Derek Dooley's lobbying for more assistants bucks trend

Derek Dooley talks to reporters before SEC spring meetings

DESTIN, Fla. — Midway through his interview session with reporters Tuesday, Derek Dooley reached into his briefcase and pulled out a chart.

Dooley didn’t want to get any of his self-compiled facts and figures wrong because, as the Tennessee coach repeatedly said before the first day of SEC spring meetings, he doesn’t know “how you can argue against the data.”

While many coaches spent the day debating the pluses and minuses of “roster management,” the hot-button topic of this year’s annual gathering of conference coaches and athletic directors, Dooley came to the Hilton beach resort looking for answers about the limits he and the rest of the coaches in college football have on their roster of coaches.

“The point I raise is ‘Who said nine is the right number? Why are we assuming nine is the right number?’ ” Dooley said, referring to the NCAA standard that prevents schools from hiring more than nine, on-field assistant coaches.

“We don’t have enough coaches to manage as many players and to be accountable for all their actions.”

Dooley admitted that some of his colleagues might think he’s “out of his mind” for sticking his neck out about the issue, especially when the direction of recent NCAA legislation appears headed in the opposite direction.

This past year, the NCAA passed a proposal that limits Division I schools to no more than five “weight and strength” coaches who work with a football program in any capacity, including all workouts (required or voluntary), practices and game-related activities. Also on the table is legislation that would create a cap of four for non-coaching staff members. By definition, non-coaching staff members include directors of operations, quality control assistants and video coordinators.

Starting in 2012-13, coaches will be able to add two more graduate assistants to their staffs, bringing the total from two to four.

In an ideal world, Dooley would love to add to every facet of his staff. By doing that, there wouldn’t be this proliferation of excessive non-coaching assistants.

“The data is so blinding to me,” Dooley said. “I just would like to know why. What’s the answer?

“We’ve got a sport here that every department depends on financially. We’ve got a sport here that is the front porch of our marketing arm for our university. We’ve got a sport that is scrutinized, analyzed, covered more than any other sport out there. And yet we have less coaches who are mentoring, motivating, guiding our players than any other sport. All I’m asking is why?”

It doesn’t appear Dooley was able to do that during Tuesday’s meeting.

After spending the afternoon with the league’s football coaches, SEC commissioner Mike Slive said he wasn’t aware of Dooley’s opinion.

Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino said he would be fine with the move to limit staffs to four non-coaching assistants because “we’d be right at that now.”

UT currently has five members of its football program who would likely qualify as non-coaching staff members.

Looking exclusively at scholarship players and full-time assistant coaches, there is an 8.5 to 1 player-to-coach ratio on college football teams, according to Dooley’s findings. When walk-ons and other staff members are factored, the ratio jumps to 10.5-12:1, which is easily the largest gap in all college sports, Dooley said.

In the NFL, where Dooley worked for two seasons as a tight ends coach for the Miami Dolphins, the ratio is 3:1.

The numbers don’t tell the whole story, either, Dooley said.

“They have half the number of people on their team, they’re not responsible for their academics, they don’t have to recruit, they don’t have to evaluate and they’re not responsible for them off the field like we are,” he said. “I don’t see the fairness from what we have in our sport relative to all other college sports and then when you compare our sport to the NFL, it’s eye-popping.”

Dooley even had counter-points ready for potential questions to his proposal.

UT and most of its SEC colleagues, of course, could afford to hire more coaches if the limits were lifted. The majority of schools, which are cash-strapped and dependent on student fees, would probably be at a disadvantage.

Dooley’s solution to that problem would involve another NCAA rule being torn to shreds. He said he is in favor of allowing teams to hire volunteer coaches.

Under current NCAA rules, football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball are the only sports where volunteer assistants are prohibited.

“There’s plenty of football coaches that would come out and work for free,” Dooley said.

If Dooley had his way, there would simply be more coaches working, free and fully-funded.

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 » 22

VOLliven2it writes:

What's the matter with Coach Dooley? Does he not know that NCAA Div.1A football is unlike the others? If these kinds of changes were allowed, why one day that division might seriously examine having a playoff to decide the National Champion. No, wait...hold it....that is just not happening. But some of us can still hope!

