Tennessee football: NCAA extension shows Vols all in on 2022

Tennessee athletic director Danny White is seen on the sidelines during a game between Tennessee and UT Martin in Neyland Stadium, Saturday, Oct. 22, 2022.Utvsmartin1022 0987
Tennessee athletic director Danny White is seen on the sidelines during a game between Tennessee and UT Martin in Neyland Stadium, Saturday, Oct. 22, 2022.Utvsmartin1022 0987 /

Conventional wisdom says it’s best to get a punishment out of the way, particularly when it comes to schools and NCAA violations. Tennessee football is not following that conventional wisdom, and it shows how committed the Vols are to this season as opposed to the future.

According to a report from the Knoxville News Sentinel, the Vols were granted a 30-day extension on the deadline to respond to the NCAA notice of allegations for what took place under Jeremy Pruitt. UT was supposed to respond last week but won’t have to now until November.

Once that response happens, the NCAA has 60 days to make a decision, which would lead to sometime in late January. That makes one thing clear. If Tennessee football is going to receive a postseason ban, they’d rather it happen next year than this year.

Now, by the time the NCAA comes out with its ruling on the Vols, the postseason will already be set at a bare minimum. It’s likely the bowl season and College Football Playoff will have been underway, and there’s a chance the season may have already come to an end.

Since this isn’t about ineligible players on this year’s team, there’s no way the Vols could forfeit any of these games. They could potentially forfeit games from the Pruitt era and also face a postseason ban and maybe a reduction in scholarships for 2023. However, 2022 will have already been played.

This is a stroke of genius by Danny White. Look, you can’t take these 7-0 starts for granted. Being in the College Football Playoff hunt is a huge deal, and just because the Vols are doing it their second year under Heupel doesn’t mean they’ll do it again.

Bob Stoops won a national championship with Heupel his second year and never won another one. Jim Tressel won one his second year with the Ohio State Buckeyes and never won another. Gene Chizik won one his second year with the Auburn Tigers and was fired two years later.

Heck, Kirby Smart was a play away from the national championship his second year with the Georgia Bulldogs. It took him four years to get back. Nick Saban has led everybody to believe playoff appearances grow on trees. They don’t, so you have to go all in when you can.

For Tennessee football, a team that is 7-0 and ranked No. 3, that means going all in on this year and sacrificing a bit of the future if you have to. Given what Heupel has proven already, it won’t be an hinderance to bringing in future talent.

Also, just a look at the schedule next year and the Vols’ personnel. They aren’t going to be as good as they are this year. Hendon Hooker, Cedric Tillman and probably now Jalin Hyatt will all be gone. Then there’s the schedule.

Rocky Top benefitted from and built momentum off of the fact that its first three games against Power Five teams were all programs in transition. The Pittsburgh Panthers are rebuilding after losing Kenny Pickett and Jordan Addison, and the LSU Tigers and Florida Gators are under first-year head coaches.

Next year, though, Tennessee football likely faces a better Florida team, and both the Gators and Alabama Crimson Tide will be on the road. The Texas A&M Aggies at home are winnable, but Jimbo Fisher still has talent, and the Kentucky Wildcats are on the road.

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Simply put, a 7-0 start is likely not to happen next year, and a playoff appearance will be much harder. As a result, it makes a lot more sense to take the bowl ban then and try to make the most out of this year before moving past it all for the future. This was a great move by Danny White.