A call to fans to help seniors
This season has been has been hard for a lot of people.
Hard on Tennessee fans, Tennessee players. Hard on Derek Dooley, who was fired Sunday morning.
Hard on Dooley’s assistant coaches, who, with unemployment looming, said their farewells to the local media this week.
No doubt, though, it’s been hardest on these 13 seniors.
They’ve been here before. That’s bad. They’ll never be here again. That’s worse.
College football comes with a four-year shelf life. If you’re lucky.
Some get five with a redshirt, or a sixth year if injury has stolen previous seasons.
But for the majority, it’s four years and gone. Once in a lifetime.
Today’s the last time those seniors will run through the famed ‘T.’ As of Tuesday, they weren’t even sure which coach would be there to meet them in the yearly senior ceremony.
Likely, it’ll be Jim Chaney. The fourth-year offensive coordinator turned interim coach who has proven time and again to be the familiar face in an unfamiliar era.
Now he’s the head coach for one final, mournful game for this group of 13.
It’s only fitting that he’ll be the one posing next to them in their Senior Day photos.
When Lane Kiffin left, it was Chaney that stayed. When seven assistants left after last season, Chaney stayed. With Derek Dooley now gone, it was Chaney who was asked to stay and oversee the last game.
Now, for 13 of those guys, they’ll play for Chaney and they’ll play for pride their final time inside Neyland Stadium.
For the third time in five years, a bowl game is out of the picture. And no matter who they signed with, they didn’t sign up for this — a five-year span that will go down as one of the worst, if not the worst, eras in the history of Tennessee football.
Yet, like Chaney, they stuck around.
And unlike Chaney, they don’t have multi-million dollar contracts or buyout clauses. They have four years to play football.
Every week they go to practice, meetings, film sessions and weight room sessions for the maximum 20 hours regulated by the NCAA.
Tennessee fans have been let down by the administration and coaches, not the players.
Now, there’s one last chance for a good memory to erase a college career’s worth of bad ones.
There’s nothing on the line against Kentucky, a game between two programs that combined have neither a true head coach or an SEC win.
But while you were with family celebrating Thanksgiving on Thursday, these players were from away from theirs and away from home.
These 13 seniors, especially, were on the practice field working with their now broken football family for a good ending to a bad year.
Tennessee fans should help give them that.
A win in front of a capacity crowd and a good closing memory to help erase four years worth of bad ones.
Grant Ramey is a sports writer at The Daily Times. He can be reached at grantr@the dailytimes. You can follow him on Twitter @TDT_Sports.