It goes without saying that we’re living in bizarre times right now.
A large part of the nation is finally finding its way back to restaurants and barber shops, after months of being forced to stay at home, and it feels…..weird.
Three months ago I would’ve never believed this would be the world we’d be experiencing in May.
I also didn’t think that a fake video game coach would be the reason the Tennessee Vols are getting a LOT of free exposure right now.
Again, strange times.
Look, no one has adapted to recruiting during the coronavirus pandemic better than Tennessee. I can’t even count how many recruits the Vols have landed since the shutdown, because every time I type it in a story, it’s almost immediately outdated. That’s how fast the commits are coming in for the Volunteers.
This week, Tennessee managed to take things to another level by embracing Coach Duggs — the fictional creation of Barstool Big Cat.
Big Cat (aka Dan Katz) has been using Coach Duggs (aka Gus Duggerton) as his head coach in NCAA Football 14, the beloved college football video game series that is no longer with us, for the last month or so.
Duggs is now the Vols’ head coach (he has the Vols rolling at 3-0). And Tennessee has fully embraced the whole shtick. As a result, the Vols are getting that free exposure I mentioned.
The Barstool brand reaches millions of people on social media (Big Cat alone has over a million followers on Twitter). Other outlets are also taking notice of the story. Pro Football Talk (also over a million followers) even tweeted about Duggs on Friday.
The man in the arena. https://t.co/IQORXBKQL8
— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) May 22, 2020
And now there are shirts.
Shirts that were the brainchild of Big Cat and Tennessee.
We survive the scare. 3-0 heading into Florida week
Tennessee 28, UConn 24
T-Shirt Time! We worked with Tennessee on these and they are 🔥🔥🔥🔥
— Big Cat (@BarstoolBigCat) May 22, 2020
This is absolutely brilliant by Tennessee. Barstool has one of the most powerful voices on the internet. They’re the definitive “brand” of the generation of players that UT is recruiting.
Sure, there are folks who can’t stand Barstool. I see it constantly on Twitter.
But you can’t please everyone. Different strokes for different folks I suppose.
However, judging by the social media following that Barstool has, I’d say the folks who aren’t on board with this are in the minority.
Tennessee struck gold with Coach Duggs. And they’ve been incredibly opportunistic to go all-in with Big Cat and Barstool.
The Vols were already on a recruiting hot streak. The budding romance between Barstool and Tennessee is only going to make that recruiting hot streak last longer.
UT is essentially writing the manual for the new recruiting world we live in.
It’s no wonder the Vols have the No. 2 class in the nation right now.
Featured image via USA Today