For UT athletic director Dave Hart, 'it's about progress'

Athletic director says young coaches need 'advocate'

Dave Hart had his blinders up all the way back to Knoxville. The 175-mile drive back from Tennessee's unexpected, season-ending loss to Kentucky wasn't enough time to let his emotions simmer from a performance he still describes as "unacceptable."

Hart's focus on the big picture wasn't in the right place at that moment, he admitted Thursday. That's one of the reasons why UT's vice chancellor of athletics didn't think it'd be appropriate to speak with football coach Derek Dooley or offer the coach a public vote of confidence after the uninspired, 10-7 nightmare loss to the Wildcats, the program's first since 1984.

"Nobody was more upset than the guy you are looking at," Hart said in an interview with the News Sentinel on Thursday, the first day in which he's sat down with reporters since the end of UT's 5-7 football season.

"When I've been around that level of disappointment, I don't talk to the coach for at least 24 hours, sometimes 48 hours. I don't have anything good to say. I can't be encouraging at that moment. I'm feeling what a lot of people are feeling at that moment because it hurts, it's embarrassing. You're human."

As the supervisor of UT's 20 varsity sports, Hart doesn't have the luxury to feel like that for long. A cool-down period might have been in order during the immediate aftermath of the abrupt end to Dooley's second season at UT, but the stewing couldn't drag into the days and weeks of important meetings with his highest-paid coach.

Hart has since had a number of "candid conversations" with Dooley and — dating back to when he took over at UT in October — said he talks with the coach "very often." Just like he would in meetings with the golf and volleyball coaches, Hart voiced his opinion on what he liked, didn't like or questioned.

The final decisions, Hart stressed, were left up to Dooley.

"I've never done it differently. I'm always honest with coaches and worked hard to develop candid and honest relationships with coaches where

you do build a level of trust," Hart said. "I've never told a coach 'You need to get rid of Assistant X or Assistant Y.' I've offered my opinion, coaches have always received that well and oftentimes they've initiated that.

"The coach knows better than I know because he's in the meeting rooms, he's at practice two and a half hours a day, he's in the weight room. But I also try to observe and offer my opinions, but I've never mandated that."

In the weeks since the season finale, Dooley has replaced wide receivers coach Charlie Baggett with former Vol Jay Graham, who will coach running backs, and seen tight ends/special teams coach Eric Russell leave for a similar position on new coach Mike Leach's staff at Washington State.

Time remains for even more staff turnover in what has been a hectic offseason in college football. Whoever Dooley has alongside him in 2012 will provide the backbone of a team that, because of youth and a lack of leadership among the players, has yet to show it has "the key elements that you need to build championships," Hart said.

That's why Hart isn't hanging a desired win total over Dooley's head in what will be his third of a six-year deal with the Vols.

"It's not about win totals. It's about progress," Hart said. "It's about progress in a lot of different arenas but progress between the lines matters.

"I think Derek Dooley has all the qualities that you need, all the skill sets you need in a head football coach. Derek is a young coach, (men's basketball coach Cuonzo Martin) is a young coach What young coaches need more than anything is a positive advocate and a candid advocate that they know, 'Hey, this person's trying to help. I've got to do my part, this person is going to do his part and we're going to build this together.' "

The effects of attrition and an overall lack of talent on a roster after back-to-back years of coaching changes are certainly real, Hart said. The situation Dooley inherited differed significantly from what a number of new coaches across the country will find themselves in next year, and that's something Hart said he considers when evaluating the results of his tenure.

With every passing year, though, those inherited circumstances provide less and less of a reason for why the product on the field is what it is.

"I don't think you can keep using excuses. We're not young anymore," Hart said. "That shouldn't even be a point of conversation anymore. We're not young. We're not inexperienced anymore.

"You just have to put all those things in the rearview mirror and keep looking forward."

Hart said his goal to "get football healthy" because it's "the engine to the train." Remedying it, he said, goes well beyond what Dooley can do.

