UT fires Dooley before third season ends
By Grant Ramey | (email@example.com)
KNOXVILLE — The Derek Dooley era at the University of Tennessee is over.
Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Dave Hart announced Sunday morning that Dooley, in the midst of his third season as the head football coach of the Vols, had been relieved of his coaching duties. The action is immediate and offensive coordinator Jim Chaney will serve as interim head coach for Tennessee’s final game of the season against Kentucky.
“I told Derek that we were going to move in a different direction with new leadership for our football program,” Hart said in a Sunday afternoon press conference.
Dooley, who was hired on Jan. 15, 2010, after former coach Lane Kiffin left suddenly for the same position at Southern California, finishes his time in Knoxville with a 15-21 overall record after going 4-7 this season and 0-7 in the Southeastern Conference.
“He inherited a very, very, difficult environment,” Hart said. “One that I am familiar with having been here these 13 months. Quite honestly he was given a pretty short stick to take into that battle. Given those facts, he did a good job in a lot of areas in putting a solid foundation under our football program.”
Dooley is in line for a roughly $5 million buyout. If Tennessee ends up parting ways with the entire coaching staff after the season the buyout total over $7 million.
Dooley exits Tennessee with a 32-40 overall record in five seasons as a head coach. He went 17-20 in three seasons at Louisiana Tech before being hired by former UT athletic director Mike Hamilton.
Tennessee was 4-19 under Dooley in SEC play, including losing 13 of its last 14 conference games. Sunday fell one day short of a calendar year since the Vols’ last SEC win — a 27-21 overtime win over Vanderbilt — on Nov. 19. Three of Dooley’s four SEC wins came in November 2010, in his first season.
Dooley was 0-15 against ranked teams and 0-13 when trailing at halftime during his time at Tennessee.
“I am sorry we could not generate enough wins to create hope for a brighter future,” Dooley said in a press release. “Although progress was not reflected in our record, I am proud of the strides we made to strengthen the foundation for future success in all areas of the program.
“During the last 34 months, I’ve given my all for Tennessee, and our family appreciates all this University and the Knoxville community has given us.”
This season, Tennessee started 2-0 behind an explosive offense. But the Vols have since lost seven of nine after having it’s league-worst defense exposed by opposing offenses, though.
Tennessee fell to 0-7 in SEC play after Saturday’s 41-18 loss at Vanderbilt — UT’s worst loss to Vandy in nearly 60 years.
“He grew up in this ... this is a result-based profession,” Hart said. “You can’t ignore the results at the end of the day.”
The Vols started league play 0-6 last season before splitting games with Vanderbilt and Kentucky to finish at 1-7 in the standings.
The loss in Nashville Saturday night extended ignoble history as Tennessee became the first team in the 79-year history of the SEC to allow 38 points in seven consecutive games.
Tennessee was 5-7 last season, capped by the shocking 10-7 loss to Kentucky. The loss, the first against the Wildcats since 1984, kept Dooley and Tennessee out of the bowl picture and led to questions around the program wondering if the players had quit on their coaches.
Tennessee went 6-7 two years ago, in Dooley’s first season, capped by an overtime loss to North Carolina in the Music City Bowl, UT’s only postseason appearance under Dooley.
“We had a lot of Saturdays that had a lot of things that you couldn’t put your arms around and hug in terms of performance levels,” Hart said. “That is part of profession that we are in. Derek knows that.”