Like a bad Chevy commercial, the Tennessee athletic department in 2007 was solid "like a rock."
Football coach Phillip Fulmer roamed the sidelines of Shields-Watkins Field in same manner he had for over a decade. Women's basketball coach Pat Summitt glared stoically from the Thompson-Boling Arena courtside. Athletic directors Mike Hamilton and Joan Cronan were in charge of the future of the respective programs under their leadership.
But how quickly things changed. And changed in a bad way for the Volunteers.
"We've had a tough four or five years prior to this year, and again, that's well-documented but that's in the rear-view mirror," current athletic director Dave Hart told The Daily Beacon. "I think we're definitely coming out of those problem times and I think the foundations are being built for us to now move in a very positive direction.
"We've done an exhaustive comprehensive assessment of how we can get better. We've had to make some tough decisions relative to that effort as we move forward in that effort. I think we're just in perpetual pursuit of comprehensive excellence and to arrive at that destination, it takes a lot of people pulling in the same direction and it takes time, it takes resources. You can't arrive at that destination without a meaningful mission and vision and resources. We're constantly evaluation all of those resources in terms of the direction that we set."
Third-year football coach Derek Dooley is now considered a veteran among UT coaches. Men's basketball coach Cuonzo Martin and baseball coach Dave Serrano will begin their second season this year. Holly Warlick has the daunting task of replacing the legendary Pat Summitt, who stepped down in April as the winningest coach in NCAA basketball history.
For Serrano, a former assistant from Rod Delmonico's 90s teams, the opportunity to coach at UT has been a longtime ambition.
"For me, it's like a dream come true," he said.
As for Warlick, her internship towards a head coaching position at UT was a long time coming.
"I've coached under a legend for 27 years. I love it," Warlick said. "It's a great challenge for me, and I can't wait to get started."
"My greatest hope would be that Pat Summitt would still be our women's basketball coach, but that wasn't possible," UTK Chancellor Jimmy Cheek told The Daily Beacon. "We aren't trying to go from a clean slate, we're trying to build on what we have here and make us a much better athletic program for the next period of time."
Even Hart was only hired last September.
"I wanted someone like Dave Hart who had been an athletic director at major institutions," Cheek said. "He had done that, and we convinced him to come here. He's done a superb job. We are rebuilding the total athletic program. We have certainly had success in some sports; and we've certainly had a rich history. We've had national championships in football in the 30s, 50s and back in '98, and someday we're looking forward to another one. It's a very competitive league, the SEC, and I voted to make it even more competitive with adding Texas A&M and Missouri. We are definitely on the right path, but it takes a long time to rebuild in some sports the things that we need to rebuild."