Dooley’s approval rating on the move
Being an election year and campaign season, everyone has an approval rating.
Derek Dooley is no different.
Every year is an election year for the man atop the Tennessee football program. And each election year has 12 stops on the campaign trail.
This week’s swing state? Georgia.
Dooley’s approval rating heading into today, when the Vols descend on Athens to take on the fifth-ranked Bulldogs, arguably, hasn’t been lower.
It may have hit rock bottom after an inexplicable loss at Kentucky last year, bringing an abrupt end to a 5-7 season that looked to be heading to a bottom-of-the-barrel bowl game.
Or maybe last October, when Dooley’s Vols went 0-for-the-SEC in losses to Georgia, LSU, Alabama and South Carolina.
Or 2010, Dooley’s first season in Knoxville, which included another 0-for-October against the same cast of characters.
Dooley was excused then, in a rebuilding year after taking over a roster depleted by a one-and-done Lane Kiffin Project and the ’08 firing of Phillip Fulmer.
Dooley’s approval rating had never been higher than two weeks ago — save for maybe his introductory press conference — when his 2-0 Vols cracked the AP Top 25 for the first time in four years. A 2-0 and 23rd-ranked Tennessee team didn’t just host No. 18 Florida, EPSN’s College GameDay came to town, too.
Under Dooley, the Vols were finally back in the national conversation. Then the wave crashed, 37-20.
Suddenly the conversation dropped the ‘we’re back’ talk to focus on naming candidates to replace Dooley.
A sluggish win over Akron — in front of an announced attendance of 81,719, over 20,000 less bodies than the capacity crowd that filled Neyland Stadium the week before — just gave more voice to an overly disapproving chunk of the Tennessee fan base.
Don’t expect the talk to be positive over the next five weeks, when the Vols face four-straight ranked teams.
But, at the same time, don’t expect the fate of Derek Dooley to be decided in October. Do those games count? Yes. Is Dooley’s job on the line next month? No.
Yes, Dooley is 0-14 when trailing at the half, and 0-11 against ranked opponents.
But another 0-for-October, should it happen, still leaves the Vols a chance to go 4-0 in November, with a schedule including not-quite-SEC-ready Missouri, Troy, Kentuck and Vanderbilt. And a 7-5 finish and bowl eligibility won’t get Dooley fired.
Maybe that’s Johnny Majors meant when he so often said ‘they always remember what you do in November.’
Politics or football, what happened on the campaign trail is just a memory come election day.
And what happens in October won’t be nearly as important as what happens in November, when Dooley can earn another year in office.
Grant Ramey is a sports writer at The Daily Times. He can be reached at grantr@thedailytimes or 865-981-1145. Follow him on Twitter at TDT_Sports.