Tumultuous might be the most appropriate adjective to describe the state of the men's athletic department since the current undergraduate students began their respective tenures at Tennessee.
The Class of 2011 saw a glimpse of Tennessee prominence in the fall of 2007. Coach Phillip Fulmer led the Vols to their last SEC Championship Game appearance, powered by a 7-0 record at home in Neyland Stadium. After a disastrous 2008 follow-up campaign, Fulmer's 5-7 record that year ultimately resulted in his termination.
Following Fulmer, the roller coaster that was Lane Kiffin's era at Tennessee and the subsequent hiring of then-unproven Derek Dooley heightened the disorder and embarrassment, both personally and publicly for the Big Orange faithful.
As a symbol of athletic refuge, Bruce Pearl's basketball team seemed to be the one safe Tennessee men's sport during the football program's uncharacteristic turmoil.
Pearl gave the Volunteer community something to cheer about with his 145-61 record (70.4 percent), a 30-win season, a No. 1 ranking in the AP Poll, three Sweet 16 appearances, and an Elite Eight appearance.
Amid NCAA investigations about violations committed by Pearl, the university abruptly quelled the Bruce Pearl era on Monday night.
Despite Pearl's transgressions in accordance with NCAA rules, his fans have adamantly stood behind him. Laura Geller, junior in linguistics, spoke to her loyalty to Pearl after his firing.
"My class year has been here through the firing of Fulmer, the sudden departure of Kiffin and now the firing of Pearl," Geller said. "Bruce hits home the worst for me. He did amazing things, such as starting the 'Outlive' program and painting his chest to cheer on the Lady Vols."
Men's athletics director Mike Hamilton initially addressed Pearl's job status, saying the "jury is out" two days before Michigan handed the Vols their worst loss in the Pearl era. The poor timing of Hamilton's statement raised questions of his motives and loyalty to Pearl.
Justin Wallace, senior in political science, shared a puzzled outlook with many students on the sequence of events.
"I don't know whether firing Pearl was in the best interest of the program or not," Wallace said. "But I think Mike Hamilton's job needs to be on the hot seat as well."
In Hamilton's statement regarding the decision to relieve Pearl of his duties, he noted "the unprecedented success and many victories" of Pearl's era and further explains why Bruce was let go.
Patrick Dingess, senior in logistics and management, spoke to the grand scheme of the situation.
"Coach Pearl did an amazing job here at the university, but as tough as it is to admit, he backed himself and the administration into a situation where there was no other option," Dingess said. "There was no popular decision here, and I understand Dr. Cheek's and Mike Hamilton's decision to let Bruce go. Nonetheless, he was an amazing coach while here."
Hamilton is perhaps under more pressure now than ever to hire a coach that will suitably fill the vast hole left by Pearl.
Denney Sandwith, freshman in recreation and leisure, echoed Dingess' statements, while also pointing out the possibilities of the future.
"I feel as though firing Pearl was the only option, after admitting to lying to the NCAA," Sandwith said. "Unfortunately it will likely set back UT men's basketball into the Buzz Peterson days, where mediocrity was accepted and expected."