"We've got to give Derek Dooley and that staff and those student-athletes all the pieces that are necessary to build that puzzle into a championship product," Hart said. "We've got some shortfalls in those areas that need to be addressed. We've got to fulfill our obligation."

Even with attendance falling to new lows in 2011, Hart said he applauds the UT fanbase's patience during what he describes as a "rebuilding mode" not only for football, but as well as men's basketball and baseball. He called it "rough waters" for one of the country's top-grossing athletic departments, which is also in the process of major structural changes during the ongoing merger of its long-separate men's and women's divisions.

"A lot of the adversity that we are facing is a byproduct of the tough times that we've gone through," Hart said. "We're developing a plan to get through the rough waters. They'll smooth out but not before the ship tilts and rocks."

To a UT fanbase that has rocked and tilted more than it's celebrated during the past four years, Hart said he understands the negativity that's swirled since the Kentucky loss. He gets it because even he wasn't above briefly contributing to it.

"I know it's hard for others to see it, but I see it every day. We're moving," Hart said. "We've got a direction that we're putting in place and we're moving in that direction.

"We've got a long way to go to get to that level of consistent success. We're in the pursuit of excellence. We're going to make comprehensive excellence our priority."

Andrew Gribble may be reached at 865-342-6327. Follow him at http://twitter.com/Andrew_Gribble and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/gribble

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Comments » 150

dvols writes:

oh good lord

take the money dave

FearlessFreep writes:

Hart gets it. He knows 2012 better be markedly improved than this season. Derek has job security because of his contract, but not a whole lot. If I were he I'd be taking a real hard look at who is UT caliber and who isn't.

BreweryVol writes:

in response to dvols:

oh good lord

take the money dave

A man who brings religion into sports is a fool? There are more important things in life the good lord needs to tend to.

CoverOrange writes:

Does Gribble get double credit for writing the same article twice? Is it possible to plagiarize yourself?

BreweryVol writes:

Ladies and Gentleman...........I do believe we have an AD that knows WTF he is doing. He comes from another GREAT South Eastern Conference school and knows what it takes to get the BIG ORANGE TRAIN rolling once again!

CoverOrange writes:

in response to BreweryVol:

A man who brings religion into sports is a fool? There are more important things in life the good lord needs to tend to.

Great googly-moogly.

Does that make you feel better?

Digital5000 writes:

I heard a little about/from Heart from articles, but really didn't know much about him as our future AD. Got to say, I like what he's up to. From a few of his previous quotes. and from this article, he's football first. The quotes from this articles are as genuine as a person can be , and it resonates through my PC. This guy cares about Vol football, and he gets it ya heard.

-Enjoy Yoselves

ps - Big up to Dave Hart for telling teachers to grow up when the football team plays music too loud. We need to win...and if it messes up class; we'll deal with that later

Digital5000 writes:

in response to BreweryVol:

Ladies and Gentleman...........I do believe we have an AD that knows WTF he is doing. He comes from another GREAT South Eastern Conference school and knows what it takes to get the BIG ORANGE TRAIN rolling once again!

Amen

BOOM!!!

-Enjoy Yoselves

Digital5000 writes:

I didn't want to talk to Dooley for a week either. Then he put on those damn orange pants and I couldn't help myself...

-Enjoy Yoselves

TheStupidPolice writes:

Dooley is still the coach, he couldn't have been too upset.

scvols writes:

I loved Hart's wife look at the end of the Charleston game when we turned the ball over, that look of OMG we SUCCK as she put her hand over her face and rolled her eyes back.

1volk-nowi-tall writes:

What shortfalls in the way of services and stuff?
Don,t we have the finest facilities in the nation or at least on par with any other programs?

VOLKING writes:

"It's not about win totals. It's about progress." Low win totals will get you 'progressed' out the door. How much longer must we suffer under this gloomy cloud and once again emerge as a team to be reckoned with...with honor and pride and respect? Vols, I will be there for you through it all. Just needed to vent.

frblalack writes:

If Dave Hart is a as good an Athletic Director as has been reported, Tennessee will be fine! He should know that Coach Dooley inherited a mess, has the program going in the right direction, and without any dire consequence next year will lead the Vols back to the upper echelon of the SEC!

