleading week of the year.
That's because NFL cheerleaders get to dress up in even hotter costumes than their normal cheerleading outfits.
Well, the head of Titans cheerleading, Stacie Kinder, was kind enough to send along some Titan cheerleader photos to Outkick the Coverage.
She wants to make sure that all of you currently clicking on this link to look at hot cheerleaders, remember to sign up your kids for junior Titan cheerleaders. It's a cool event that allows your kids to perform on the field during the Jacksonville game. You also get to practice, meet the cheerleaders, and hang out. (Note, grown men may not sign up to be junior Titans cheerleaders).
Now, more pics.
First, from Titan cheerleader Anne B. who tweeted out these shots from the locker room.
You know things are rough for Derek Dooley when even Toddler Derek Dooley, last year's Volunteer state sensation, is dressing up as Jon Gruden this Halloween.
Mom Cortney sends this email to OKTC:"People have been asking how we could possibly top my son's Halloween costume from last year. Honestly, since Saturdays have become so increasingly heartbreaking this season, and since my husband wouldn't let me cover my two-and-a-half year old in bronze paint and pose him as the General Neyland statue, I thought I would give up and let Luke wear the Spider-Man costume he's been begging for. However, the timing couldn't be more perfect, so this year we are introducing Little Gruden. Obviously not as creative as Toddler Dooley, but over the last few years Halloween has been the only positive thing in the fall for us Vol fans, and I didn't have to bribe my 2 year old to wear a wig this time. Happy Halloween!"
The Gruver, it's real!
As the Vols lost their 12th SEC game in the past 13 contests, Tennessee fans struggled to look for any bright spots on Twitter. Then, out of nowhere, came a Gruden sighting. Jon Gruden, the man that every Vol fan hopes will be the next UT coach, was on a flight from Houston to Phoenix.
At least according to a man with the screen name "Vol Since 72" on Volquest.
Early in the morning, Vol Since 72 posted this message on Volquest, which sort of reads like Penthouse Letters, SEC edition: "He's (Gruden's) in first class and as I walked by, I say, 'Go Vols,' he winks and says, 'How you doing?'"
He then follows it up with, "I GAVE MY ALL FOR TENNESSEE TODAY!"
We'll begin the mailbag with news of the LSU foursome's arrest for having ten bags of marijuana in an off-campus apartment.
How did the cops bust this LSU brain trust?
First, Jordan Jefferson wasn't able to enter the apartment gate. (This suprises no one who watched Jefferson quarterback in the BCS title game). Next, Jefferson cursed at the apartment security guard, who watched which apartment Jefferson entered and called the police. Then Tyrann Mathieu answered the door when the police knocked and consented to a search of the apartment.
Let this be a lesson to everyone who reads the mailbag today -- Never, ever consent to any police search.
Even if you haven't done a damn thing wrong. Even if you're innocent as hell.
Don't be our anti-beaver pelt traders of the week like the Honey Badger and crew.
Okay, on to the mailbag.
But, first, yes, Jordan Jefferson really was wearing a "Chain Gang" t-shirt when he was arrested.
This morning Stephen A. Smith was in a "First Take" debate about whether or not Kobe Bryant would play in the season opener. That's par for the first take course, a "debate" that no one really cares about and that has no lasting significance, delivered with stereo sound histrionics and Bay of Pigs level crisis threat. Ordinarily no one would have noticed. Except on this particular morning Smith dropped a "Nigga, please," to cement his point. He did not follow it up by saying, "you ain't signing no checks like these," in which case he could just claim he was quoting a popular Jay-Z song.
Later ESPN dropped the phrase from a reairing and so far the network has declined comment on the statement.
This is the second time in less than a year that ESPN has walked a major racial fault line. In February the network fired an editor after he used the headline, "Chink in the Armor," with a picture of Jeremy Lin. I argued back then that our society was too quick to assume racism and that the editor shouldn't have been fired. My point was pretty clear, do we really think that a white editor at ESPN hid his virulent anti-Asian racism solely to spring it on an overnight shift in a mobile website headline?
It's the perfect racist crime!
Of course not.
Yet the use of the language was considered inappropriate regardless of context.
Now Stephen A. Smith is squarely on the racial fault line and there's not even an intent defense here. Smith said exactly what he intended to say.
You can watch the video here.