Rising — Acceptance of Cuonzo Martin
It's been two weeks since the seemingly inevitable firing of Bruce Pearl finally came to fruition on UT's campus. Despite Pearl's NCAA transgressions, the general consensus among the UT student population was for Tennessee to retain Pearl as head coach, a position he'd held for six seasons.
If we are to take any stock in the campus opinion, the massive calling of "We Want BRUCE," which adorned The Rock on Sunday afternoon, solidified a student body still reeling for changes that cannot be undone.
That being said, new UT coach Cuonzo Martin, who was hired by Tennessee last Sunday night, seems to be quickly gaining ground on Rocky Top. The former Missouri State coach preached character and ethics in his opening press conference, a decidedly different approach from that of UT football's Lane Kiffin and the tail end of the Pearl era.
So far, UT players like Renaldo Woolridge have openly praised Martin on their Twitter pages. On March 31, right after Martin was awarded the 2011 Ben Jobe Award, which goes to the top minority coach in Division I men's basketball, Woolridge tweeted, "Congrats to Coach Martin on winning the 2011 Ben Jobe Award. Not only impressive but a #Great start to the Coach Martin era, dont u think?"
Days earlier, guard Josh Bone, who is graduating this year, tweeted, "Hearing nothing but great things about this new coach! I'm happy for my bros but wish I had another year."
While Martin's character-driven approach appears to have a few Vols sold, what remains to be seen is whether or not Martin can sell the program itself. Pearl's marketing attitude propelled UT to national prominence in an era in which Tennessee basketball was lackluster at best.
Martin's style might not be the fast-paced, high-scoring teams of Pearl's early years, but perhaps Martin's stance within the Derek Dooley mold of character will cultivate a Tennessee team with not only winning players on the court, but off the court, as well.
Of course, UT fans will have to be something they usually aren't: patient.
Rising — Epic late-night television
Imagine this scenario: Stephen Colbert and the Roots, probably two of the most iconic pop cultural staples of the 21st century, coming together to sing one of the single most odious viral events of 2011. Imagine there are sparks, an abominable snowman fist pumping in the background, a washed up "American Idol" winner belting out the chorus and playing the harmonica, the New York Knicks dance team, lots of confetti and the fact that it all went to a great cause.
Yes, this sounds like a dream and basically pop-culture heaven, but it's also a reality. On Friday, Stephen Colbert performed "Friday," the YouTube music video sensation by Rebecca Black, on "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon."
www.donorschoose.org, an online charity devoted to aiding classrooms in need (teachers make requests on the website for school needs; donors may browse the requests and choose to donate to causes they deem worthy), was the recipient of $86,000 raised by Colbert and FalPals (Fallon's fans and audience) — all just to see Colbert sing. The original goal was to raise $26,000 — the amount was raised in 36 hours.
Colbert, Fallon's "Best Friend for Six Months," gamely sported a tux and lent a dramatic baritone to the infamously simple lyrics, and The Roots provided soulful accompanying music. Taylor Hicks, "Idol" winner from season five, belted out the chorus and jammed on his harmonica, and the Knicks City Dancers made a skintight, costumed appearance. A Yeti and a guy clad in a beekeeper's uniform happily waved along in the background as well, while Colbert and Fallon danced in confetti atop a raised platform and thanked viewers for their generosity. Even Charlie Sheen would call this winning.
The real #winners out of all this, though, are the children who are going to get a better education as a byproduct of awesomeness.