Coach Dooley has improved the team each year and he deserves the 4th year for all his hard work to show itself. As mentioned in the debate, Spurrier didn't turn South Carolina around in 3 years. And we all know how good a coach he is. Give coach Dooley his 4th year and just maybe he will prove all the haters he is right man for the job. Turning around a football program that was left gutted by kiffen isn't a quick fix, so quit looking for all the negatives and focus on the positives. GO VOLS!
Tennessee’s Derek Dooley is in one messed up situation. First, when he took over the Tennessee program, he became the school’s third coach in three years. Phillip Fulmer’s ouster and Lane Kiffin’s unexpected exit led to so much attrition that it was thought Dooley would get three or four years to turn things around.
But since that hiring:
1. Tennessee has hired a new athletic director who did not hire Dooley. Many of the same boosters who helped decide on Dooley are still in Knoxville and still writing checks, but Dooley is not AD Dave Hart’s “guy.”
2. The coach lost to Kentucky to end last season which led many Vol fans to make up their minds about Dooley well before the end of any third or fourth season. Tennessee hadn’t lost to the Wildcats since 1984.
3. Hart has made it abundantly clear that due to past buyouts and parting gifts paid to ex-coaches and ADs, the athletic department’s reserve fund is running on empty and UT has a massive debt at the same time. Think of the Tennessee program as Greece.
With all that in mind, can UT afford to buy Dooley out, pay off a number of his assistants, pay a new coach’s buyout from his current school, and offer up enough cash salary-wise to lure in a name coach who’ll have to be UT’s fourth coach in six seasons?
Or with its current budget can UT afford not to dismiss Dooley. The lifeblood of any athletic department is football-related — tickets sold, donations given, concessions, parking, merchandise, etc, etc. Those will all surely drop further next season if Dooley returns.
Alabama’s Nick Saban is clearly aware of his ex-assistant’s situation. He actually opened his own press-conference after the Tide’s 44-13 win over Tennessee on Saturday with this statement:
“I think Tennessee’s team really played hard. I think that Derek is doing a fantastic job. They have been better and better every year that we’ve played them. We were fortunate today that our defense played well enough to keep their high-powered offense to just 13 points.”
A nice gesture, but it likely won’t carry much sway in the Smokies.
All things being equal, the guess here would be that Dooley’s team — currently 3-4 overall and 0-4 in the SEC — will lose at South Carolina next week and be pretty fragile mentally heading down the stretch with Troy, Missouri, Vanderbilt and Kentucky. But if Dooley does somehow make it to 7-5 and reaches a bowl, it might make selling the Vol job even harder for Hart. “Sure, Dooley took over a bad gig and actually led the team to two bowl games and we still fired him after three years, but you – you — we’ll stand behind.” That’s a tough sell unless someone’s already gotten word to Hart that he’ll take the job.
As is the case in Arkansas, the name Jon Gruden is being kicked around all over Tennessee. Gruden was a grad assistant at UT in the 1980s, married a UT cheerleader, and has told a number of people that Tennessee and Notre Dame would be the two college jobs he’d consider taking. But would a longtime pro coach really take less money to do more work (meaning: recruit)? If Gruden has a choice between an NFL gig and a college job, it’s hard to imagine him picking the lower-level opening.
Overall, you see the blurry picture. In one way, Dooley already appears to be warming under a heat lamp like a dead duck at your local Chinese buffet. At the same time, there are several mitigating factors that could lead to his survival.
And apparently the coach’s survival was even an issue after last season, which puts yet another twist on this issue.
Two sources very close to the Tennessee program have told MrSEC.com that Dooley actually discussed a buyout with Hart and Tennessee after last season’s loss to Kentucky. A third source further confirmed that story yesterday.
Knowing that his team quit on him versus UK and that fan negativity was growing, Dooley — as the story goes — approached the school and offered to just hit the road if they’d give him his buyout. Tennessee officials reportedly told him they would not buy him out for $5 million since he was the guy asking out. Dooley wouldn’t negotiate down the buyout, UT tried to call his bluff by not offering contract extensions to his assistants, but Dooley stuck it out anyway, hired new seven assistants — who had to be given multi-year contracts anyway — and tried to fix his program.
If that information is correct it’s hard to imagine Dooley surviving in Knoxville. (Whether those discussions took place or not, don’t expect UT or Dooley to confirm them.)
But this is all part of the back-and-forth of Tennessee’s current “Dooley debate.” There are those in the Tennessee administration who feel it’s time to make a change. There are others who believe the school must give Dooley one more year in order to avoid jumping right back onto the coaching carousel.
One UT official asked me this morning how long it took Steve Spurrier to turn around South Carolina. Hint: Longer than three seasons.
In the end, all of this will likely come down not to black and white, but to green. If UT’s administration feels keeping Dooley will provide greater long-term financial benefit, they’ll keep him and put up with a season of empty seats in an effort to let him prove himself. If those same folks feel the school can’t afford to fall further behind financially in the short-term and/or that Dooley isn’t heading in the right direction, then he’s a goner.
For the sake of Tennessee’s recruiting, that debate needs to end soon. Hot seat coaches usually don’t sign hot-shot recruiting classes.