published Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

Wiedmer: Vols droppng Heels shows weakness

Herman Schrader and his wife Mary have been University of Tennessee football season-ticket holders for more than 40 years. For the last decade or so that’s meant driving from their East Ridge home to the Kmart on Highway 58 early on the morning of every home game, then boarding a bus with friends for the two-hour ride to Neyland Stadium.

“Section K in the South end zone, 51 rows up,” Schrader said Tuesday evening. “Only place we’ve ever sat.”

And he’s excited to start another season of Big Orange football on Sept. 4, when the Vols host UT-Martin.

“Oh, I look forward to it every year,” Schrader said. “To me, it’s so much more than the game. I love to watch the crowd, watch the people. I love the whole atmosphere. I even love watching the warm-ups.”

But he didn’t love hearing that Tennessee has decided to drop a two-game series with North Carolina that was set to begin next season in favor of non-BCS conference foe Buffalo of the Mid-American Conference.

“Now that’s something I don’t like,” he said. “I like playing UCLA, North Carolina, Oregon, teams like that. I don’t like pushovers.”

The Vols apparently believe so strongly that North Carolina is capable of pushing over UT’s bowl hopes for next season that they’re willing to pay the Tar Heels $750,000 to cancel the contract.

“Personally, it’s kind of a downer for me because I was looking forward to playing Carolina as a North Carolina native,” UT athletic director Mike Hamilton told the Knoxville News Sentinel. “But without the ability to move it later in the decade, we felt like we needed to break that six-game stretch up and put a non-BCS team in there.”

Assuming the Vols haven’t fallen so far so fast that they’re shaking in their Adidas cleats over opening the 2011 season with North Texas and Cincinnati, that stretch would have begun on Week 3 with a road trip to Florida, followed by a visit to Chapel Hill, an off week, home games against Georgia and LSU, back on the road against Alabama and a home game on Halloween weekend against South Carolina.

Even the game after that is no picnic, what with dangerous and rapidly improving Middle Tennessee dropping in. Cap that off with road trips to Arkansas and Kentucky sandwiched around a home game against Vanderbilt and it’s easy to see why Hamilton or football coach Derek Dooley might search for relief anywhere it can be found.

But it’s also not like these are the basketball Tar Heels of Michael Jordan, Vince Carter and Phil Ford. And even if they were, do you think Vols hoops boss Bruce Pearl would ask for a buyout?

Pearl would be more likely to ask the NCAA for a waiver to face Jordan, Carter and Tyler Hansbrough all at the same time, just to make it all more fun and frenzied and marketable.

If it were Pearl, he’d even request the shot clock be turned off so the Heels could go to the Four Corners one last time, especially if it would get him a Saturday 9 p.m. tipoff on ESPN’s flagship network.

Obviously, basketball isn’t football. One loss never kills you in hoops until it’s the last game of the season. Every game counts in football, as the BCS boys are only too happy to remind us. And a loss at UNC could turn a potential UT bowl season next autumn into a 5-7 campaign, complete with all those lost bowl practices.

There’s also the matter of adding another home game next season by dropping UNC. With that extra $3 million they’ll pocket, the Vols can buy off the Heels, slip a few hundred thousand dollars Buffalo’s way and still come out way ahead.

Still, isn’t a contract a contract? And shouldn’t Tennessee be big enough to honor it? Sure, the scholarships are down. But they aren’t that down. Furthermore, remember how Pearl used his four suspended players last January to shock No. 1 Kansas? Maybe UT loses to UNC next season, but in 2012 that same matchup in Neyland could give them the kind of early victory that they could ride to a storybook campaign.

But this may be the best reason the Vols should have kept their word and the UNC series:

Said ticket holder Schrader of the supposed certainty of beating the Bulls as opposed to a possible loss to the Tar Heels: “I’d rather see us lose to North Carolina than beat Buffalo.”

Too bad the UT brass doesn’t feel the same.

about Mark Wiedmer...

Mark Wiedmer started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press on Valentine’s Day of 1983. At the time, he had to get an advance from his boss to buy a Valentine gift for his wife. Mark was hired as a graphic artist but quickly moved to sports, where he oversaw prep football for a time, won the “Pick’ em” box in 1985 and took over the UTC basketball beat the following year. By 1990, he was ...

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Livn4life said...

I guess we will request not playing BAMA now when they are really good and we are down. They could be replaced with Slippery Rock or C. W. Post. This is a sad testimonial to our Athletic Director. It also makes our program look second rate. I surely hope the players do not develop second rate mentality. They have a lot of talent and potential. Does Mr. Hamilton not realize we are not afraid to lose to good teams? I am very disappointed but will support the team 100 %. I hope someone tells Mr. Hamilton to use some common sense in the future. WE WANT UNC OVER BUFFALO man any time!

August 18, 2010 at 6:21 a.m.
GoMocs said...

Seems like France could adopt the Vols as their American football team...if you don't think you can beat them, surrender, or in this case, buy them off.

August 18, 2010 at 8:32 a.m.
TommyJack said...

Sorry Weidmer, Schrader, and others are jumping on the "weakness" bandwagon. This was a smart move by Hamilton. Adjust, regroup, then come back with a vengeance. And another thing, boys.....I've heard about thousand say "I'd rather lose to NC....etc., than beat Buffalo. Do you REALLY mean that? You knee-jerk guys need to think this thru. Hamilton's decision required a set.

August 18, 2010 at 10:47 a.m.

I'm not surprised that Wiedmer doesn't understand the move. But Mike Hamilton does and so do most sane supporters of the program. See, every game in college football is important to win in order to play for conference championships and a BCS bowl game. Not so in college basketball where every team, no matter the season record, plays for a conference title in March.

Replacing UNC in the middle of playing Cincinnati, Florida, LSU, Georgia, Bama, and South Carolina is smart and most of you will come to agree with me, soon.

Don't worry Mr. Schrader. You'll get to see enough losses.

August 18, 2010 at 4:11 p.m.
shoe said...

Y'all should just change the team's colors to pink. Unbelievable. Running away from an ACC team? Good Gravy, the AA,the team and recruits should hang their heads in shame.

August 18, 2010 at 9:53 p.m.
jomo11 said...

How bad has this program fallen when you are scared to play North-Freaking-Carolina........Dooley AT HIS BEST will be a 7 or 8 win a year coach.......

August 18, 2010 at 10:35 p.m.
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