University of Tennessee football coach Derek Dooley addressed his team Monday about reports and rumors that his firing was imminent, but said he had received assurances from Athletic Director Dave Hart that no decision had been made on his future.
Tennessee lost to Missouri in four overtimes last Saturday, dropping the Vols’ SEC record to 0-6.
Dooley said he was working on the game plan for Vanderbilt, Tennessee’s opponent Saturday, when the rumors began to penetrate the football complex Sunday.
“Everybody was saying I was fired,” Dooley said, “and I didn’t even know it.”
Dooley said Hart assured him that not only was he not fired, but that no decision had been made on his future at Tennessee.
“We talked very frankly about it,” Dooley said. “He told me he had not made a decision, despite what all the reports are. Either the sources are wrong or Dave wasn’t being forthright with me, and I have no reason to think Dave isn’t being forthright with me. He’s an honest man, he’s always been honest with me, and I’ve appreciated how he’s handled everything about this.”
Still, Dooley said he felt compelled to discuss the issue with his team Monday, because they had heard the rampant rumors and speculation about his status.
“I’m not going to talk about what I told the team, but, yeah, I addressed it,” Dooley said.
Players said they supported the way Dooley addressed the distractions.
“It’s an inside thing, it’s between us and the team. I’m not going to disclose it to the media,” linebacker Herman Lathers said. “We’re a close-knit bunch and we stand together no matter what.”
Dooley said he didn’t press Hart for an answer about whether he would be back in 2013. He also declined an opportunity to state his case to the public.
“I can give you compelling arguments why I should (be retained), and there are plenty of compelling arguments about why I shouldn’t,” Dooley said. “It’s not going to be your decision, it’s not going to be a bunch of these sources’ decisions, it’s Dave (Hart) and the chancellor. It’s their decision, and I can’t control what they think.”
Dooley said the toughest part of the last 48 hours has been the impact on his family. Dooley is married with three children, all younger than 14.
“The hardest thing is when they are seeing things that are contrary to what their dad is telling them,” he said. “That’s where it gets a little tough, but that’s part of the profession. We have to deal with it. That’s how it is.”
Dooley said he was proud of how his players have responded.
“There is no negativity on the team, there are no mean-spirited comments, there is no gossip,” he said. “We probably all ought to learn from them a little bit.”
Evan Woodbery covers Tennessee football. Follow him at www.Twitter.com/TennesseeBeat.