CoverOrange writes:

If George Cafego could have volunteered to coach he would probably be still out there today. Wonder what happened to that ole conversion van.

bigsteve92 writes:

in response to VOLliven2it:

What's the matter with Coach Dooley? Does he not know that NCAA Div.1A football is unlike the others? If these kinds of changes were allowed, why one day that division might seriously examine having a playoff to decide the National Champion. No, wait...hold it....that is just not happening. But some of us can still hope!

they arent getting rid of bowl games because to many cities make money off bowl games. cities are fighting it because they would lose money if they didnt have it anymore

RockyToptoNeyland writes:

I think Dooley is right, it makes sense, and everyone hates petrino, so no one cares what he thinks, but I wonder how many coaches should be added on? Doesn't matter anyway, the ncaa is just gonna keep cuttin, and gettin more strict with rules on that matter.

tmartin writes:

good idea. i will volunteer to count the players on the field for each play, right down to the very last tick.

woodwr#217203 writes:

Has anyone else noticed how much Daniel Tosh (as in point-oh) looks like Lane Kiffin?

muddogUT writes:

Quit recruiting criminals and you might get by with less assistants !

hcjournals#206623 writes:

Nothing was funnier than when they gave Coach
Cafego a used van when he retired. Drove it all over the field to show everybody. heard he was hacked off.....

mnvol writes:

If football coaches want to improve the player/coach ratio perhaps they should reduce the roster number. Including scholarship and non-scholarship athletes, UT currently shows 116 football players on their roster. Does a football team really need 116 players?

BobbyGraham writes:

in response to tmartin:

good idea. i will volunteer to count the players on the field for each play, right down to the very last tick.

If you think that anyone is amused by your remarks, then you are sorely mistaken. How would you even know how many players we had on the field? You were probably watching The Band Perry instead of the football game.

pj_ladyvolnMI writes:

I love having a coach that's a lawyer.

adj writes:

We have a very articulate coach in Dooley and should be proud and happy for our team and the University of Tennessee. Coach Derek Dooley says the right things while having an opinion that is extremely well informed. Unlike some coaches who can't seem to talk without inciting others. He always sounds genuine and never like a robot.

I love his interviews. I think they are entertaining and always insightful. This guy is a breath of fresh air. I also think he genuinely does not want to cheat and has the intellect and balls to actually do it.

Biggie writes:

in response to amyinsparta:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Man please! The teachers are not responsible for any of their students. The students are responsible for themselves! When is the last time a student got in trouble with the law, or flunked a course or skipped a class and the teacher was to blame?

ROCKYTOPBRAD writes:

hey i can count to 11 coach where do i sign

UTVOL2001 writes:

I think this really shows the character of Dooley. No, the coaches should not be responsible for the actions of other men. However, because of his integrity and character, he wants to take responsibility and manage and mentor his team. What he understands is he has the ability to develop players. That is what we want, right? We do not want someone just to recruit the best talent and throw them out there. This man really gets it. Success and continued success is a PROCESS and the more you can develop players and young men, the better organization you will have.

easleychuck writes:

in response to muddogUT:

Quit recruiting criminals and you might get by with less assistants !

Did you think that up all by yourself?

PennVol writes:

in response to pj_ladyvolnMI:

I love having a coach that's a lawyer.

I can see it now...SEC Debate Team Champions!

bkwats2003#237114 writes:

in response to CantStandSaban:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

The real question is when is Vandy going to build a real basketball facility and stop playing in that oversized study hall that embarrasses the rest of the conference on television?

ClearVol writes:

in response to amyinsparta:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I don't think anybody disagrees that we need more teachers everywhere, however, if the coaches are responsible for what these players/kids do on AND off the field, the ratio needs to be better. Are you willing to lose YOUR job and be publicly dragged through the mud for what somebody elses kid does when you're not around?

Pompey writes:

in response to CantStandSaban:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

.....only fool I see is "Cant Stand Saban", and I "can stand you" jerk.....

Pompey writes:

in response to amyinsparta:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

....teachers are important to us all but the constant whinning from them is hard to take....

kabulvol writes:

in response to amyinsparta:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Get real Amyinsparta. You only about 20 in your class at any given time, right? And, if they go out and get a DUI, you are nowhere in the responsibility chain. In fact, you're probably curled up on the couch watching The Bachelorette while your students are doing God knows what and you don't have a care in the world. Jeez.

And, my wife is a schoolteacher so I know the real deal.

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