Wiedmer: Will Volgilantes ultimately do more harm than good?

Wiedmer: Will Volgilantes ultimately do more harm than good?

December 1st, 2017 by Mark Wiedmer in Sports - Columns

North Carolina State's head coach Dave Doeren smiles prior to an NCAA college football game against North Carolina in Raleigh, N.C., Saturday, Nov. 25, 2017. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

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Volgilante Justice strikes again.

At least that's one way to look at the thanks-but-no-thanks decision by North Carolina State football coach Dave Doeren on Thursday to turn down a chance to join what previously has been perceived as a historically superior program at Tennessee.

Until Doeren came along, the idea of a Wolfpack football coach rejecting the Volunteers would be as nutty as the Alabama football coach vacating the Capstone for Wake Forest.

But that was before the social media mob became drunk with power following its shockingly effective web campaign Sunday to end Greg Schiano's UT career before it began. Thanks to a five-hour barrage of negativity bordering on slander, the Volgilantes (A) forced Tennessee to withdraw its memorandum of understanding between the school and Schiano, (B) encourage Schiano to walk away on his own or (C) some combination of the two.

Of course, one could argue that if the school caved, it shouldn't have. One could also argue that if the whole Schia-No embarrassment winds up in court and costs the university more than $1 million to settle, those same Volgilantes probably aren't going to pay a penny of it.

But anyone monitoring Twitter and the like late Wednesday night and Thursday morning knows that Sunday's searing success did nothing but embolden and empower the Volgilantes to strike with even more confidence and arrogance the second time around.

Wrote one poster after Doeren elected to remain at N.C. State: "I wish you the best. Sorry you were collateral damage."

Added someone with the handle Barstool Rocky: "Did it again. Vol Twitter remains undefeated."

From a third: "Please do a shirt that says ... Vol Twitter ... undefeated national champs."

All this after earlier tweets had threatened to drive away recruits if Doeren took the job. Really? So you'd torpedo your own school's program for years to come on the chance you might — emphasis on "might" — be right that the school's choice to coach your team might not be the best one?

This in no way meant to defend UT athletic director John Currie, who's made such a colossal mess of this coaching search that any time any school screws up such a search in the future the current Vols AD will become a verb, as in, "Well, they certainly Curried that one."

That said, does anyone doubt that if the latest candidate to land on Rocky Top — just-fired Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin — ultimately rejects the Vols, the potential wrath of the Volgilantes might not play some role in his decision?

Though they sometimes appear to be so on autumn Saturdays, these guys aren't stupid. They've been around. They know that if a fan base will act this way toward a potential coach, they'll act the same or worse if you've failed to deliver on their expectations deep into your second season. Go 5-7, 5-7 and your chair turns Three-Mile-Island hot in year three.

This isn't to say fans don't know anything or that it would hurt administrators to consider their wishes more strongly. After all, as one Reed Carringer tweeted Wednesday night: "Quit. Blaming. The. Fans. The fans are the reason Tennessee has one of the most profitable athletic departments in the nation — that profit clearly doesn't come from sound leadership or common sense decision making, just a love of the Volunteers from thousands and thousands."

And he's right. To a point. Every school needs loyal, committed fans to succeed. But tough decisions behind the scenes on everything from ticket prices to parking fees to concessions to marketing and apparel contracts also contribute to UT's or any school's profitability.

So now we'll see what happens if Sumlin takes the job. Over six seasons at A&M he had a 51-26 overall record and a 25-23 mark within the Southeastern Conference, which should carry an asterisk on the positive side, since it was achieved as a member of the more treacherous SEC West.

Beyond that, because Sumlin is a black man, such a hire might soften what appears to be a growing frustration and resentment from UT's African-American Vols For Life over what they seem to perceive is a reluctance to reach out to former UT quarterback and current Southern Cal offensive coordinator Tee Martin.

In some ways, you can't blame the Volgilantes for their giddiness. They've enjoyed much more success off the field over the past five days than their beloved Vols had on the field all year. Good or bad, they've made a significant impact on the future of Big Orange football.

But if the university's long-term respect and reputation are seriously tarnished throughout all of college athletics by that impact of taking matters into their own hands, that's also the kind of collateral damage that could torpedo UT's championship dreams for decades to come.

Contact Mark Wiedmer at mwiedmer@timesfreepress.com.

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