How did Tony Vitello build Tennessee baseball into a juggernaut poised for a CWS run?
A Tennessee athletic department in need of some positivity got a shot in the arm this spring thanks to Tony Vitello's baseball program.
The fourth-ranked Vols (40-13) are playing like a team capable of making the College World Series for the first time since 2005.
And the fiery and affable Vitello, Tennessee's fourth-year coach, has emerged as one of the most popular figures in town.
Tennessee will close the regular season with a three-game series at South Carolina (32-18) that will begin Thursday (7 p.m. ET).
Wilson says Tennessee's success has emerged from a multi-pronged approach: The program embraced a gritty attitude that reflects its coach, Vitello developed the talent he inherited, and he raised the bar for recruiting, including successfully infusing junior college talent.
Toppmeyer wonders whether Vitello is in line for a raise. He's under contract through 2024. His salary is $600,000 this season. Many of Vitello's SEC peers earn in excess of $1 million.
Toppmeyer says Tennessee should get out of its habit of paying lofty buyouts to fire bad coaches and administrators and invest in successful coaches, like Vitello.
Blake Toppmeyer is an SEC Columnist for the USA TODAY Network. Mike Wilson covers the Tennessee Vols for the News Sentinel. If you enjoy their coverage, consider a digital subscription that will allow you access to all of it.