As you might have concluded from our 2012 football section, Tennessee coach Derek Dooley will begin the season on the "hot seat." As you also might have concluded, burning furniture has become a sidebar to UT football.
When former coach Lane Kiffin burned the Vols by abandoning them for Southern California in January of 2010, the heated response of fans was best captured by a flaming couch. It should be noted that no one has actually torched a chair over the possibility that Dooley's third season at UT could be his last. Our cover was just an artistic rendering.
It also should be noted that, in any given year, some coach has to be on the hot seat in the SEC. That's just the nature of an unforgiving league.
He doesn't have to stay there, though. He could go from the hot seat to sitting pretty.
In fact, I wouldn't be shocked if Dooley were named SEC coach of the year at the end of the season.
Go ahead and ask: "What about Nick Saban? Or Les Miles? Or Steve Spurrier?"
Answer: Think back to last season.
Saban is coming off a national championship season at Alabama. Kind of hard to improve on that, huh? And the coach of the year award is as much about improvement as it is championships.
Miles could win the SEC championship and still not win the award, because voters will remember what happened after so honoring him last season (see national championship game for details).
You could give the award to Spurrier almost any season for what he has accomplished at South Carolina. But after 11 victories and a top-10 finish last season, improvement will be hard to come by.
Improvement is practically a given for the Vols after a 5-7 season, which was preceded by a 6-7 season. Look what the Vols return in personnel (18 starters) and what they lost from their schedule (No. 5 Arkansas and No. 2 LSU).
And even an 8-5 season would be a significant step forward.
Then, Dooley wouldn't be known as the SEC coach with consecutive losing seasons. He would be regarded as the coach who had taken a once-prominent program at its lowest ebb and restored it to respectability.
That's the sort of accomplishment that earns you a coach of the year award.
Spurrier won the award in 2010 with a 9-5 record, which was an upgrade over South Carolina's 7-6 finish the previous year. The 2008 award was shared by three coaches, including Houston Nutt, who was 9-4 at Ole Miss and Bobby Johnson, who was 7-6 at Vanderbilt.
Mississippi State coach Sylvester Croom won the award in 2007 with an 8-5 record after finishing 3-9 the year before. Nutt won it in 2006 by going 10-4 a year after the Razorbacks were 4-7.
The Vols might not improve that much. But they could improve enough to make the coach on the hot seat the coach of the year.