If you thought you were a big fan, you’ve probably got nothing on Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart.
The Vols came agonizingly close to beating every team on the schedule this season and suffered particularly bad collapses against Oklahoma (up 17 in the third quarter) and Florida (up 13 in the fourth quarter) but found ways to lose games more often than not early in the season.
Hart feels your pain.
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"Believe me, rebuilding football has been hard on all of us," Hart said Tuesday during Tennessee’s latest press conference. "I’ve been in the fetal position on some Sundays."
After a statement like that, you can’t say he doesn’t care. Hart was then asked if he felt the Vols should be the team representing the East in this week’s conference championship game.
“I’m competitive to a fault,” Hart said. “That’s how I’ve always been. It’s nothing to be proud of, probably. Yeah, I’m very competitive. I was raised by a football coach. I’ve been around athletics all my life. A lot of my own values have been formed from those experiences. So, sure, I’m no different than anyone else. I think everyone in our organization would like to have been in Atlanta. We’ll be in Atlanta. This was a good step this year. Winning eight games was a very positive step for our football program.
“I go back to the Georgia game, when we were down 24-3 coming off some gut-wrenching, heartbreaking losses, and without question that’s when this team took a giant step forward. Because, let’s be honest, if the culture wasn’t what it is, what Butch has developed, that would not have occurred. And we haven’t looked back since that comeback against Georgia.
“This is a different football team. This is a confident football team who’s gained a lot of experience as the season has progressed.”