Nov 30 2017
09:08 am

I've been following the UT football coaching drama on Twitter and local chat forums. The level of stupidity is incredible.

There are people who believe that Bill Haslam is running for reelection as governor (or variously Senator or President) and that his involvement in the coaching search is damaging his reputation and affecting his electability. They also believe that UTK Chancellor Beverly Davenport is the president of the university. Some mistakenly think she's a man. They think UT is governed by the Board of Regents and are unfamiliar with the UT Board of Trustees. They think Tim Burchett is the mayor of Knoxville and can intervene to correct the perceived dysfunction within the UT administration. They know all of this because they read it on Facebook, Twitter, or some message board.

Among the many rumors about numerous coaching candidates, they were 100% certain that UT would hire ESPN personality Jon Gruden. They were convinced by a couple of trolls claiming to be or at least connected to wealthy boosters. One called himself MIT Beaver and was vetted through an interrogatory process by which it was proven that he knew the name of the bartender at an exclusive golf club. Another calling himself Bubba (not me) dropped hints about venture capital firms in California promising to fund UT research programs in exchange for hiring Gruden, and cryptic references to a secret society calling the shots at UT (which, as it turns out, is an actual thing.)

They were adamant that a deal with Gruden had 100% been signed and that the UT AD was just waiting until the end of the season to announce the deal out of respect for the interim coaches. They cited the AD's silence as further proof. They wove elaborate tales of insider intrigue and a power struggle between various big booster factions v. Jimmy Halsam for control of the university, with Gruden being the line in the sand. They had otherwise respectable people (and some sports "journalists") on Twitter and chat boards eating out of their hand.

These "Grumors" were further confirmed by "news" that Gruden had purchased a mansion in Knoxville from Haslam, had joined the Cherokee Country Club, and that UT boosters bought him a jet. He was spotted at various locations around town in the company of Very Important People. A popular sports blogger was hanging out at TAC Air awaiting his arrivals and departures with live video from the scene. Calhoun's had to retract a report that he was spotted there dining with Peyton Manning (complete with a photo of the back of a man's head which underwent extensive forensic photo analysis to "prove" that it was Gruden). Etc. etc. People were scouring real estate transfer records and flight plans, and one person even went to a bar at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville to sleuth out reports that Gruden was secretly meeting there with UT officials to sign the deal.

On a humorous side note, it appears that the UT Athletic Department played along with the flight tracking game. A couple of days before the official announcement, someone (presumably from the UT AD, but never confirmed) filed fake flight plans showing UT's King Air flying to Tampa (Gruden's home town), Starkville (Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen's home), Orlando (UCF coach Scott Frost), Boca Raton (Lane Kiffin), and various other home towns of rumored coaching candidates. At one point the plane was at multiple locations simultaneously.

These are just some examples of the rumors and misinformation flying around at gigabit speed. In case after hilarious case a ridiculous assertion would be made, someone else would retweet it, the retweet would show up on Facebook or another chat board with embellishments, and believers would cite the other mentions as "confirmation" of the ridiculous assertion as it came back around full-circle.

Did you know that the word "gullible" is not in the dictionary?

Anyway, the big day finally arrived and UT announced the hiring of Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano. Hilarity ensued. The internets exploded with outrage when allegations surfaced that Schiano may have known about the Sandusky situation while at Penn State and didn't pursue it. (Somehow, the UT AD missed this. Presumably his google is broken.) Plus, Schiano is a bad coach and not named Gruden (or Peterson, Patterson, Frost, or even Miles). UT fans revolted, staging protests at Neyland Stadium and launching online campaigns and petitions to stop the hire and fire AD Currie. Local media, political candidates, and even state legislators piled on. The story made national news at ESPN, the Washington Post and other outlets across the nation. Google "Schiano" and you can read all about it. There will be books written. Overnight, UT became the laughingstock of college football, as if we weren't already.

Then, the Schiano deal fell apart under mysterious circumstances involving more wild conspiracy theories. It was rumored that UT would owe him a buyout after being head coach for only a few hours. Lawyers are involved. And so on.

In the aftermath, UT lost rumored second choice Dan Mullen to Florida, and a string of Google McSparkypants coaches have turned them down. As of this writing, UT still does not have a coach and fans are calling for Currie and Davenport to be fired. (They need to just go hire Kiffin and be done with it. I also hear that Jim McElwain is available, but I digress.)

Fans have now focused their hatred on the Haslams. They are not clear on whether it is Gov. Bill, Jimmy, or Big Jim, but they are sure some Haslam somewhere is to blame. (Remember, this is what they were told by the MIT Beaver and that other Bubba.) Curiously, there hasn't been any past outrage over Gov. Haslam's negligent mismanagement of the State of Tennessee, the serious problems with education and health care in our state, the corporate welfare, crony capitalism, etc., or the fact that half the management at Jimmy's company is under federal indictment for massive fraud. But never mind all that. If you mess with UT football you are asking for it!

So, what does this have to do with Trump getting elected?

It's a textbook case study of how public opinion and even actual events can be manipulated using social media. Trump and his team of Russian hackers and trolls spread lies, misinformation, and, yes, fake news all over Twitter and Facebook. People believed it because they read it on the internet. Twitter is the new Fourth Estate, without all the pesky burdens of journalistic integrity and whatnot. And that's a fact, because you just read it on the internet.

OK, then.

bizgrrl's picture



CelestialDung's picture

And i don't even like professional sports...

Shared on Facebook. Spot on.

R. Neal's picture

Currie fired according to

Currie fired according to local media "sources".

R. Neal's picture

Fulmer named acting

Fulmer named acting AD...


bizgrrl's picture

Sheesh, John Adams needs to

Sheesh, John Adams needs to chill.

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