First off let me say that I cannot thank all of you enough for the kind words, and encouragement, after the first installment of Hatler’s Hiccups.
Second, the Coach’s Poll was released this morning, and there is no way in Hades that Notre Dame is a top 5 team in the country. Seriously. Just as Alabama has earned the right to be considered for a top 5 spot every year, until beaten, the Irish have proven over the past 15 years that they DO NOT. However, Notre Dame being viable is good for college football……
But I digress……..
Saturday was the best day of college football that I can remember. Aside from Katy Perry’s appearance on ESPN’s Gameday, it lived up to the hype. She is a dingbat who has never even been to a college football game, and she’s the guest pickster????? Even worse, she shows up in a Vine, shot-gunning a beer and crowd surfing…..stay classy Katy, stay classy….
But I digress…..
Like most folks in the state of Tennessee, I was excited about watching the Vols end their nine year skid against the Florida Gators. The checkerboard of Neyland Stadium was AWESOME! The support of the Vols by Lil Jon, and the renewed energy on Rocky Top is what this state has been waiting for. They have done so since the unceremonious ouster of Phil Fulmer, and the night in which they donned the black jerseys on Halloween a few years back.
The 10-9 loss was disappointing, but I take comfort in the fact that the Florida Gator’s Program and Tennessee Vols were two ships, passing in the night. They may not have called the penalty as the play clock expired on the go ahead field goal, but Florida’s time in the sun has expired, and that is what is most important.
In regards to my affinity for the Vols, it was fostered by my father. We didn’t have a TV in the Hatler home until I was 12. My dad only required us to watch TV on two occasions. The first of which was when any John Wayne movie was on, and the other was when the Vols graced the tube. That only happened once a year when they played Alabama. On those special seasons, we watched them battle the Irish too.
I know you’re asking, “Hatler, this installment is named “Disappointments” so why were you disappointed?” I’ll tell you why. Take a look at that picture at the top of the post……take a good look. Most of you in Northwest Tennessee will recognize it. The picture was taken last week at Hardy Graham Stadium, at UT Martin, against OVC foe Southeast Missouri. Kick off was at 6 pm, and that’s all the folks that were at the game.
What is disappointing is that our stadium should have been 3/4 full. The Vols were in Georgia that day, and their game had been over for roughly 3 hours before kick off of the Skyhawk game.
Comparatively speaking, the Vols and Skyhawks are pretty much the same programs over the past few years. Obviously I’m not referring to the talent level, but more along the lines of where they rank amongst their peers. In fact, I’ll submit that UT Martin has a better program, and on field product, over the past four seasons.
For those that don’t know, the Skyhawks have been a middle to top end program in the OVC since Coach Jason Simpson took over in 2006. That year, UT Martin won the first OVC title in school history, and first conference title since 1988. In 2008 we missed a field goal, at home, against Eastern Kentucky to win the crown. In 2012, a one point defeat in overtime to Tennessee Tech cost us the crown. Last year, we finished 7-5 and had an outside chance at an at large bid, if not for giving away a game against Tennessee State. We also should have beaten Memphis, for the second straight season.
This year, just like the Vols, we are struggling. The problem, unlike the Vols, is that our graduates aren’t showing up for our games. Our community members aren’t showing up either……and this has/is not a new problem.
UTM is the # 1 resource in our region. The educational value has been ranked as the second best public university in the state, it is the safest campus in the state, and is the shining star in the UT system……but you wouldn’t know it by the amount of support at our football games.
We can’t get people to a game 10 to 20 miles from their home, for a 3 hour game, at the university from which they graduated…….. but those same folks can make a 350 mile trek to the other side of the state for three days.
Please don’t misunderstand me, I get rooting for the Vols, and making that trip. In fact, I’d be a hypocrite to suggest I’ve never made it.
But this is what I know….economically we are in dire straits in our area. The rural vs urban battle, and the state being divided into three distinct sections (West, Middle, and East), Northwest Tennessee is going to be the biggest loser if things don’t change.
The way to win that battle is to rally around our top ranked, state affiliated school.
I’m not asking anyone, mainly UT Martin alums, to abandon their love and support of the Vols. I didn’t grow up here, and I chose to attend UT Martin for a variety of reasons. I’ve also come to understand that UT Martin is only in the second generation of having our own identity.
All I’m suggesting is that just a smidgen of that checkerboard enthusiasm be applied to the area where we choose to live, where we choose to work, in the economy that we help maintain, and the university we chose to attend.
We play Tennessee Tech, at home, Thursday night, October 9th at 6:30.
I’ll see you there.
And always remember, IT’S A GREAT DAY TO BE A SKYHAWK!!!