MVP Sports Channel

Read & Recognition: No More Mr. Nice Guy | Dooley

Dooley’s done.Dooley

The University of Tennessee’s athletic director, Dave Hart finally pulled the trigger and ended speculation for Vol fans who have long wondered when the end would come for Derek Dooley as coach at UT.

Of course, this begins the next wave of rumors as to the replacement, but first things first. Let’s review and hopefully learn from the most previous experiences in order for history not to repeat itself.

An embarrassing loss at Vanderbilt sealed the deal. The former head coach was relieved of his duties early Sunday morning after a meeting with his boss.

Not a single person who knows anything about college football was surprised. Perhaps, the only important question was “Why did it take this long?” from the masses of Big Orange faithful.

Dooley’s three-year lackluster stint came to a conclusion with a 15-21 overall record and a dismal 4-19 SEC record.

Close losses in big games were a primary part of the frustrations of fans and administration. It seemed the “near misses” gave just enough faith in the program …until the next repeat performance. This only prolonged the inevitable and compounded the disappointment.

Most notable, losses after folding in the second halves of Florida, Georgia, Mississippi State and South Carolina games were clearly to blame. Additionally, Dooley’s record of 0-15 when facing opponents ranked in the Top 25, also is glaringly attributed to the firing.

Dooley was handed the reins to the program after the unexpected departure of Lane Kiffin three years ago. With such incredible emphasis squarely placed on football at Tennessee, a program in the middle of an identity crisis and former athletic director Mike Hamilton’s string of poor choices, the Dooley hire raised a few eyebrows.

The university’s flagship sports program suddenly had no direction, no identity and no answers. So hiring any coach without a proven track record at a major level was a mistake, but the decision was made to hire the anti-Kiffin. Dooley was indeed NOT Lane Kiffin.

He was a Southern gentleman, had a family lineage to the SEC, but lacked a track record and top level experience. This started a “wait and see” attitude for the orange clad fan base. Throw in a change of athletic directors… and this changed the strained relationship into more of a dysfunctional family in Knoxville.

UT’s Hart was quick to point out Dooley has left the program in better shape than the mess he inherited. “Derek Dooley did indeed improve this football program. There’s no question about that”, Hart expressed. “He was given a pretty short stick to take into battle.”

This was an understatement. Dooley stepped into a no-win situation, but to his credit, stopped the ship from sinking. However, the boat seems to be stuck in the harbor until a capable captain can be appointed.

The process of recruiting and hiring a head coach is underway. Hart indicated he is focusing on candidates with head coaching experience and the ability to handle the rigors of the SEC.

My take on the breakdown of the latter requirement:  Instant name recognition, offensive/ defensive genius, thick skinned, media savvy, hard as nails on game day, gives Nick Saban nightmares, considers Steve Spurrier a joke, great recruiter,  reveres Peyton Manning… and maybe wears a Superbowl ring.

Hart obviously learned from history, so as not to repeat it. The University of Tennessee needs a proven salty captain in order to even get the ship out of dry dock and on their way to their ultimate destination.

With one game still remaining on the 2012 schedule, the Volunteers will face Kentucky in its final contest of the year with offensive coordinator Jim Chaney serving as the interim coach. Dooley stated he didn’t want his situation to serve as a distraction to the players as the reason for his decision not to be present on the sidelines.

Tennessee and Dooley, both are still class acts. Being gracious was never the problem.


Smokey puts out the call for a new head coach at UT.

Hart needs a proven winner. Tennessee needs a tough leader. A battle-tested coach who’s currently without a team needs the opportunity that lies ahead at Tennessee.

There is a list of former NFL coaches, former SEC coaches, up and coming coaches with proven records, all ready to step into the biggest college football spotlight that is the South East Conference. It would seem there is a short list if you ask fans.

Personally, I think the next coach already owns stake in East Tennessee… literally.

The real question is not who, but what will be the price the University of Tennessee be willing to pay. Salary, character, SEC legacy are part of what UT has held closely. With which of these things is the university willing to part in order to right the ship?

What is important in Knoxville will be determined by what is given in return for the services of the next head coach of the Volunteers.  What is expected for payment… results.

It’s all business, now. No more Mr. Nice Guy.


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