After roughly 72 hours without a head coach, the University of Tennessee football program has a face and a direction again.
He replaces Lane Kiffin, who stunned the campus Tuesday by leaving after 13 months on the job to take over at Southern California.
Dooley, 41, was 17-20 in three seasons at Louisiana Tech, his only head-coaching post.
Originally pointed toward a career in law, Dooley changed gears and broke into coaching in 1996 at Georgia, the school his father, Vince, coached from 1964 until 1988.
"I grew up in this conference,'' Dooley said at his introductory news conference, clad in a dark suit and the requisite orange tie, "and it didn't take me long to realize Tennessee is the essence of college football."
Among those endorsing Dooley is his mentor, the man he worked for at LSU and then with the Miami Dolphins.
"Derek is a very articulate, bright guy," Alabama coach Nick Saban said in a press release. "He's a great coach and a hard-working guy.
"He was always a very good recruiter in college, which I think is paramount if you're going to have success as a college coach."
UT men's athletic director Mike Hamilton spent Wednesday, Thursday and Friday interviewing several candidates before coming to terms with Dooley.
"I have great respect for the people he's worked with and knew he's been trained well to be prepared for this moment," Hamilton said.
Given Kiffin's abrupt departure, Hamilton said he and Dooley discussed the importance of the next coach investing longevity in the program.
"This is a destination job," Hamilton said. "I think Coach Dooley believes that."
Dooley met with the players briefly Friday night. His first priority is recruiting up until the national signing day on Feb. 3.
Mike Strange may be reached at 865-342-6276.