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Former Vol Aide Says He Left For Job Security

Since a season-ending loss at Kentucky last November, the Tennessee football program has hemorrhaged some seven assistant football coaches from a staff that only runs nine-deep.  Former Vol tight ends and special teams coach Eric Russell — who left UT to join ex-boss Mike Leach at Washington State — undoubtedly spoke for many of his former co-workers when he said an uncertainty in the staff’s status contributed to his departure:


“I think at Tennessee, it was going to come down to how many games you won the next year, and unfortunately nobody’s got a crystal ball.  I tried to take the sentimental stuff out of it.  A chance to be an assistant head coach and concentrate purely on special teams was a little bit of a unique situation.”


Let’s play a little game.  Let’s say you’re an assistant football coach.  You can either:


A.  Stay in your current job on a one-year contract knowing that if your squad doesn’t win seven or eight games for some reason, you’re a goner at year’s end.

or…

B.  You can re-start your coaching clock by going to another school and getting more guaranteed time (or money should you be blown up after a year).


I think it’s pretty clear that Option B is the safest, smartest bet.  Which explains — in part — why several Derek Dooley aides have vamoosed to other schools for job titles that would have to be considered even.

The fact that Dooley — like Alabama’s Nick Saban, his old boss — has a reputation for not being the best guy to work for likely also added to the mass exodus from Knoxville.  Of course, in Saban’s case, his assistants are paid handsomely and have plenty of security via their tremendous success. 

That’s not been the case at Tennessee under Dooley.

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Pearl Passes On Coaching, Stays In Knoxville

Cuonzo Martin’s job isn’t getting any easier.  Not only will Tennessee’s new basketball coach have to compete with a thin, inexperienced lineup this winter… but the man who left him that lineup will still be in town.

Former Vol coach Bruce Pearl has decided not to take what was reported to be a $500,000 per year offer to coach in the NBA’s D-league.  Instead, he will serve as vice president of marketing with a Knoxville-based grocery company.

“I worked for 33 years — my entire coaching career — to get to a place like Knoxville,” Pearl said in a statement.  “This is where my family lives, this is home.  We have made life-long friends here and we are very blessed to have this opportunity.”

Forbes magazing ranks HT Hackney as the 82nd largest privately held company in the country with annual revenues of about $4 billion.

Pearl, of course, has the right to live anywhere he likes.  But his decision to stay in Knoxville probably won’t help his successor.  Some close to Pearl have suggested that the coach would like to bide his time and possibly return to UT once his show cause penalty ends in three years.

If Martin struggles as expected with the roster Pearl left him, you can be sure some Vol fans will begin to countdown to the moment when Pearl’s penalty ends.  That said, if chancellor Jimmy Cheek remains at Tennessee, it’s hard to imagine Pearl getting another shot with the Vols, regardless of fan sentiment.

Whether he holds out hope of a return or not — and we’re guessing he’d deny that publicly — you can for now say to goodbye to Bruce Pearl the basketball coach… and say hello to Bruce Pearl the grocery supply marketer.

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Former Vol, Tide Footballer Douglas Died From Multiple Drugs In His System

The autopsy results for former Tennessee than Alabama offensive lineman Aaron Douglas show that he died from having multiple drugs in his system.  According to WVLT-TV in Knoxville, a medical examiner told the station that Douglas had Methadone and Diazepam in his system.  The actual autopsy report has not been released as of this morning.

The former freshman All-American died in May after attending a party in Fernandina Beach, Florida.  Police say additional drugs were used at the party.

According to the National Library of Medicine, Methadone “is used to relieve moderate to severe pain that has not been relieved by non-narcotic pain relievers.  It also is used to prevent withdrawal symptoms in patients who were addicted to opiate drugs and are enrolled in treatment programs in order to stop taking or continue not taking the drugs.”

Methadone is sometimes used as means of weening people off of Oxycontin, a highly addictive pain killer often prescribed to college athletes.

The site also says Diazepam — you might know it better as Valium — “is used to relieve anxiety, muscle spasms, and seizures and to control agitation caused by alcohol withdrawal.”

As far back as his Tennessee days, there have been strong rumors that Douglas had become hooked on pain killers initially prescribed to him by UT doctors.  (Coincidentally, former Tennessee quarterback Erik Ainge recently admitted that he had become addicted to pain killers at UT.)

Whether or not Douglas’ issues directly tie back to pain killers initially given to him by UT physicians or not, it’s time for the NCAA to at least start examining how pain killers are prescribed to athletes across the country.  Talk to a former football player from your favorite SEC school and you’ll likely hear that pain killers were readily available during his playing day.  It’s no secret that players want to play and trainers want to get them ready to play.  If it takes pain killers to get them ready to play, so be it.

Douglas’ death is a tragedy.  But perhaps some good can come from his passing if more people begin to ask questions about easy it is for college athletes to gain access to pain killers.


UPDATE – The Nassau County, Florida medical examiner has now released the autopsy report on Douglas.  Multiple drugs — including Methadone and Diazepam mentioned above — as well as Oxycodone and Carisoprodol were found in the player’s system.  According to the report, he had consumed no alcohol in the hours before his death.

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