May 28, 2024

Tennessee football: Wild stat about new Democratic presidents, Vols coaches

Two things were promised to happen in the fall of 2021 this week. Joe Biden’s inauguration guaranteed that a Democratic presidential administration will lead the country in its first full year in office, and Tennessee football’s decision to fire head coach Jeremy Pruitt guaranteed the hiring of a new leader for the team’s inaugural season.

The absurd thing is that this has happened previously. It’s actually more frequent than not. Since Lyndon B. Johnson, five consecutive Democrats have had these two circumstances coincide in their first year in office.

In November of 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. The first full college football season that took place under Johnson as president was 1964. Tennessee football was in its first year under Doug Dickey as head coach that same season.

Jimmy Carter was the next Democratic president after Johnson, and the first full college season that took place under him was in 1977. That year also happened to be the Vols’ first year under head coach Johnny Majors.

There wouldn’t be another Democratic president until Bill Clinton in January of 1993. That ensuing fall also happened to be Phillip Fulmer’s first full season as head coach of the Vols. Sure, Fulmer coached the Vols for four games in 1992, but he was the interim head coach then.

The next Democratic president was Barack Obama. 2009 saw his inauguration. Lane Kiffin was in the middle of his first and only season leading the Vols full-time later that year. After Obama, Biden will be the next Democratic president.

It’s interesting to remember that, ironically, Majors and Fulmer were both let go the week before the November elections the year before. To be fair, we go into detail in this post about how bad the Tennessee football coaches’ experiences have been this presidential election year.

It is not the other way around, though all new Democratic administrations appoint new head coaches to UT. Richard Nixon’s second year in office was occupied by Bill Battle; Obama’s second year was occupied by Derek Dooley; Obama’s fifth year was occupied by Butch Jones; and Jeremy Pruitt

This is still an absurd statistic. Even more bizarre is the fact that over a 32-year span, UT had three consecutive coaching changes in 1976–1977, 1992–1993 and 2008–2009, the same years that a Democratic president was in the process of unseating a Republican president.

Naturally, success isn’t guaranteed in this transition, especially since Kiffin is on the list. The other three coaches who accomplished everything, though, had genuine success with the Vols. The College Football Hall of Fame now includes Dickey, Majors, and Fulmer. Who knows, maybe Kiffin will return to make up for his departure. He might still be being monitored by the program.

It’s also important to note that Trump might have eclipsed Obama as the president under whom Tennessee football had its worst season. Obama gave the Vols those two 9-4 seasons and top 25 finishes, at the very least. The presidents the Vols were successful under, if there were a Mount Rushmore of them, would be Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Bill Clinton, and either Richard Nixon or George H.W. Bush.


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