By Alex Norman

Vols fans frustration at the current state of its athletic program reached such a high point last week that incredibly, the University of Tennessee actually said something publicly about the search for a new Athletics Director.

This is incredible because since Dave Hart announced that he would be retiring *cough he’s really being fired cough* as Tennessee’s Athletics Director, UT has remained silent on the subject.  For over 150 days, there have been no updates of any kind on exactly when they’d get around to hiring Hart’s replacement or interviewing potential candidates.

This makes Derek Dooley’s legendary 38 days in hiding following the 2011 loss to Kentucky look like open access.

A quick peak at social media or a short listen to sports talk radio shows the angst.  And it isn’t just because the football team underachieved.  Across the board in the Fall semester Tennessee struggled in women’s soccer, men’s and women’s cross country, and women’s volleyball, placing them 113th in the Learfield Directors’ Cup Rankings, and last amongst the 14 SEC schools.

This ties Tennessee with Loyola of Chicago and Saint Francis of Pennsylvania, among others.

Things don’t look much better in the spring semester with men’s and women’s basketball struggling, and the only people that have confidence in baseball improving are the players’ parents.

Folks, Tennessee is a softball school.  Never forget it. Save us, Ralph and Karen Weekly!

And while the slump continues Tennessee has done all they could to avoid any public comment.  Heck, I’m assuming that Dave Hart has been in the witness production program because we haven’t heard from him since August.  Those paychecks are still getting cashed, however.  And that’s a shame because for all of Hart’s faults, he is very good on a podium and could have helped lesson the fears and apprehension of Vols fans.

But finally, Tennessee sent up a smoke signal.

Last week they took to their own version of Pravda, the weekly “Vol Calls” radio program, and a statement was read to a hungry Big Orange nation, with confirmation of the schedule for Beverly Davenport.

“Dr. Davenport arrives on Feb. 15 to begin serving as UT Knoxville’s chancellor. She has said that filling the AD position is one of her top priorities. The athletic director serves as a member of the chancellor’s cabinet. Dr. Davenport has emphasized the importance of finding the best person for this key role. The university is in the midst of a procurement process to hire a search firm to assist with the search. Once that process concludes, UT will release information about the firm that is selected. At that time, the campus will also announce the members of the search committee and provide a tentative schedule for the search process. We hope to announce these details soon. From there the search committee and the firm will begin working together to begin the national search. Dave Hart continues to serve as the Athletic Director for the UT Knoxville campus. His retirement date is June 30, 2017.’’

My first reaction was a vigorous shaking of my head. The second reaction was laughter.  After all this time, Tennessee is just now getting in the process of hiring a search firm?  And why the heck is a search firm needed in the first place!  Search firms helped you get Derek Dooley as a football coach, Dave Hart as Athletics Director and Donnie Tyndall as basketball coach.

Tennessee would be better served taking the thousands of dollars (your dollars as fans, remember that) earmarked for the search committee and setting it on fire.

What is so hard about calling Phillip Fulmer and David Blackburn, bringing them in for interviews, and then picking the one you think would be the best fit?   Heck, I’m sure their contact information is still in your system.

It’s time to stop delaying things and to have someone step up and make a decision.

Instead, the rare statement from UT asks for patience.

That is something that has not been lacking from Tennessee fans.

Leadership from UT has been.