Tag Archives: Derek Dooley

It’s a Conspiracy

4 Mar

This semester, one of my fellow history teachers is offering a cool class on conspiracies in American history. I wish I could sit in on the course because he covers conspiracies from different eras and explains why people have been attracted to the theories during those times. It is interesting to hear his students talk about the subjects they cover in class and the assignments that he gives them. I can tell that they are having a lot of fun and learning along the way.

A few days ago, a couple of students were in my office talking and explained that each of them have been given a specific conspiracy to research and write about. As one talked about their assignment, I said that I had been there. Then, the other one talked about their assignment, and I have been there as well. Finally, one of them said that I must be the one behind all of the secrets because my travels have made me a common denominator. We laughed, but I began to think, “Damn, I have been to a lot of these places.”

With that in mind, here is a list of the places I have been lucky enough to visit that are connected to some vast conspiracy.

Cape Canaveral – One of the coolest tours anywhere, you can get a upclose view of the launch pads used from the 50s to the present. It is amazing to take a journey through the technological changes. What makes this prime conspiracy territory? Ask any moon landing skeptic, and they will tell you that these launches didn’t go anywhere. The astronauts were walking around somewhere in the desert.

Mount Rushmore – Actually, I didn’t know a conspiracy surrounded this monument until I watched an episode of Brad Meltzer’s Decoded. I thought the only conspiracy involving this place was by the people who made that stupid National Treasure: Book of Secrets movie. However, Meltzer’s minions looked into the possibility of the mount paying homage to racial purity. I don’t know about that, but I know that the Black Hills were the sacred land of the Sioux. The fact that it is now a tourist trap is conspiracy enough.

Roswell – In 1947, a UFO crashed near this New Mexico town, and the government has been covering up the incident ever since. It must be true because there is a museum dedicated to it with a lot of cool exhibits.

What? You didn’t know Bigfoot is an alien?

Then, you probably didn’t know that they have real recreations of alien autopsies.

Actually, the museum is interesting and has an extensive collection of UFO videos, research and writings.

Memphis – I wrote in a recent post about my visit to the National Civil Rights Museum, built on the site of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination.

This conspiracy springs from the idea that a petty criminal like James Earl Ray could not have shot King and escaped to Europe without help. Ray fed this idea with his insistence that he was working with a man named Raoul. I have also wondered how Ray got away but had my questions answered after reading Hellhound on His Trail: The Stalking of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the International Hunt for His Assassin.

Dallas – The granddaddy of all conspiracy theories is based around the assassination of John F. Kennedy at Dealy Plaza. Most people probably believe that Lee Harvey Oswald did not act alone. Some say it was the mafia. Others say it was the Cubans, the Russians, or even the vice president. I don’t know about any of that, but I believe this conspiracy lingers for a couple of reasons.

First, a president, Abraham Lincoln, was actually the victim of a conspiracy.

Second, a visit to Dealy Plaza leads people to believe that something else must have happened. Walking around the grounds, it just makes sense that the gunman was on the grassy knoll and not in a window on an upper floor of a building. It is difficult to describe the area, but everyone should take a look for themselves. I must admit that of all the conspiracies this is the one I come closest to believing.

There you have it. The list of conspiratorial places that I have visited. I promise that this doesn’t make me the Cigarette-Smoking Man from The X-Files. Where’s my proof? If I was, then the following would happen.

Derek Dooley would resign as the head football coach at Tennessee, and the team would never lose another game.

I would win the lottery.

People would be breaking the law when they throw chewing gum on the ground.

I would win every hand of Blackjack.

All of us bloggers would be world-famous.

Big Orange Apathy

7 Nov

I did not attend the University of Tennessee football game this week. That probably doesn’t seem like a big deal to “normal” people, but in my world it is huge. My dad started taking me to games when I was six. In the years since I have been to hundreds of games in thirteen different states. There have been heart-breaking losses and heart-pounding wins; disappointing seasons and surprisingly successful ones. Many games have been forgotten and a lot became lasting memories. Through it all, I was there. In short, I have been a die-hard fan. But, this weekend I didn’t go. After watching this squad disintegrate into the worst Tennessee team in my memory, I couldn’t sit through it anymore. When that happens to fans like me, my dad and my friends, then the University of Tennessee has a problem. Apathy, a killer for a football program, has set in.

