As he stood in the North end zone late Wednesday night at Neyland Stadium, Derek Dooley rattled off the infamous timeline Tennessee fans grew to loathe throughout the waning months of the NCAA investigation.
Only Dooley's timeline, which he used to explain why recruiting came with an additional mountain of a hurdle through his first 19 months with the Vols, went back a little farther than the one that typically popped up during nationally televised UT men's basketball games.
Former men's basketball coach Bruce Pearl's tear-filled news conference last September — when the gravity of the NCAA probe into UT's program was truly realized and presented on a national platform — wasn't at the beginning. Instead, Dooley started at Dec. 8, 2009, a little more than one month before he was hired to replace Lane Kiffin.
"Hostess-Gate," Dooley called it, referring to The New York Times story that was first to reveal the NCAA's inquiry into the program's use of its Orange Pride hostess group.
From there, it only got worse.
After Pearl's news conference, it was the "negative energy" that hovered over the entire athletic department during the 2010-11 men's basketball season. Then Pearl and his entire staff were fired. Then came the Committee on Infractions hearing. Then came the waiting.
All the while, Dooley and his staff were trying to put together crucial recruiting classes to rebuild a once-proud program decimated by a combination of attrition and instability.
And rival coaches were using everything that happened under UT's roof against the Vols.
"You can't give somebody better ammunition," Dooley said.
With the investigation officially closing Wednesday, Dooley and his staff no longer have to dodge bullets on the recruiting trail. The football program, outside of a few minor self-imposed restrictions, won't face any further penalties.
Thursday marked the first full day when Dooley and his assistants didn't have to address the NCAA investigation when speaking with recruits and their parents.
It promises to make a world of difference as they put the finishing touches on a 2012 class that already includes 16 commitments.
"It's going to be new to me since I've been here," Dooley said. "Hopefully it will be a boost for us."
Just two months ago, UT's class stood at an SEC-low two commitments during what Dooley described as a "very difficult spring." It's a critical time for every coaching staff in the country to conduct evaluations of prospects. It was made doubly difficult for UT, as it tried to persuade prospects to visit its campus "on their own nickel" while a firestorm of negative national media coverage swirled in the months, weeks and days leading up to its Committee on Infractions hearing in June.
It, perhaps, reached a boiling point at the SEC's spring meetings in Destin, Fla., when Dooley told NCAA vice president of enforcement Julie Roe Lach that the NCAA's lengthy probes were "killing recruiting."
"Everything was happening during the critical time of recruiting," Dooley said. "That's the way it was, but it's a real tribute to our coaching staff.
"The hardest part was getting these guys up here and interested. Once we got them up here, then that matter didn't really affect us.
"Was it still out there in their minds? Of course it was. I had to answer that question with every recruit. I had to answer the question and I didn't have an answer."
Some recruits during the past 19 months thought they had the answers about UT's fate with the NCAA. And that wasn't a good thing for UT, because the information wasn't exactly coming from an unbiased source.
"The spin at the other schools isn't, 'Hey they're going to go in front of the committee, but they could be all right.' " Dooley said. "Their spin is 'Look what happened to USC. Do you want that to happen to you?'
"What you notice a lot of times is guys would be interested and then all of a sudden, 'I'm done, I'm not interested.' That usually doesn't just happen."
At its Committee on Infractions hearing last summer, Southern Cal, where Kiffin now is coach, was hit with severe sanctions that will hamper the program for years.
UT's punishment, even when projected by some of the most pessimistic prognosticators, never was in danger of heavy scholarship losses like the Trojans'.
But some kids simply didn't know any better.
"Some of them do live under rocks. In their own world," Dooley said. "They all knew about it. Our challenge was 'Do you bring it up or do you hope they don't know about it?' "
Whatever Dooley and his assistants decided, it largely worked.
The 2010 class Dooley closed out mere weeks after taking the job was ranked ninth in the nation by Rivals.com.
His 2011 class was a consensus top-15 class and his current 2012 group is in the top 20, but is expected to elevate further when player rankings are finalized by the national recruiting sites.
More importantly, all but five of the 56 players signed in 2010 and 2011 are still with the team. After Janzen Jackson's dismissal Wednesday, there are just 11 players remaining from Kiffin's 22-man 2009 class and 11 from Phillip Fulmer's final class at UT.
Dooley said he doesn't hold any hard feelings against the coaches who negatively recruited against UT. Frankly, he would have been startled if they weren't doing it.
"They should talk about the NCAA uncertainty," Dooley said. "I would do it if another team was about to go in front of the committee. It's not to be negative. It's just to put the facts out in front of them.
"All that's in the past. I'm proud of where we are right now and we can now move forward."