April 24, 2014

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Reporter: Wes Boling

The sports fan's Election Day ballot

As millions of Americans cast their ballots Tuesday, we've got the votes you won't see on local news or CNN -- our selections for the heroes and goats of East Tennessee's sports leaders.

As voters across the country determine the future of America Tuesday, we're taking a gander at the recent past.

We're casting our votes for the superlative and shameful moments; the idiotic and iconic individuals; the surprises, the snoozefests, the tragedies and the travesties that have dictated the flow of the 2010 East Tennessee sports season.  We're voting for (or against) the coaches who made them happen.

THE EMPEROR WHO CHANGED CLOTHES: Lane Kiffin

You knew he'd make the list, so why not get him out the way?  Kiffin ignited his SEC colleagues with shots across the bow, then turned Vol fans from protectors to protestors overnight, spurning the Big Orange after one decent season for the surf and sun of Southern Cal. 

But when we recall how he left, let's not overlook what he did while at Tennessee.  Kiffin ducked public appearances; resented wearing orange (I witnessed this firsthand at a media guide photo shoot); took down pictures of Vol greats and replaced them with USC stars in the UT football complex; and, oh yeah, strung together secondary violations and backhanded insults like a spider web in the corner of Ed Orgeron's suspiciously musty closet.

He rallied fans and media behind him during his short tenure in Knoxville, only to abandon both on the night of his harried, hurried departure.

THE GOVERNOR OF TENNESSEE HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL: Gary Rankin

The Alcoa coach's "Rankin'" remains number one, and that's not likely to change this season.  The Tornadoes have stormed to six consecutive titles and are staring a seventh dead in the face, and Rankin is poised to earn his fifth in Blount County.  Not only have the Men in Red taken the state by storm, they've also taken two in a row from archrival and big brother Maryville, arguably an even bigger accomplishment. 

THE PRESIDENT UNDER IMPEACHMENT: Bruce Pearl

Pearl's decision to cast aside the NCAA rulebook backfired, and now he's as contrite as Bill Clinton in the mid-90's.  Bruce will not struggle to regain the favor of the Vol Nation; he will, however, do plenty of fingernail-chewing while he awaits the NCAA hand of justice in either December or April.  Pearl can't bust out the "I am not a crook" line.  All he can do is coach, wait and pray. 

THE DIRECTOR OF DISASTER RELIEF: Derek Dooley

The Lane Kiffin tidal wave swept up UT fans and players and took them on a wild ride, only to deposit them in shambles on the other side of the SEC standings.  Now it's Derek Dooley's mess to clean up, and he'll have to do more debris removal and heavy lifting before he can even start to rebuild.  All the sweat and toil won't show much progress this year, but the legwork will pay off in subsequent seasons...unless the natives continue beating up people in bars.

THE NINTH-TERMER: Pat Summitt

In a time when Tennessee fans crave stability, Summitt delivers.  The woman with eight titles has kept the same job title for almost four decades, changing women's basketball and turning herself into an institution.  If Vol fans had their way, Summitt would never retire -- she'd keep governing the team, stumping for her sport and representing her constituents forever.

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