Separation anxiety disorder is a psychological condition in which an individual experiences excessive anxiety regarding separation from home or from people to whom the individual has a strong emotional attachment.
Tennessee football fans may be suffering from just that, as the Vols head into the 2010 football season with their third head coach in as many years.
I’m not talking about anyone specifically.
Several Tennessee fans miss legendary coach Phillip Fulmer, while others, regardless of the way in which he left, may miss Lane Kiffin.
Fans of all teams like to have someone to look to in times of both success and failure. Fans also like to know what to expect from that head coach.
It’s a relationship that is built over time and one that oftentimes gives fans comfort or grief depending on how they agree or disagree with their coach’s philosophy.
However, when you have that coach and that relationship, regardless of whether you agree or disagree with him, you at least have something.
You know, as a fan, going into any given situation what to expect, and that provides you comfort.
For Tennessee football fans in 2010, that comfort is non-existent.
There is no clapping on third down failures to look forward to lamenting.
There are no wild accusations thrown in the direction of rivals, to cheer at with buddies over a beer.
Derek Dooley represents an unknown for Tennessee football fans, and some may be feeling the anxiety of that unknown as the season inches closer.
Tennessee fans shouldn’t worry however.
Time will heal the anxieties of the unknown.
Tennessee fans should especially not worry too much about the start of the season, as UT Martin should offer very little resistance on the field.
Tennessee coaches are 17-4 all-time in their first game as coach, though General Robert R. Neyland had three "first" games, going 3-0 and improving the overall mark to 19-4. Also, Tennessee has won 15 consecutive home openers dating back to the 1994 season.
There are some other odd and interesting statistics that may help Tennessee fans start to understand what to expect out of the 22nd head football coach to roam the sidelines.
Tennessee’s record in a new coach’s first season all-time is 111-71-11 for a winning percentage of .604.
Many people think Tennessee could achieve a 6-6 record, and a bowl win would match last season’s record of 7-6, which would keep Tennessee close to its average for first-year head coaches.
Another thing Tennessee fans can look forward to is the fact that the Vols play better football when a Democrat is in the White House than when a Republican occupies 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
The Vols have a winning percentage of .721 with Democrats in office (351-130-18) compared to a winning percentage of .660 (a record of 425-200-37) with Republicans in office.
Also, Tennessee has never won a National Championship with a Republican in office, having won all six of its titles when the country was under Democratic leadership (F.D.R. in 1938 and 1940, Truman in 1950 and 1951, L.B.J. in 1967, and Bill Clinton in 1998.)
All of these stats and numbers obviously have very little to do with how Tennessee will fare this season under Derek Dooley.
Even if a 7-6 or similar record occurs, it is more a result of coincidence than statistical certainty.
Aside from the separation between fan and coach, there has also been this physical separation between fan and team since late December of last year.
That separation is now drawing to a close, and as it does, Tennessee fans need to understand that regardless of the unknown, and regardless of what the stats or experts might tell you to expect, they should remember the words of Irish writer Marguerite Gardiner.
“Yes, the meeting of dear friends atones for the regret of separation; and like it so much enhances affection, that after absence one wonders how one has been able to stay away from them so long.”
It won’t be long now Tennessee fans.
It won't be long until you have that comforting understanding of your new head coach, that familiar refrain rings out around you and your friends and fellow fans, and all of the separation ends.
“It’s Football Time In Tennessee!”