Tennessee Athletics' Deficit Latest in String of Bad Luck for Program

Jason HallAnalyst IJanuary 31, 2013

Nov 24, 2012; Knoxville, TN, USA; Tennessee Volunteers mascot Smokey IX during the game against the Kentucky Wildcats at Neyland Stadium. Smokey IX is retiring after this game. Tennessee won by a score of 37 to 17. Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports
Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

The University of Tennessee athletics department posted a $3.98 million deficit for the 2011-12 fiscal year. Tennessee also has more than $200 million in outstanding debt (via Michael Smith of Sports Business Journal) related to the construction of various athletic facilities.

The news is the latest in a string of bad luck Vols fans have endured the past few years. Since 2008, UT fans have had little to look forward to when it comes to all things Tennessee sports.

The bad luck started with the football program. Tennessee was the SEC East representative in the 2007 SEC Championship, losing to the eventual national champions, LSU. Since then, the Vols have seen subpar performances from the sport responsible for the highest amount of revenue.

UT football has an overall record of 28-34 in the past five seasons. In that span, the once-dominant Vols have zero wins in only two bowl game appearances.

But the most impressive stat to sum up Tennessee football's fall from grace is the amount of coaches in such a short time span. Since 2008, the Vols have seen four coaches take the helm: Phillip Fulmer, Lane Kiffin, Derek Dooley and, as of next season, Butch Jones.

While the SEC has thrived as the dominant conference in college football, the once-mighty Volunteers have become increasingly worse. In the past two seasons, the Vols experienced their poorest showing in SEC play.

UT went 1-7 in 2011, defeating Vanderbilt for their lone SEC victory. The season was ultimately finished with the Vols falling to Kentucky for the first time in 26 years. Tennessee would avenge their upset from the previous season by defeating Kentucky in 2012 en route to their lone SEC victory for that season.

But the bad luck doesn't stop with the football program. Bruce Pearl, a man who transformed UT basketball from a doormat to a team only a basket away from making the 2010 Final Four, was fired in 2011 for violating NCAA recruiting rules.

Pat Summitt, the winningest coach in the history of college basketball, retired after a swan song season in which she spent battling the early stages of dementia. Although she remains involved with the Lady Vols basketball program, news broke following her retirement claiming that the legendary coach was possibly forced out, rather than chose to leave on her own terms.

As a student who spent the majority of my academic career in Knoxville during this dark era of UT sports, it's almost become expected that bad things happen to Tennessee athletics. A once-great tradition in football has become a laughing stock and bottom feeder of the SEC. 

Tennessee has had a total of ten different head coaches in football, basketball, baseball, and women's basketball since 2008. The question many UT fans must ask is, "When?"

When will UT's string of bad luck end? The answer is unknown. However, with such a large deficit for the program to overcome, the latest news may just be the icing on the stale cake that Tennessee sports have become.