football Edit

‘Uncharted territory’ of early signing day provides new challenge


In the hiring of any employee, getting it right is obviously the priority.

After all, Tennessee is set to hire its fourth coach in 10 years because the Vols have yet to get it right after firing Phillip Fulmer.

But as athletics director John Currie embarks on the search for Tennessee's next football coach, time is an element that's greater than ever before.

With the NCAA’s new December early signing date, the window for a new hire to assemble his staff, evaluate his class, and secure a class is smaller than ever before. Currie is keenly aware of the new signing date, but made it clear Sunday night that he didn't make a coaching change due to recruiting.

"The early signing period being from Dec. 20-22 is new and uncharted territory for all us to some extent,” Currie said.

“Ultimately, we have to make the decision that we believe is in the best interests of the student-athletes that we have here at the University of Tennessee right now - some are approaching graduation and others are playing their last two games in Neyland Stadium over the next couple of weeks - while we also look at the long-term future of our program. It is a variable that is new, but the core values in how we make decisions remains the same."

Tennessee’s 2018 class started to fall apart in October, but it hit its biggest snag when 5-star offensive tackle Cade Mays publicly decommited earlier this week. The class continued to fall apart Sunday, as the Vols had four decommitments — headlined by 4-star wideout Alontae Taylor and JUCO defensive end Dorian Gerald.

Tennessee has long planned for the Vanderbilt weekend (Nov. 25) to be one of its biggest weekends in terms of official visitors. What the Vols elect to do now with that visit weekend remains unknown, but clearly it won't be what it was once planned to be. Currie reinterated Sunday night that his recruiting message was that his program has plenty to offer.

"Certainly recruiting is the life blood of what we do, attracting great student-athletes to the University of Tennessee. All of the intangibles about what makes our program, this University, the city of Knoxville, the history and tradition of Neyland Stadium, the facilities, the academic support, the high graduation rates - all of those things are things that will continue to be attractive to student-athletes at the University of Tennessee,” Currie said.

Also, Currie's message to prospective student athletes will be similar to his message to the current team and that's a a message of trust even though speculation will be rampant and Currie's silence won't waiver.

"One of the things that most important for me to do is not add to misinformation, so I will not be making any comments or responses to specific candidates or specific rumors. As I told our team when I met with them earlier today, unless they heard it from me directly, they should not believe it. So we will respect the integrity of the process. I know that's difficult for all of you, as you all have your job to do, which I certainly respect—even those who greet me in the parking garage early in the morning when I arrive at work.

“So I respect your desire to ask those questions very much, but my responsibility is to conduct the process as efficiently and effectively as possible. And for our student-athletes who are in a time of uncertainty—both our current student-athletes and prospective student-athletes—I owe them everything I have in that regard,” Currie stated.