Derek Dooley: Q&A (Part 1 of 3)
An animated Derek Dooley vehemently defended his policy on former players visiting Tennessee’s athletic facilities.
“How confusing is this?” the new UT coach exclaimed in his pre-spring practice press conference inside Neyland Stadium on Wednesday. “When you go to somebody’s house, what do you do? You just don’t walk in. You go ‘Hey Jimmy, I’m going to come over today.’ Boom. What so hard about that? We try to create an issue that isn’t there.”
Yet in fact it has been an issue. Former safety Eric Berry expressed concern Monday over the fact that some of his ex-teammates were escorted from UT’s practice facility. UT has since said that Dooley didn’t know the players that were booted.
Dooley’s main policy change is that former players are required to call Condredge Holloway of the athletic department before they attend practice.
“This is how difficult it is,” Dooley said, holding his hand to his head as if it were a telephone. “ ‘Hey Condredge I want to come to practice today.’ OK. Psst. We act like that’s an act of congress.
“I’d like to know who is coming. I don’t think that’s unreasonable. I don’t know a lot of the former players. So I’d like to know in advance that ‘Hey, so-in-so is going to be here’ so I can go shake his hand, meet him and talk to him. I don’t know why that’s so unreasonable. What am I missing? Is there some tradition I’m missing here?”
The tradition that has concerned some former players has been a perceived change in UT’s open-door policy for former players at its facilities. When asked about the open-door policy, Dooley initially interrupted the question and asked why former players would want to return to campus if not to watch practice.
“Walk into the building and do what? What are they going to do, just walk in and look around?” Dooley said while looking back and forth at the ceiling.
When informed that some players see UT’s training staff before they see their own doctor and others workout in the Neyland-Thompson Complex, Dooley said all are still welcome to do so.
As for practices, a phone call would be appreciated.
“They’re part of the family,” Dooley said. “My brother, he lives in Atlanta. He’s a part of my family, but he doesn’t drive up to Knoxville and open up my door … It’s basic human interaction. That’s all it is.
“It doesn’t mean I’m excluding my brother because I’d like him to call me before he comes to Knoxville.”
Earlier in the day, Dooley won over Berry after what he called a “great meeting”.
“It went very well,” Berry said. “Coach Dooley said it was a misunderstanding. After that, we just went on and talked about football.”
Dooley’s display was a bit surprising for some. Upon realizing that, Dooley tried to lighten the mood.
“I’m not upset guys,” he said. “I hope you don’t think I am. I just get a kick out of some of this stuff.”
Media Memo: Before his press conference, Dooley spent about 20 minutes talking to reporters about UT’s new media policy.
Dooley said he will be available after all practices this spring. Select players will be available after most practices. Assistant coaches will be available after three practices.
Media will be allowed to watch individual drills in practice and no team drills, including scrimmages, which had been open previously. All practices are closed to the general public.
In the fall, Dooley and select players will be available after Saturday games and on Monday and Tuesday. Dooley and assistant coaches will be available on Wednesday, but topics of discussion with assistants are limited to “coach/player feature stories”. Questions about UT’s football team are forbidden.
There will be no media availability on Thursday or Friday.
Dooley was the only member of the coaching staff or player made available to the media on Wednesday.