It was less than three weeks ago that, after hiring away UCF athletic director Danny White, Tennessee went back down to Orlando and tabbed Josh Heupel to be its next head football coach. I've said plenty on that whole situation, but I was reinvigorated with a new sense of rage this morning when it came out that UCF was in agreement with Gus Malzahn.
Malzahn was my first choice for the Vols after the white whales of Lane Kiffin and Hugh Freeze — which were never very realistic given the situation Tennessee finds itself in with the NCAA — but that likely never even got off the ground, because UT allowed Jeremy Pruitt to hire former Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele just days before he was fired. And all that guy had done was lead a years-long coup in an attempt to overthrow Malzahn and become Auburn's head coach.
Malzahn sitting there waiting for a phone call reminded me a lot of the situation Tennessee lucked into with Rick Barnes after he was fired at Texas, but I guess that phone just never rang. So instead, the guy who came within a handful of seconds of a national championship, won the SEC West twice and beat Alabama three times in eight years — something Tennessee hasn't managed to do since 2006 — will go down to the Sunshine State and probably have UCF back to pretending it should be in the College Football Playoff in no time.
I really wish I could express just how infuriating it is that Tennessee brought an investigation upon itself to avoid paying Pruitt's $12 million buyout — the football program would not be staring down the barrel of serious sanctions and would almost assuredly have a far better coach right now if UT would have just paid it — hired an athletic director who just got his buddy from his previous job and then the school we took both those guys from ended up in a better position than it was in before. It's enough to drive a fan of a school that hasn't been flagrantly mismanaged for the better part of two decades insane.
One day, the pain and suffering that is being a Tennessee fan might end. But that day is not today.