Chuck Smith on the end of his career with the Vols
Even without a job at his alma mater anymore, Chuck Smith isn’t cutting ties with Tennessee.
The former defensive line coach also made clear that if it were up to him, his professional relationship with the program he played for would still be intact.
Smith on Friday morning offered his side of what UT officially termed Feb. 6 a mutual decision in announcing the parting of ways between the two during a wide-ranging, 25-minute press conference he organized outside of Neyland Stadium.
And while he repeatedly and emotionally stressed his loyalty to the Vols, Smith certainly appeared bothered by the way his coaching career ended with them after one season on new coach Derek Dooley’s staff.
“There have been a lot of questions about why I’ve abruptly left my alma mater as the defensive line coach and the school I love,” Smith said. “I put my heart and soul into a job, and I want to let you guys know why I left. The decision to leave the University of Tennessee wasn’t my decision.
“The decision was made — let me make sure I say the right thing, this is tough — a mutual decision was brought to me that I’m too big for the program and my stature is too big and I could better help serve this program in a different capacity. Stay and move to another position here or go home. I decided under the circumstances at the school I love and with the effort I put in, in fairness to the program, I probably would need to step to the side. The point is, I never agreed to step to the side.”
Smith also didn’t agree to move to another position that was offered by the university.
A UT official in the football program confirmed that Smith was presented with an option to remain with the Vols in an undetermined role. The official requested anonymity as the subject matter concerned personnel.
Smith denied that he was fired, but no matter how the move is officially described, the Vols are moving on with Lance Thompson sliding down to fill the void on the line and graduate assistant Peter Sirmon taking the open staff position with the linebackers.
“A real (Vol for Life) would never, ever, ever walk off on his team,” Smith said, “Never. The history of Tennessee over the last few years has shown dissension, guys moving, quitting, I would never, ever, ever, ever (quit). I love Derek Dooley and this program. I have no problem with the program, I have no problem with Derek or me, people leave all the time. Circumstances warrant we’re all going to get hired to be moved on, and I didn’t get fired.
“Chuck Smith doesn’t quit. I would have stepped aside, because I’m professional. In a professional setting, all we had to do is just say, ‘Guys, it’s a little uncomfortable. There are rumors, let’s work it out, let’s figure it out.’ ”
Smith repeatedly referred to rumors and lies about him as part of his problem with the outcome, shooting down any talk of issues with coordinator Justin Wilcox or a lack of chemistry with the rest of the defensive staff.
But among the many people around the country he thanked for support — among them former UT assistants Ed Orgeron and Trooper Taylor, New York Jets coach Rex Ryan and the entire Vols offensive staff — Smith notably left Wilcox, Thompson, Sirmon and defensive backs coach Terry Joseph off the list.
“There are rumors, and I had to clear up my name,” Smith said. “There are rumors about dissension, not getting along, things that in a competitive field happen all the time. Lies, blog rumors, vicious rumors that started earlier in the year because of petty jealousy, divided a room.
“I would have clearly stepped aside, as I will always do the right thing by the University of Tennessee. But I’m big on being professional. When you say something, I expect you to do it. I’m going to leave it at that. . . . I want to thank Derek Dooley publicly for giving me an opportunity, thank you to the University of Tennessee again for building me into an absolutely successful person that has a thirst for more. My drive is still alive, guys.”
Smith made clear that his passion for UT lives on, as well, even though his coaching career with the program won’t.
Austin Ward covers Tennessee football. He may be reached 865-342-6274. Follow him at http://twitter.com/Vols_Beat and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/ward.