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Tennessee coach Tony Vitello deserves lifetime contract with Vols

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Tennessee’s athletic department has had wide-ranging success recently. It needs a championship. 

Coach Tony Vitello is viewed by some as a little too wild, a little too “out there” by traditional baseball purist. He needs a championship.

The Vols are on the verge of becoming one of the best baseball programs in the nation. They need a championship.

Tennessee will get a shot at that much-needed championship this weekend when the Vols play a best-of-three series against Texas A&M in the College World Series Finals in Omaha, Neb. There’s plenty on the line, mostly because of what Vitello has done in his six seasons as the Vols’ manager. Talk about raising the stakes? Vitello did so the moment he walked on campus.

“This is as good of an opportunity as there is in the country,” Vitello said shortly after being hired in 2017. “I consider myself incredibly blessed to be a part of the athletic department at the University of Tennessee. It’s the ultimate combination of an elite conference, a state school with great in-state players, a phenomenal city and outstanding tradition that exists not just with baseball, but across all sports.

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“It’s no coincidence that it’s been a place where so many great coaches have been leaders in their sport. I want to work like crazy to uphold that standard.”

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That could have been chalked up to coach speak at the time, saying what fans want to hear. As it turns out, Vitello meant every word he uttered back when the Vols hired him from Arkansas, especially that last part about “work like crazy,” which is exactly what Vitello has done.

Ready for the most exciting part? Vitello is at the point in which he can just be a baseball man, not a fund raiser nor a cheerleader and, certainly, not just a pretty face. He’s built his program. A new completely refurbished stadium is in the works. The Vols have the top signing class in the nation by most accounts. With the changes that have taken place in Tennessee’s athletic program, Vitello’s best days should be ahead of him. 

Imagine someone as smart as Vitello being able to solely focus on baseball – and keeping his beard up to snuff. That’s why it doesn’t matter what happens this weekend. Vitello will win a championship, likely this weekend, but soon, regardless, if not.

That’s why Vitello deserves a lifetime contract that pays him among the best coaches in the nation, much like former Alabama coach Nick Saban, who had an automatic kicker to keep him in the elite and lucrative coaching fraternity. Sure, Saban has achieved much more, but there isn’t a better “fit” in college baseball than Tennessee and Vitello. That’s readily apparent.

Vitello deserves some form of the same contract that has an automatic kicker that keeps him in the top three coaches in the nation. Sure, there would be clauses if something went terribly wrong and Vitello had to be fired for cause, but otherwise, Vitello needs to retire a Vol.

There was already some chatter about Texas trying to make a run at Vitello, who also has ties to Arkansas and Missouri. Vitello probably doesn’t care and is likely focused on other things, but if I’m Tennessee athletic director Danny White, this is the time to secure Vitello forever – no matter what happens against the Aggies.

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