Derek Dooley comments on Friday morning's violent bar brawl
We thought Derek Dooley would have to pass his first test on Sept. 4 against UT-Martin.
Really, though, that one's a gimme. So make it Sept. 11 against Oregon.
He didn't get to wait that long.
Dooley had to abandon a vacation Friday to deal with his first crises as coach of the University of Tennessee football program.
I'd prefer to let the latest episode of Vols Gone Wild get sorted out a little more before passing judgment. But I liked Dooley's initial reaction.
He didn't waste any time dropping the hammer on the most obvious offender, safety Darren Myles. Charged twice in less than four months for resisting arrest, Myles is gone.
More impressive, though, Dooley didn't hide behind the police report in dispensing further discipline.
He announced the indefinite suspensions of Greg King and Marlon Walls, even though neither had been identified in the incident report.
More announcements of disciplinary action are possible, even likely, as UT and the police sort through accounts of a bar fight on Cumberland Avenue in the wee hours of Friday morning.
But Dooley was ahead of the curve Friday.
Coaches have, on occasion, been known to tailor punishment to the police blotter if it will minimize the damage:
No charge or charges dropped? Hey, no punishment.
Dooley was an attorney before he was a football coach. He can do black and white, but he also distinguishes the shades of gray.
"I know what's right and wrong,'' he said Friday night, meeting with the media.
"I know when you're charged with something, that doesn't (necessarily) mean you've done something terrible. And when you're not charged with something, you can do something really not good from a judgment standpoint.
"I'm always going to navigate it with that standard in mind, of what's right and wrong.''
From the January day he was hired after a hurry-up search to replace Lane Kiffin. Dooley has harped on character.
When it comes to character, every coach in every sport talks the talk. I believe Dooley walks the walk, too.
Besides recruiting and implementing his system on the field, he has spent considerable time laying the foundation for a character-enhancing system off the field.
Just last month he hired ex-Vol Andre Lott for the newly created position of Vol for Life/Character Education coordinator.
"We're going to build a structure that will educate, discipline and support our players,'' Dooley said.
He also has a book he reads to his three children (ages 6 to 11). The title is "Sticky Situations: 365 Devotions for Kids and Families.''
Simple stuff. Right-and-wrong stuff.
"It's a great book,'' Dooley said. "When you find yourself in a sticky situation, there's a lot of ways you can go.
"And understanding what the consequences are when you go a certain way, that's the educational component.''
OK, that sounds fine for Mister Rogers' Neighborhood.
But what about Mister Dooley's neighborhood - or Mister Saban's or Mister Richt's? These are neighborhoods where a sticky situation might involve a brawl or even a gun.
An off-duty policeman was left lying unconscious after the latest incident. That's a pretty tough neighborhood.
Judging from Friday's response, I wouldn't underestimate Dooley if I were one of his players. Even if he might sound like Mister Rogers at times, he's still got a paddle in his hand.
"Sometimes you have to fall really hard to really get it,'' he said.
What's right and wrong, and knowing the difference between the two.
It's an interesting premise for running a program.
Mike Strange may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 865-342-6276.