Dave Hart: God, it’s been a while since I’ve had to do this. I never had to put up with this kind of malarkey at Florida State or Alabama. Better fire up the ole’ Tandy and get this coaching search underway. Remember Dave – this time we need to hire someone who doesn’t perpetually look like he just crapped his pants on the sideline.
Ah, here we go.
You are the greatest athletic director in the world, but here comes the toughest part of your job. You have 24-hours to consummate your relationship with Tennessee by hiring one of several hot candidates.
You are standing on the sidewalk of a busy street. The neon lights of a bar flicker behind you. What would you like to do?
There are no coaches here.
DH: Ah jeez. These text-based role-playing coaching searches. Fine.
You enter the bar.
Bartender: What’ll it be?
DH: For a job like this, I’d better pick something that closely connects me back to the glory days of Tennessee football.
You order your signature drink, a mostly-warm Zima.
You see a lonesome looking coach at a table in the corner, another coach drinking fervently by himself at the bar, and one more playing pool in the back room of Lefty’s. What would you like to do?
You see a striking figure lighting a Pall Mall while sipping absently at what appears to be a glass of milk. Despite his 26-34 record and complete inability to be competitive in the league once known as the Big East, you find yourself strangely drawn to him.
Paul Pasqualoni: Hey sweetheart, want to see what I’ve got in Storrs for you?
DH: Oh Christ.
PP: Get it, like the place? The place where I am a coach? Storrs, Connecticut?
DH: (sighing) Yes.
PP: I am the head coach at Connecticut, I guess, is what I’m trying to say.
DH: Great. Listen, how would you feel about coming down to Tennessee for an interview?
PP: That depends. How does your offense look?
DH: Suspiciously stupendous. We scored 36 points per game this season!
PP: And your quarterback?
DH: Developmentally disabled, but awesome! I once saw him throw a football so hard that it completely exploded the possum he was aiming at!
PP: That’s not really my thing.
DH: The possum?
PP: Competent quarterbacks.
Coach Pasqualoni lights another cigarette and stares, unblinkingly, into the middle distance. He drops his lit Pall Mall into his lap and a small fire breaks out. He doesn’t seem to notice. You back away slowly.
DH: Huh. Well, back to the drawing board.
/talk to coach
DH: Well hey there, lovely lips. Want to see what orange can do for you?
James Franklin: LOL NO.
Coach Franklin turns back to a line of Old Grand-Dad shots and drinks four before picking up his cell phone, dialing Todd Grantham’s number, and shouting "PENIS" repeatedly into the receiver until a dialtone is heard on the other end. He then returns to his whiskey.
DH: Oh dear.
/approach pool table
/talk to coach
Mike Gundy: The hell do you want?
DH: Hey there, 7-5 season. How about you come coach at a real school?
MG: Tennessee? I’m not sure I could live in a place like that after spending so much time in the big city atmosphere of Stillwater. We’ve got like, five Sonic drive-ins now!
DH: C’mon. You play your cards right and you could end up with a suite at Cleveland Browns Stadium.
MG: T. Boone Pickens offered to buy me Montana if I bring State to another BCS Bowl.
DH: But that’s -
MG: And my own planet.
DH: You can’t-
MG: Gonna name it Gundystan.
DH: The planet or the state?
MG: Both. One can be Gundystan Junior.
DH: Like a Soviet country?
MG: You calling me a Communist, son?
DH: No, I’m-
MG: THAT’S GARBAGE.
DH: Listen, I’m just saying, give Knoxville a chance. We’ve got tradition, we’ve got a conference championship game, hell, just look at these facilities!
MG: (checks phone) Pickens just donated a zero-gravity practice field.
MG: That’s how we do in Gundystan. Gonna win space championships all day.
Coach Gundy has returned to his pool game. As you start to talk back to the bar, he turns back to you.
MG: Hey, Dave.
MG: You tell the media about Gundystan and I’ll fucking kill you.
You return to the bar.
DH: Well, shucks. Maybe I should try something a bit more familiar.
Phil Fulmer: Hey stranger! Long time no see!
DH: This was a mistake.
PF: I’ve just been sitting here, waiting for your call. You have no idea!
DH: I have some idea.
PF: Listen kid, you weren’t here for the glory days. That Bray incident, the bottle throwing, that’s kid stuff. You come back to Phil, and I’ll get you real felonies to go with real bowl wins!
DH: That’s not what-
PF: WE NEED TO BRING THIS PROGRAM BACK TO ITS ROOTS, SON.
DH: I don’t th-
PF: WHEN I GET BACK TO KNOXVILLE I’M GONNA HUG SO MANY NECKS, BOY. WE GONNA PUT THE FULMER MAGIC DUST ON THIS PROGRAM!
Your phone vibrates incessantly as Coach Fulmer calls repeatedly over the next 15 minutes.
As you walk back to your duplex in Knoxville, you linger past the community pool area. There, in the center’s hot tub, is what you’ve been looking for all along. You see the coach of your dreams. A vision in blonde hair, cropped visors, and the eternal stench of Marlboro Lights. He sits seductively as he sizes up your program from the comfort of an ESPN analyst contract. You are immediately smitten. This is it.
DH: Hey baby, ever owned the Cleveland Browns before?
Jon Gruden: Jaws, when I was a young gun back in Sandusky O-HI-O Cleveland used to be the big city for me!
DH: Jaws…Jaws isn’t here.
JG: Sandusky has great rollercoasters! I like to call rollercoasters GRIT FINDERS because at the end you find out who has grit in them and who has it ON THEM!
JG: I put Rich Gannon on the Iron Dragon on loop all day once to find out whether he was our guy!
DH: What? What does that even mean?
JG: Listen Dave – remember when you were 17? How old were you back then? What I’m trying to say, is that back then, you didn’t have all these confusing rules. You didn’t have a rules committee. And I think we can get grinding and get rid of some of these rules so we can get back to playing like we did back in the heyday.
DH: Oh man, you’re gonna love Tennessee then. We have like, five rules. Actually six now after the whole butt chugging thing blew up.
JG: WELL SOMEONE GET THE CLEARANCE CODES, BECAUSE THE GRUDEN MISSILE IS HEADED FOR…wait, where’d you say you were from again?
DH: Knoxville. The University of Tennessee.
JG: SHIT, YOU GUYS AGAIN???
Coach Gruden waves you off with a dismissive flick of his wrist. He then pulls out a cell phone and initiates a conversation with JaMarcus Russell. You have run out of options.
Your program has died. Your only choices at this point are to start over, or quit.
DH: I hate it here.