Joe Burrow taught him how to play defense and how to read coverages with a can’t-miss play call. Patrick Mahomes was on board for his 1 season at Texas Tech and publicly lobbied for him to stay in Lubbock for another year. Brett McMurphy cited sources and broke the news of his coaching search. The Rose Bowl and Cotton Bowl celebrated his postseason victories. USC tweeted support for him during his time as the Trojans’ offensive coordinator and Baylor trolled him after he predicted a blowout and lost. Texas Tech thanked him for rebuilding the program and Tennessee hyped his arrival. Lane Kiffin gave him advice and Jeremy Pruitt welcomed him with open arms.

The “him” is Gus Duggerton, AKA Coach Duggs, and he’s the Vols’ new coach. Well, sort of.

If you’ve been wondering why a fake coach has been dominating college football Twitter during the quarantine, here’s the rundown: Barstool Sports’ Dan Katz, AKA Big Cat, hosts the ever-popular sports podcast “Pardon My Take.” And thanks to his created coach in the NCAA Football ’14 video game, Gus Duggerton, Katz now operates the new (fictitious) sensation in college football.

Katz’s streams on Twitch earned him the No. 1 spot in the world multiple times on the live-gaming website. When Katz isn’t getting bullied in the Twitch chat for throwing back-breaking interceptions (because “B” is always open) or blaming his defensive coordinator for losses, he’s doing whatever he can to put up 50-burgers with his, um, “portly” offensive-minded head coach. Onside kicks up 21 points in the fourth quarter? Yep. Fifty-yard field goal attempts with a 7-point lead as time expires? Obviously.

That missed field goal attempt against Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl was Duggerton’s last play on the Texas Tech sidelines (despite Mahomes’ aforementioned lobbying). When he hit the coaching carousel and turned down Georgia in favor of Tennessee, let’s just say that Vol Twitter didn’t riot to protest this head coaching hire:

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Tennessee online sports betting officially launched on November 1, 2020, and many of the largest sportsbooks are live and operating in the volunteer state. Tennessee is only one of a handful of SEC football states with legalized sports betting.

For those who haven’t followed along with Coach Duggs’ journey from Toledo to Tennessee — with 1-season pitstops as the offensive coordinator at Florida State and USC before taking the head gig at Texas Tech — you might have a question.

Why do so many people care about a podcast host playing an NCAA Football video game in New York?

Well, considering that there aren’t any live sports — at least there weren’t when this started — Coach Duggs came along at an all-too-perfect time. Unless he has recruiting to do and a schedule to set up, his streams are under an hour. If you follow one of the following accounts on Twitter — @BarstoolBigCat, @PardonMyTake and @CoachDuggs to name a few — you can get a full schedule on his next game. Coach Duggs runs up the score, he’s always on the move and some would say he’s allergic to running the football (the haters in the chat believe Ricky Squeaks should’ve gotten more run in Lubbock).

The reason that #DuggsNation exists in its viral capacity is because of Katz and his over 1 million followers on Twitter. There’s also the team he has who creates Duggs-related content. Hype videos, highlights and lowlights — those are usually when Katz closes his eyes and inevitably throws a blind interception — are tweeted out in real time from multiple accounts, all of which have at least tens of thousands of followers. They usually provide quality reactions from Katz, though he keeps it at a loud whisper on Twitch so as not to wake his young son. Games are scheduled around the baby’s nap schedule, obviously.

The rise of Coach Duggs is equally incredible as it is peak-2020. When asked by SDS to describe Duggerton’s journey in 1 word, Katz’s Barstool co-worker Joey Mulinaro called it “revolutionary.”

It’s hard to argue with that. In unprecedented times, Coach Duggs certainly captivated the college football world like few could have imagined. Matt Leinart has takes on the polarizing coach and even people like Iowa State’s Matt Campbell tweeted out a video (unprompted) of a post-game handshake with Duggerton after he beat the Cyclones:

Just in case that wasn’t enough to blur the lines of reality, there’s an actual human being who shares a striking resemblance to the Coach Duggs character that Katz created. The @CoachDuggs account features plenty of content with the non-animated version of Duggerton.

What remains to be seen is what’s ahead for Duggerton. If history is an indication, his stay in Knoxville won’t be long. Tennessee is his 5th program in as many years, and it’s his 2nd head coaching gig in as many seasons. Then again, maybe some wise words from Kiffin will prevent Coach Duggs from finally stopping his one-and-done ways:

While we don’t know what’s next for Duggerton, we do know that he has goals beyond hanging 50-burgers and becoming a social media sensation. National title opportunities were squashed at Duggs’ previous stops as the offensive coordinator at Florida State and USC. That happened thanks to devastating late, interception-filled losses to Georgia Tech in the ACC Championship and UCLA in the regular-season finale. Coach Duggs actually made his Knoxville debut by putting up a 50-burger in a blowout win against the Bruins.

Yes, Tennessee’s Twitter account live-tweeted it. Why wouldn’t they?

At a time when we don’t know when or what college football is going to look like in 2020, there are worse ways to pass the time than joining the thrill ride that is #DuggsNation.

Who knows? Maybe if Duggerton can win a fake national title for the Vols, they’ll build a real statue for him in Knoxville. If Coach Duggs’ rise taught us anything so far, it’s that we shouldn’t doubt his impact. Until we get live action back, the college football world belongs to Duggerton.

And what a world it is.