I just hope he doesn't cave to the "instant gratification" which has permeated society, particularly college football. The BIG PICTURE is Coach Dooley competing for SEC championships given the opportunity. I challenge ANYONE who thinks otherwise to rationally explain how they could have done better under the circumstances!

Go Vols - All the time- Vol for Life

NashvillePreds writes:

Mr. Hart,

Please be the man your words indicate you are.
Specifically, be a true evaluater, strategic decision-maker, exhibitor of business savvy, manager, & winner.

I just witnessed an over-matched, under-funded hockey team defeat one of the most talented units on ice.
It was my greatest sports memory since the Preds sent Anaheim packing in the playoffs last yr.

A team that lacks in talent (i.e. recruiting base), funding (i.e. "youth") & tradition (i.e. depth) consistently finding ways to exceed expections is one of the greatest spectacles in life.

All we are asking, is for a football program that can attain some semblance of achieving expectations.

Please help us.

wsmows writes:

Its not rocket science , No one goes to the games can't even sell my #1 LSU tic's basketball is free and I don"t go #govols

OwensboroVol writes:

in response to BreweryVol:

Ladies and Gentleman...........I do believe we have an AD that knows WTF he is doing. He comes from another GREAT South Eastern Conference school and knows what it takes to get the BIG ORANGE TRAIN rolling once again!

Agree 100%. I just wish he had been here before Hamilton went out and tried to save a few Thousand Dollars hiring a new Basketball Coach. The thing just went to fast. They didn't have time to check out Martin or what type of coach he was or if He had the ability to coach at this level.

off_the_porch writes:

Mr. Hart -

Your comment, "It's not about win totals. It's about progress," is backwards.

Wins is progress. How could you have progress without wins.

harveyupdyketreehugger writes:

in response to TheStupidPolice:

Dooley is still the coach, he couldn't have been too upset.

Write yourself a citation

Huttdawg100 writes:

I hope Dooley works out. I really do.

But... I really want Greg Schiano.

BustaRhymes writes:

Blah Blah Blah... no action. Dooley is now Hart's coach... so his record is now Hart's record...

TNVolinTexas writes:

in response to wsmows:

Its not rocket science , No one goes to the games can't even sell my #1 LSU tic's basketball is free and I don"t go #govols

WHAT????? Can you translate that into English?

bigOutfan writes:

Coach Martin can't win against SC teams, how is he going to win against SEC teams? Nice guy I guess, so was Wade Houston.

1bigvolman writes:

Some of you BOZOS need to grow up! The reason Hart has a job like this, and you never will, is he understands what it takes to compete at this level. He understands what it takes to build the program from the ground up. If everyone of you was fired for your first failure, I'd never be able to get a quarter pounder, you'd all be unemployed and McDonalds would be closed! GBO!

D60 writes:

Somebody please tell me why Cheek's is still around,I'm guessing he's in with the Haslam's some how,they seem to be the one's running the sports programs @ UT anyway. Crooked oil money can get you a long way

OldNumber7 writes:

in response to off_the_porch:

Mr. Hart -

Your comment, "It's not about win totals. It's about progress," is backwards.

Wins is progress. How could you have progress without wins.

Like a poster just said...you don't understand how to build. There is a short time that you have to look at the total program direction...wins and losses is the END result..not the early metric. Although wins and losses won't be Hart's metric as much next year...it will be compared to this year. And the following year will be most assuredly about wins and losses. I'm glad the recruits seem to hear what Hart is saying.

wigmeister writes:

Get over Fulmer already! He was a good coach because he had the assistant coaches that carried the program. The last few years here his recruiting was not very good. Of his two top assistants, one is a head coach, and one leads the best defense in the nation. He had good coattails to ride on. It was time for a change! Get over it. It was four years ago. We just don't have the horses. It is that simple! If you don't recruit the best, you can't be the best!

