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Sprints Ponders Harvey Updyke and the Future of Tennessee Baseball // 05.24.11

The Firing of Todd Raleigh
File this one under "No one, surprising" -- Todd Raleigh is out as the Tennessee head baseball coach. Mike Hamilton says "our baseball program, unfortunately, has not made the progress on the field that it should have over the last four years." Of course, when it comes to his own level of progress ...

UT now is paying former coaches in all three of its major men’s sports, and the contract buyouts for Raleigh, Pearl and former football coach Phillip Fulmer total more than $7.2 million.

Well, that's certainly impressive. Not something you want to read in the paper if you're a man who wants to keep his current job, perhaps, but impressive nonetheless.

The Importance of Tennessee Baseball
Rocky Top Talk makes the case that few Vols fans care about baseball because it hasn't recently been very good, and that a solid hire could reignite interest in the sport. (More on a possible successor in a moment.)

And people who will get behind the baseball team and support them with attendance and attention, but only when the product deserves it. If such a thing as a fair-weather college baseball fan exists, I am one...and I am very much not alone.

As much as I hate to admit, Will's right. There are a handful of places in America -- Columbia, Athens, Baton Rouge, Oxford, Austin, Fullerton and Tallahassee are among them -- where college baseball is actually popular in its own right. Elsewhere, you need to win to maintain fan support. Which is why Tennessee's next hire could be so critical, both to the Knoxville fans and to the sport as a whole.

The War for Chad Holbrook
Travis Haney -- one of the most in-the-loop beat reporters covering South Carolina and a Tennessee alum -- has the Vols thinking seriously about tapping Gamecocks assistant Chad Holbrook to take over Tennessee baseball. But Haney contends South Carolina might have a viable counter-offer: Give Holbrook a HCIW deal that ensures him the job in Columbia that he truly wants once Ray Tanner retires.

But as Haney points out, taking the Tennessee job would not necessarily disqualify Holbrook from moving back to South Carolina in several years, unless Holbrook falls flat on his face in Knoxville. Then again, are the garnet administrators willing to take the chance that Holbrook would want to come back to South Carolina if he builds Tennessee into a contender?

Let the bidding begin.

The Tragedy of Harvey Updyke
I don't know what to make of Harvey Updyke. On the one hand, he is clearly a symbol of the fringe of the dueling fan bases in Alabama -- a man who named one of his children Crimson Tyde. There's some comedy in there, but also the frightening feeling that some people take the game that we love far too seriously.

On the other hand, there's a sense that runs through this stellar ESPN piece that Updyke doesn't know how to be honest with himself. It's hard to believe, based on everything else he says in the article, that Updyke wouldn't be calling for an Auburn fan of any age to be put in prison or worse if he destroyed a Bear Bryant statue.

And then there's the implausible explanation for how he knew about the tree poisoning and made the infamous call to Finebaum's show. You hear somebody say after a game that they're going to poison the trees, and you take them seriously enough to call a radio show and claim you did it?

But the most haunting part of the story is where Updyke says he didn't call a doctor for his chest pains right away because part of him wants to die. He says the fear that it would increase the odds that his children would follow suit "is the only reason I haven't killed myself."

Football is not worth anyone's life, not even the life of someone whose acts have inspired as much anger as Updyke's. It's too bad that, even now, Updyke seems to have a hard time grasping that a game is not worth destroying his. (HT: Track Em Tigers)

The Meaning of Big XII
We will now officially have a 12-team Big Ten and a 10-team Big XII. Who says college football doesn't make sense?