All fans have an opinion as to how we got to this point. You can read them on message boards and hear them on radio call-in shows. This is my opinion.

On January 4, 1999, the Volunteers won the national championship in a tough victory over Florida State. A successful coach, Phillip Fulmer, reached the pinnacle of his profession and brought glory to his alma mater. At that point his record was 66 wins and 11 losses. We all thought that a dynasty was in the making a more championships would come. We were wrong. The signs of problems were there, but everyone was too jubilant to see them.

1. Fulmer was 53-11 with Heath Shuler and Peyton Manning, both of which finished second in the Heisman race, as his quarterbacks. Those types of players make coaches look good and do not come around very often.

2. Coaching in the Southeastern Conference was at a low. Steve Spurrier of Florida was the only other coach of any prestige. Fulmer was 2-5 against Florida during this time.

In summary, Fulmer had superior talent against inferior coaching. When he was evenly matched the record dropped.

Still, the first year after Manning Fulmer led the Vols to a victory over Florida and a national championship. That can’t be taken away from him. It was an amazing achievement that brought joy and pride to Volunteer fans everywhere. However, the dynasty never came. In fact, the next year Fulmer took the same players and lost 3 games.

In 1999 and 2000, the years immediately following the national championship, Tennessee went 17-7 with blowout losses in two bowl games.

In 2001, the team rebounded with a record of 11-2, a great season that also brought great disappointment. Tennessee went into the SEC Championship game with an opportunity to return to the national championship game. A victory would bring more glory. Then, they lost to LSU, an underdog playing a backup quarterback. Many see this as the beginning of the slide, but I think it started sooner. The LSU game was simply a missed opportunity along the way. However, the 2001 season also marked the end to an invisible era. Peyton Manning’s UT career ended in 2007, but his impact ended in 2001. These were the last players recruited while Manning was on campus, and talent would slowly weaken as the era passed.

From 2002 to 2008 Fulmer won 57 and lost 32. His supporters will say that he went to two conference championship games and had three 10 win seasons. I say he backed into the championship games as a decided underdog and lost to Vanderbilt. Also, the years he won 10 games, Fulmer lost 3, 3, and 4. Then, there were the two losing seasons.

Many say that the second losing season should be blamed on Mike Hamilton, the Athletic Director, for firing Fulmer in mid-season. I agree that it was Hamilton’s fault but for a different reason. He should have fired Fulmer after he lost to Vandy in 2005. Then, we probably would not have had a losing season in 2008. Anyone who watched the games could tell that the program was in a slow decline. Fulmer had gained success and wealth and was caving in to human nature. Success brought laziness, and his record proves it. Great players made him a great coach. As the talent declined, Fulmer’s coaching ability was exposed.

Firing Phillip Fulmer was the right decision. Hiring Lane Kiffin was the right decision as well. He was a great recruiter and could coach. He took an Alabama team to the wire when his team had no business being that close. Most people disagree because he left after a year. But, I bought in to Kiffin and believe that he will be a success. Unfortunately, here is where the bad decisions began to manifest.

1. When Kiffin said he was leaving for USC, Hamilton did not make a counter offer. It may not have worked, but the attempt should have been made.

2. Hamilton panicked and followed a terrible plan. He should have named an interim coach and searched the nation with an attractive financial offer. Instead, he tried to attract candidates with a weak package and settled for Derek Dooley, head coach at Louisiana Tech.

Dooley found a program in turmoil. One coach had been fired and another left. On top of that, talent was down from years of poor assessment by Fulmer. As a result, Dooley’s record is 10-12 at this point. This includes blowout losses and no victories over rivals. The program has hit bottom under his regime.

So, what does all that mean? It means Fulmer was never a great coach but a benefactor of great recruiting. He topped out and figured his job was done. Fulmer cashed a check for a decade while living off a national championship season. As his supporters crowed about his success, that very success was slowly slipping away. When the athletic director finally got the guts to fire him the fan base was split. He made a good hire but did not try to stop it from backfiring. Then, the AD panicked and hired a coach without the ability to pull the program back.

What’s the solution? Dave Hart, the new AD, should cut his losses. Fire Dooley and put together a financial package that will attract a winning coach. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and an apathetic fan base demands it.