In announcing the resignation of Tennessee offensive coordinator Randy Sanders, effective at the end of the season, Volunteers head coach Phillip Fulmer said, "I'm sad that it has come to this. I understand how volatile and demanding the world of college athletics is."
With big salaries and big exposure -- who knew a coordinator 20 years ago? -- have come big pressure. Sanders, who turned 40 four days before the Vols' great comeback victory at LSU, grew up in east Tennessee, played quarterback at Tennessee and has never coached anywhere else. That didn't insulate him from the abuse heaped upon him now that the Vols can't move the football.
Tennessee (3-4) is averaging 16.1 points and 315 yards of offense per game. They haven't averaged 30 points a year in this pass-happy generation of college football since 2001. Sanders isn't happy with the lack of offense, either. But the problems have begun to affect his wife and daughters and he decided that he would be better off trying to coach somewhere else.
"I have been here 22 years," Sanders said Monday. "It's a very special place. It's been a big part of my life. I'm going to miss this place. There's a whole lot more to life than Tennessee football."
Sanders did Fulmer a favor by resigning, thus preventing the head coach from having to make a decision on someone he coached and coached with for more than two decades. Fulmer said the offensive staff -- including Sanders -- would make the play calls for the remainder of the season.
Fulmer also closed practice this week, presumably to give the coaches a chance to figure out in peace how they are going to work as a group. Tennessee plays at No. 9 Notre Dame on Saturday.
David Cutcliffe, Fulmer's close friend and Sanders' predecessor as offensive coordinator, is living in Knoxville. Cutcliffe resigned as Charlie Weis' quarterback coach at Notre Dame in order to fully recover from heart surgery. Doctors have given Cutcliffe a clean bill of health.
Cutcliffe, fired as head coach at Ole Miss last year after a six-year record of 44-29, said Monday that he spoke at length with Sanders and with Fulmer on Sunday.
"I haven't been offered a job," Cutcliffe said, "and I'm still very much interested in becoming a head coach again."
Ivan Maisel is a senior writer at ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.