Do not blame Tyndall for leaving

Donnie Tyndall and Dave Hart hold up a jersey as he is introduced as the head basketball coach of the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, Tenn.  Courtesy Photo
Donnie Tyndall and Dave Hart hold up a jersey as he is introduced as the head basketball coach of the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, Tenn.
Courtesy Photo

When the news hit Monday that Southern Miss head coach Donnie Tyndall accepted the same position at Tennessee, many USM fans were upset and rightfully so.

This is the same man who just signed an extension this past season for four more years to stay with the Golden Eagles. He led USM to the most wins in school history this season and appeared to be deeply hurt when his team was snubbed from the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year.

Even now, as the coach at Tennessee, he has shown that he cares about the program. He tweeted a heartfelt apology Tuesday morning saying that he was grateful to coach at USM and he will cherish the time he spent here.
When Tyndall arrived at Southern Miss two years ago, he brought an entirely new culture to the basketball program. He was an inspiring leader and was able to make the Hattiesburg community rally around him and his team.

So it may seem puzzling for people to understand why he would want to leave a program that he personally built from the ground up in just two short years, but the majority of people would have done the exact same thing.
Why? Five years, $8 million. That’s why. That is the new contract that he just signed to be the head coach of the Volunteers, who just made a Sweet 16 run. The extension he signed with USM was for four years and worth just a total of $2 million.

The landscape of college basketball is another reason why making the jump is well worth it for him. Tennessee is the same school that was selected over Southern Miss as one of the last at-large bids in the field of 68. Southern Miss had a vastly superior record than Tennessee.

USM went 27-6 and Tennessee went just 21-12. But Tennessee got the bid because they play in the SEC against much better competition and had more “quality” wins.

In all reality, it will be much easier for Tyndall to build a championship-quality team at Tennessee than it would be at USM. Tennessee has much better facilities and resources that make it much easier to recruit top-tier talent that he wouldn’t have a realistic chance of pursuing at USM.

USM is a Conference USA school that is low on the totem pole in regards to the national picture in college athletics. You see it all the time in every college sport.

A coach builds a program at a small school and once they start to make noise nationally, they are poached by a bigger university with better facilities, more money and the opportunity to be on a bigger stage.

We saw it here a few years ago when Larry Fedora turned his 12-2 record into a bigger contract with North Carolina. We saw it when Andy Enfield took lowly Florida Gulf Coast on a magical run in the tournament and he turned that into a fat deal with USC.

That is simply the reality of the situation. It is easy to argue that he could have built a winner and had a tremendous legacy if he stayed. But who doesn’t want to be on the big stage every single night like he will be at Tennessee?