"There's no question in my mind that Tennessee can regain its prominence because of what it has to offer."
John Majors, former Tennessee coach and player
As one coach hired to rebuild Tennessee football to another, John Majors was sad to learn of Derek Dooley's firing Sunday.
Majors returned to his alma mater in 1977 to restore a UT program that had been on the slide for several years.
Some 33 years later, Dooley was hired as the third coach in three years.
"Derek took maybe the toughest job of any of us,'' Majors said Sunday night from his South Knoxville home.
"Mary Lynn (Majors' wife) and I both have tremendous respect for Derek Dooley and we pulled very hard for him. He made a strong effort to improve the program in every way.''
When Majors came to UT off a national championship at Pittsburgh, he was hailed as a hero. Besides building Pitt to a national power, he had the cachet of being a Heisman Trophy runner-up at Tennessee in 1956.
Perhaps those credentials helped him survive a slow start. After four seasons, Majors was 21-23-1.
But he got a fifth, and eventually led the Vols to three SEC championships in his 16 seasons.
Dooley got 34 months.
"When I came in we needed a lot of modernization in our facilities,'' Majors said. "It took a while to get that sold.
"In three years it's very difficult to build a football program.''
Majors said Dooley leaves the program better than he found it in terms of facilities, discipline and character.
"I very much wanted to see him not only survive, but thrive,'' Majors said.
"But there's no question in my mind that Tennessee can regain its prominence because of what it has to offer.
"The new coach comes in to some of the best facilities in America. I know the young kids just think about the last two or three years, but as long as we can get the players that other good schools in this conference can get in, we can compete for championship-caliber football.''