News, Alabama tidbits and other thoughts

Marvin Westwestwords

Old Vol Bobby Majors says older Vol John Majors, 85 this Thursday, had some kind of stroke a few months ago. It affected his speech somewhat and played a few tricks with his memory.


John Majors (photo from UT sports information)

An even older friend who sends up prayers on John’s behalf added a smile.

“How could anything affect his speech? He talks so fast, we never have understood him.”

(If you want to wish John well for his happy birthday, send a note or card to 900 S. Gay Street, Suite 2103, Knoxville, TN  37902 for personalized delivery.)

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Cheers for Tennessee pass rusher Kivon Bennett, Volunteer success story, son of Alabama legend Cornelius Bennett. Kivon wasn’t quite good enough for the Crimson Tide but he is a large part of the Vols’ defensive plan. It says here that the future is far more important than what evaluators thought of high school performances.

Kivon led the 2019 Vols with nine quarterback hurries and six tackles for losses. Save this as a surprise for your Alabama relatives: Bennett has leadership potential.

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Butch Jones got a promotion at Alabama. There is wide speculation that he will get a more prominent job (somewhere) next year. The gravy train will finally pull into the parking lot on Feb. 28, 2021. Tennessee owed Butch $8.26 million in monthly payments when they parted.

The bad ending was Butch’s fault. The generous payoff plan had to be a UT oversight in the fine print of the contract.

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The Alabama man who brought us Butch (and Donnie Tyndall) is in the news. Dave Hart is founder and president of Athletics Legacy Partners.

I don’t know what that is but the mission statement sounds like executive coaching, leadership development, program assessment and personnel transition strategies. I suppose that last part is code for changing jobs.

Hart is available as a keynote speaker. If questioned, he might discuss the adventures of Lady Vols as the on-off-on name of UT women’s teams. That little period remains an interesting time in Big Orange Country.

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There was a Tennessee tie to Don Shula, winningest coach in NFL history, who died at age 90.

Bert Rechichar, Volunteer wingback and captain of the 1951 UT team, played for Shula when he coached the Baltimore Colts (1953-59).

Frank Emanuel, Hall of Fame linebacker, played for Shula and the Miami Dolphins (1966-69).

Shula won 347 NFL games. He coached the Dolphins to the league’s only undefeated season (17-0) in 1972. His Miami teams played in five Super Bowls.

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The delay of football breeds impatience. Here are the grades I give coaching changes with connections to Tennessee:

Ole Miss gets an A for bringing in Lane Kiffin, brilliant offensive mind, exciting personality, checkered history, coach of the Volunteers for a few minutes in 2009.

I don’t think Kiffin will intimidate Nick Saban but I don’t see how the Rebels could have done any better. Whether he wants it or not, Lane will get a refresher course in recruiting rules.

Mississippi State earns a B-minus for choosing the eccentric Mike Leach, four years, $20 million. He can coach the passing game, might sell a few tickets and will say and do some entertaining things.

Preliminary remarks got him in trouble. He was sentenced to “listening sessions to expand his cultural awareness of Mississippi.”

One of my two Starkville friends summed it up: “He ain’t from around here.”

If dearly departed John Currie had survived as Tennessee athletics director, Leach would have been coach of the Volunteers. Culture shock would have been some less.

Critics say Missouri ventured into the unknown to hire Eli Drinkwitz. I applaud the Tigers for courage under duress but award only a C-plus until I learn more. Drinkwitz has one interesting year of head coaching experience, 12-1 at Appalachian State. Tennessee connection? Missouri is on the October schedule.

Arkansas surprised the SEC by choosing Sam Pittman to lead the Razorbacks. Give ’em a generous C. Sam is a determined and personable recruiter. He is one heck of a line coach. Once upon a time, he was very good as a Tennessee assistant. His new job is going to be difficult.

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Thanks to a wonderful reader for an interesting challenge: “Please provide a simple explanation for Alabama football success.”

It goes back to 1955-57 and Jennings B. (Ears) Whitworth, 4-24-2 record. His teams were so bad, the godfathers went for broke, calling Paul Bryant home from Texas A&M and offering a 10-year contract to prove they were serious.

After Bear’s great collection of championships, Alabama would never again accept mediocrity.

The Tide made some hiring mistakes but didn’t take long to correct them. Mike DeBose was a disaster (24-23). Mike Price got in trouble at a strip joint and didn’t last long enough to coach a game. Mike Shula was their Derek Dooley, only worse, famous name, big hat, no cattle, 20-23 in 2003-2006.

Saban is very expensive but has solved the problem. Do you think Jeremy Pruitt will ever beat him?

Marvin West welcomes reader comments or questions. His address is marvinwest75@gmail.com

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