15_counting writes:

As a Bama fan I can tell you Hart will get the football program at Tennessee back on track. He will support Dooley as long as the program is showing (sustained) improvement under his leadership. If at anytime he feels Dooley is not the man he will make a change. Public support is what Dooley needs now more than anything both from the AD as well as the fans. He can't recruit great players if they feel he's not going to be around to see them graduate. Coaching changes should be a last resort. They set the program back no matter who you hire. Give the man a chance. Five of UT's losses this year were to top ten ranked teams. Besides the injury losses the schedule was brutal. I think the future for UT is brighter than most think. Now that's from a Bama fan and I'm sure most don't care what I think.

wigmeister writes:

in response to 15_counting:

As a Bama fan I can tell you Hart will get the football program at Tennessee back on track. He will support Dooley as long as the program is showing (sustained) improvement under his leadership. If at anytime he feels Dooley is not the man he will make a change. Public support is what Dooley needs now more than anything both from the AD as well as the fans. He can't recruit great players if they feel he's not going to be around to see them graduate. Coaching changes should be a last resort. They set the program back no matter who you hire. Give the man a chance. Five of UT's losses this year were to top ten ranked teams. Besides the injury losses the schedule was brutal. I think the future for UT is brighter than most think. Now that's from a Bama fan and I'm sure most don't care what I think.

Even though you are a Bama fan, it was a good post!

shipperman#280095 writes:

in response to MerlOT_GoVols:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Well, Fulmer sure hasn't had his door beaten down for job offers. He was passed over by Kansas, twice, and Louisville wouldn't give him the time of day. Fat boy is done

15_counting writes:

in response to MerlOT_GoVols:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

It's better to keep your mouth shut and let people think your stupid that to open it and prove it! You and your stupidity are a minority amoung the UT fan base!

Nunshalpass writes:

What is done is done. Coach Fulmer is gone (love him or hate him) and he isn't coming back, so why continue to bring it up? That helps no one.
The Bama fan was correct, a coaching change should always be the last resort. Every time you make a coaching change it will set your program or any progress back a minimum of 2 years unless the cupboard is fully stocked... and ours wasn't.

volman444 writes:

hart knows what he is doing. now the clown named Walt 81 is as clueless as the moon. what is 81? your youth soccer jersey number? i bet everybody got a trophy.

punkin writes:

in response to 15_counting:

It's better to keep your mouth shut and let people think your stupid that to open it and prove it! You and your stupidity are a minority amoung the UT fan base!

I agree with your first post and yes, we still have people that are but-hurt over Fulmer. Sad and pathetic ain't it?

VOODOOley-2011 (Inactive) writes:

I would make Dooley and Hart switch jobs, let smart Attorney Dooley be the Athletic Director (as he was at LA Tech) and let Hart (The FA*T) run the football program like he runs is mouth. I bet Hart don't make it through 2012 without returning to Alabama.

knelson55 writes:

Lets bring Fulmer and Pearl back !

Shake_Bake writes:

in response to wigmeister:

Get over Fulmer already! He was a good coach because he had the assistant coaches that carried the program. The last few years here his recruiting was not very good. Of his two top assistants, one is a head coach, and one leads the best defense in the nation. He had good coattails to ride on. It was time for a change! Get over it. It was four years ago. We just don't have the horses. It is that simple! If you don't recruit the best, you can't be the best!

"If you don't recruit the best, you can't be the best!"

Amen to that!! Recruiting is the key to turning this thing around. If you don't have talented players in the SEC, it turns into a long season of losing. Like the one we just went through.

Bigger_Al writes:

in response to punkin:

I agree with your first post and yes, we still have people that are but-hurt over Fulmer. Sad and pathetic ain't it?

