Monday, August 3, 2009

UT needs to fight on with ol' SC for recruits

As you might have noticed, Tennessee keeps bumping into Southern California on the recruiting trail. That's both a compliment and a challenge for UT.

USC has one of the greatest programs in college football, and you don't have to study ancient history to appreciate it. The Trojans haven't won fewer than 11 games since 2001 and won back-to-back national titles in 2003 and 2004.

So when UT shows up alongside USC on a five-star recruit's list of official visits, that's quite a compliment since the Vols have had two losing seasons in the last four years. But the challenge is just as obvious. How does a program with UT's recent track record beat out one of the nation's premier programs for the best players?

Answer: Become more like USC.

First-year UT head coach Lane Kiffin, a former offensive coordinator under Pete Carroll at USC, got the Vols headed in the right direction when he installed USC's offense this spring. The same quarterbacks and wide receivers who are attracted to USC's offense will be drawn to the Vols'. The most recent example: wide receiver Kyle Prater from Hillside, Ill., says he will take official visits to UT and USC this fall.

Prater might already be aware that the programs have more in common than offense. Southern California offers Hollywood, the Pacific Ocean and Rodeo Drive. East Tennessee offers Dollywood, Loudon Lake, and Parkside Drive.

The similarities don't have to end there, but it's incumbent on UT to adjust. After all, it's the one playing catch-up.

I realize that many fans become nervous when you start tinkering with tradition. As a traditionalist myself, I certainly wouldn't encourage a program to discontinue any tradition, unless, of course, that tradition repels recruits.

But the UT program also could benefit from adding a few traditions. And it wouldn't be that difficult.

For example, what's one more song? Rather than have the band play "Rocky Top" every five minutes at games, it could do so every 10 minutes. With those extra minutes, it could work in "Fight On," one of USC's school songs.

The beauty of that addition: You would have to change only two words. Instead, of "Fight on for ol' SC," (which appears twice in the song) UT fans would sing "Fight on for ol' UT." How simple would that be?

It would be just as simple to add a victory bell, which the winner of the USC-UCLA game keeps for a year. Since UT doesn't have a crosstown rival, it could make do with cross-state rival Vanderbilt.

Another welcome addition would be a jeweled shillelagh, which goes to the winner of the USC-Notre Dame game. UT doesn't have an intersectional rival quite as prominent as Notre Dame but it does have Memphis, which it plays occasionally.

Don't ask, "What does a shillelagh have to do with UT vs. Memphis?" If a recruit can see a shillelagh when he visits USC, you want him to see one when he visits UT.

You also want him to see a white horse.

Every time USC scores a touchdown at a home game, Traveler gallops around the Coliseum. It's one of the great traditions in college football and would have to be modified only slightly to accommodate UT.

You could replace the Trojan soldier aboard the horse with someone wearing a coonskin cap, then substitute a musket for the sword. The only other change would be the name. Traveler would become Rocky.

Think ahead to UT's homecoming game in November. As the Vols score a victory-clinching touchdown over Memphis - and the coveted shillelagh that goes with it - a Davy Crockett look-alike rides a majestic white horse around Neyland Stadium while the UT band plays the theme song from "Rocky."

Don't you get goosebumps just thinking about it?

Then, imagine what that would do for a recruit.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I don't agree with you. UT is it's own unique experience.. We don't need anyone else's traditions. We have plenty of our own thank you. I think we should have hired a coach who is more in tune with the traditions of
Tennessee not someone who has absolutely no ties to the university at all. Kiffin doesn't know the history of the Alabama game or the magnitude of the Florida game. He just knows what he's been told not what his heart feels. Fulmer felt the same things the fans did when the vols took the field. Pride and tradition. Kiffin just wants a pay check. He doesnt care about the traditions or if the continue or cease. Kiffin is just another Nick Saban. Some one that bounces around looking for a bigger check.

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