DESTIN, Fla. - Like most SEC coaches here this week, Derek Dooley largely stayed away from specifics when prompted about Ohio State coach Jim Tressel's recent controversy-filled resignation.
Dooley and his coaching brethren were nearly unanimous in their feelings that Tressel's departure was inevitable because of how he misled NCAA investigators, but none used the opportunity to pass judgment.
There was enough knowledge, though, for a little self-reflection.
"It reminds you of the responsibility of what you have and it's something I try to remind our players," Dooley said. "It's the responsibility they have and how to represent this place because it doesn't take much for something bad to happen."
When the NCAA Committee on Infractions levies its penalties months after next week's hearing in Indianapolis, Dooley will likely be the coach of a program hampered by sanctions. Because the two violations alleged against the Vols' football program are pinned exclusively on former coach Lane Kiffin and members of his staff, the limitations placed on Dooley's current enterprise aren't anticipated to be severe, but the helpless feeling lingers because it's now out of everyone at UT's hands.
That's why Dooley said he's not sleeping at the wheel with what he can control in the present.
So far under Dooley's watch, the football program has self-reported two secondary violations - one for an inadvertent Facebook wall post made by Dooley to a prospective student-athlete, and another for accidentally providing a recruiting host with an extra $15 per diem.
In a unique, perhaps pre-emptive, decision at the end of last season, Dooley suspended cornerback Art Evans for five games because he fell behind on his car payments.
UT athletic director Mike Hamilton has stressed that secondary violations of this nature are inevitable because of the complexity of NCAA rules. How coaches attack these natural occurrences is also a complex process, Dooley said, because, more often than not, a rumor of impermissible behavior is often just that - a rumor.
"If there's enough things floating around you, you probably should do something. It's hard," Dooley said. "I always go back to parenting. Whenever I kind of get in a bind, I just try to say 'All right, if this was my son, what would I do? Would I do this? Or would I go attack it?'
"When you turn a blind eye to matters, it can lead to things you never dreamed could happen."
One way Dooley and his staff have introduced their presence more into their players' off-the-field lives is through Dooley's Vol for Life (VFL) program. Coordinated by former UT standout Andre Lott, the program has already put players through ride-alongs and a training seminar with the Knoxville Police Department. The program has also educated players on topics such as balancing a check book and making the most of UT's alumni network.
Dooley said he recently met with Lott to modify the VFL program's summer curriculum.
One of the items on the agenda is to have a number of speakers on campus to talk about the latest hot-button issues that have landed players and programs in hot water.
"We're far from where we need to be," Dooley said. "That's certainly the things that we're trying to - I wouldn't say control - but try to educate our players.
"It's easy when you're a player to get lost in your world and not realize the impact that your actions can have on an entire university and fanbase. It's no different than people who sit behind the computer screen and they start doing things and they don't see the consequence."
No matter how proactive they try to be, Dooley and his coaches can't be every player's shadow from sunrise to sunset. Problems and bad behavior - even of the unintentional nature - are bound to crop up at a program the size of UT's.
It's just a matter of how it's handled once the news reaches an authority figure.
"I've told our coaches, if we get fired around here, it better be for losing," Dooley said. "Just look in the last year, (Mark) Mangino, (Jim) Leavitt, (Mike) Leach, Tressel. Phenomenal football coaches. I hope I can win the way any one of them did.
"(They) have all been fired for something totally unrelated to winning and losing."