Remember that we had University of Johnny fans pouting all the way through the best years in modern UT football history.

volinlm writes:

If UT is fortunate enough to have a young, unproven (by SEC standards) coach be successful like Dooley it will be great. And, for a couple of million dollars in salary will be a real deal. However, if he doesn't work out after another year or so, I hope Hart is soliciting big donors to pay 3-4 million plus to get that "proven coach" many posters on here claim to have identified. That's what it will take. Is UT prepared to do that?

volinlm writes:

in response to MerlOT_GoVols:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Ignore this guy, even UT fans don't like him!

Madkels writes:

in response to MerlOT_GoVols:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

When are you Fulmerites going to face the facts that had Fulmer been a great evaluator of coaches, Sanders would not have been the OC after Cut left? Cut and Chief were the reasons for success in the 90's, but after that, things headed down hill. Fulmer was not able to put the pieces together again. I have all the respect for him, but it just wasn't working anymore.

TommyJack writes:

Sounds like Hart is a man on a mission. And the problem with that is?

Pullingguard writes:

in response to CoverOrange:

Does Gribble get double credit for writing the same article twice? Is it possible to plagiarize yourself?

He changed it around and added some new, so overall it was a good read. At least we know more about Dave Hart and his expectations of the UT Program being successful...

rockytopinga writes:

If Hart is this dense, it's time for him to go
along with Dooley and Martin.
If he saw progress in this years football and basketball (thus far) play, then he is like an
Ostrich with his head in the sand and you know what is showing.............

YRGatorsRunninUTK writes:

in response to TennVolAlum:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I agree. Hart did not have one original thought in the interview, just a bunch of slogans and buzzwords. I don't know why we put a buyout in his contract. One day we will want him to leave.

underthehill writes:

in response to TennVolAlum:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I was impressed by his explanation about our ship in rough waters just as I was with Dooley's watering the Bamboo..did you miss that part? I continue to be impressed with Martin because he has made NO EXCUSES to this point and is doing the best he can with what he has to work with..Not the case in football.

ksf1957#1371219 writes:

Neither Dave Hart or any other AD at a major college has any power to do anything. So why does anyone really care what he has to say. All the actual, meaningful decisions are made by the big donors (Haslam, Anderson, etc.). Hart collects his money to be the face/patsy for the fans to yell at when things go wrong. If people want to be upset, place your anger where it should be, i.e., the big donors who pay all the bills for facilities, get to lounge around with their own ilk in luxury boxes and fancy events. Just like with everything else in this world, the rich people control everything.

Not complaining, just stating facts.

1bigvolman writes:

Looks like the kids got up for school, more stupid remarks about changinging coaches ...AGAIN! You people surely can't be this dumb. I, like every other fan want the Vols to win every time they play...in every sport! Reality says it ain't gonna happen. Get a grip, the more times we fire coaches, the longer it'll be before we win again. I remember people griping over Fulmer only winning 8-10 games a year, saying, he can't win the big game. Fact is, like him or not Fulmer was the most successful coach UT has had in the modern era. The reason you young guys expect UT to win, is because of Fulmer. Now, Fulmer's gone...let's get behind Dooley, Hart and the entire team and hope we can return to that level soon. GBO!!!

chrisw2967 writes:

in response to 15_counting:

It's better to keep your mouth shut and let people think your stupid that to open it and prove it! You and your stupidity are a minority amoung the UT fan base!

looks like 13_counting just told Merlot off.
13_ ,Merlot still sleeps with his Phil Fulmer bubble head doll and theres no telling what he does with that doll.

1963VOLS writes:

in response to 15_counting:

As a Bama fan I can tell you Hart will get the football program at Tennessee back on track. He will support Dooley as long as the program is showing (sustained) improvement under his leadership. If at anytime he feels Dooley is not the man he will make a change. Public support is what Dooley needs now more than anything both from the AD as well as the fans. He can't recruit great players if they feel he's not going to be around to see them graduate. Coaching changes should be a last resort. They set the program back no matter who you hire. Give the man a chance. Five of UT's losses this year were to top ten ranked teams. Besides the injury losses the schedule was brutal. I think the future for UT is brighter than most think. Now that's from a Bama fan and I'm sure most don't care what I think.

lets see a bama fan gets it hummm

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