Tennessee fires Derek Dooley

Tennessee head football coach fired after three seasons

Article Highlights

  • Earned a law degree at Georgia
  • Joined Vols in Jan. 2010
  • 15-21 overall, 4-19 in the SEC
Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley watches play against Vanderbilt at Vanderbilt Stadium in Nashville on Saturday, Nov. 17, 2012. Vanderbilt defeated Tennessee 41-18. (AMY SMOTHERMAN BURGESS/NEWS SENTINEL)

Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley watches play against Vanderbilt at Vanderbilt Stadium in Nashville on Saturday, Nov. 17, 2012. Vanderbilt defeated Tennessee 41-18. (AMY SMOTHERMAN BURGESS/NEWS SENTINEL)

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Derek Dooley was fired as Tennessee’s football coach Sunday, one day after the Vols were trounced by Vanderbilt in a history-making defeat that guaranteed a third consecutive losing season under Dooley’s watch.

Dooley will not coach the Vols (4-7, 0-7 SEC) in the final game of the regular season, against Kentucky at Neyland Stadium on Saturday (TV: WVLT, 12:21 p.m.), Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart said in a university release. Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney has been named interim head coach.

“We very much appreciate the effort and energy that Derek Dooley and his staff have poured into our football program at the University of Tennessee,” Hart in the release. “Derek and I met early this morning, and I informed him that I believed a change in leadership, despite the positive contributions he has made to the overall health of the program, was in the best long-term interests of Tennessee football. We will immediately begin the search for the best possible candidate to assume this leadership role.”

Dooley is 15-21 overall and 4-19 in the SEC since being hired after the 2009 season to replace Lane Kiffin, who stunned fans when he left for Southern California after only one season.

Tennessee was expected to be significantly improved this year after missing a bowl berth when the 2011 season ended with the first loss to Kentucky in 26 years.

But Dooley and the Vols couldn’t get over the hump against top SEC opponents, losing close games to Florida, Georgia, Mississippi State and South Carolina. Dooley finished his tenure 0-15 against opponents ranked in the Top 25.

“I am sorry we could not generate enough wins to create hope for a brighter future,” Dooley in the release. “Although progress was not reflected in our record, I am proud of the strides we made to strengthen the foundation for future success in all areas of the program.

“During the last 34 months, I’ve given my all for Tennessee, and our family appreciates all this University and the Knoxville community has given us.”

After a last-second loss at South Carolina on Oct. 27, Dooley dubbed the final four games “the second season,” and many believed he could save his job with a 4-0 finish.

But the Vols allowed 721 yards of total offense in a last-second victory against Troy, squandered a big lead in a loss to Missouri and then were embarrassed Saturday at Vanderbilt, 41-18.

The Vols dropped to 0-7 in the SEC for the first time in school history, losing to Vanderbilt in Nashville for the first time since 1982.

Tennessee’s offense has flourished for most of this year, but the defense has been the team’s undoing. Dooley hired former Alabama assistant Sal Sunseri as defensive coordinator during the offseason, and a rocky transition to Sunseri’s 3-4 set has produced one the nation’s worst defenses.

Related stories, videos and photos: A timeline of Derek Dooley's tenure at Tennessee

Dooley, 44, is the son of legendary Georgia coach Vince Dooley. He grew up in Athens, Ga., and played football at the University of Virginia.

Dooley earned a law degree at Georgia and practiced law in Atlanta before deciding to follow his father’s path in the coaching business.

Dooley’s career benefited from his association with Nick Saban, whose staff he joined at LSU in 2000. Dooley coached tight ends, running backs and special teams under Saban for five seasons at LSU and then joined his staff in the NFL with the Miami Dolphins.

Dooley landed his first head coaching job at Louisiana Tech after the 2006 season. Two years later, he added athletic director duties to his job description.

In three seasons at Tech, Dooley went 17-20 and 12-12 in the Western Athletic Conference. His best year was 2008, when the Bulldogs went 8-5 and won the Independence Bowl.

Dooley was hired only one year after the ouster of Phillip Fulmer, who won 152 games and the 1998 national championship in 17 years as Tennessee’s head coach.

Kiffin, Fulmer’s young replacement, earned praise for aggressive recruiting but also was admonished for racking up secondary NCAA violations. (The NCAA sanctioned Tennessee on Friday for a major violation left over from Kiffin’s brief tenure).

Dooley offered stability and a squeaky-clean image to fans stung by Kiffin’s bombastic style and quick exit.

Dooley’s firing won’t be cheap. Tennessee will have to pay Dooley roughly $5 million to buyout the remainder of his contract. The payments are due in installments of roughly $102,040 per month through December 2016.

Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney, if he is not retained by the new staff, is owed about $645,000.

The $5.6 million to Dooley and Chaney is guaranteed. The other seven assistants working under multi-year contracts could be due as much as $3.71 million, depending on how quickly they find other jobs and how much those jobs pay.

That money, while daunting, is unlikely to significantly impact the budget for Tennessee’s next head coach.

Hart, who has been AD for a little more than one year, is expected to conduct a close-to-the-vest search with little outside input.

Text of Associate Athletic Director Jimmy Stanton's release

The University of Tennessee announced today that Derek Dooley will not return as the head football coach of the Vols. The announcement was made by Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Dave Hart, who will immediately begin a search for a new head coach for the Vols.

Hart will address the media at 2 p.m. today (Sunday, Nov. 18) at the Stokely Family Media Center at Neyland Stadium. The press conference will also be streamed live on UTSports.com.

“We very much appreciate the effort and energy that Derek Dooley and his staff have poured into our football program at the University of Tennessee,” said Hart. “Derek and I met early this morning, and I informed him that I believed a change in leadership, despite the positive contributions he has made to the overall health of the program, was in the best long-term interests of Tennessee football. We will immediately begin the search for the best possible candidate to assume this leadership role.”

Dooley will not coach the Vols in the season finale against Kentucky on Saturday, Nov. 24 at 12:21 p.m. Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney will serve as interim head coach for Saturday’s game.

“I am sorry we could not generate enough wins to create hope for a brighter future,” said Dooley. “Although progress was not reflected in our record, I am proud of the strides we made to strengthen the foundation for future success in all areas of the program.

“During the last 34 months, I’ve given my all for Tennessee, and our family appreciates all this University and the Knoxville community has given us.”

Evan Woodbery covers Tennessee football. Follow him at www.Twitter.com/TennesseeBeat.

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Comments » 346

stormblast writes:

Let it be done.

mtnbikrtn writes:

It is finished...

Btownvol writes:

Hallelujah!

bigdisbig writes:

In order to receive his buyout Dooley should be made to sit on the bench with a bucket over his worthless head at the Ky. game. He has done more harm to the Vols program than any coach ever.
Whoever agreed to the contract for this loser should be fired as well. NO MERCY for a snake lawyer who couldn't coach a pee wee team.

14th_rated_sec_coach writes:

now I am going to have to change my screen name. You wont have Dooley to kick around anymore trolls.. Bring on Petrino...proven winner....

DeltaCharlie3 writes:

One correction to the article, the Florida game wasn't close.

Regarding Dooley, he was awful from day one. But the next guy will do about the same after 3 years.

I expect UT to take a major step back next year regardless of the coach. We're talking 4-8 at best next year.

derekpanda415 writes:

I would like to say even though he was a terrible coach he still came to work every Saturday with the exception of yesterday but here's my coaching candidates

1. AL Golden
2. Mike Gundy
3. Jon Gruden

Gruden is such a long shot and truth be told you dont really know what your gonna get and at this point thats the last thing we need

Stooley_Dinks writes:

Now, we can all look forward. And, I will go back to my old screen name.

Tru138 writes:

Good. Better late than never.

4114 writes:

What took so long?

Basketvol writes:

According to an article on timesfreepress.com, it sounds like the team was told of Dooley's firing at a meeting where he wasn't present. That doesn't seem right. I don't care who the next coach is, as long as he is not a crook (Kiffin) or a loser as a football coach (Dooley). Who's it going to be?

spacehistorian writes:

After last night's debacle at Vandy this comes as no surprise. I hate it for Dooley who seems like a really nice guy but it comes down to wins and losses in the SEC. Nice guys finish last but I am sure the 5 million buyout will comfort him as he ponders his future. Now it is all about moving forward on The Hill and bringing in the right coach to turn our program around. We have talent but we need a head coach and coaching staff that can get the best out of our talent while recruiting better across the country. I want a coaching staff that can make halftime adjustments! So the pressure is on AD Hart to hire a head coach that will return the Vols to prominence in the SEC and nationally. Screw this up Hart and you will find yourself on the chopping block next. I wish Coach Dooley the best in his future endeavors but I am glad this drama is over. Now is the time for Big Orange Nation to unite behind the next coach. Let's hope he is worthy of our support and enthusiasm. Losing leaves a bitter taste we are ready to wash away with the sweet nectar of victory. Go Big Orange!!!

kjvols writes:

Get Petrino Nowwwwwww!

UT_Braddah writes:

Okay all of you classless, immature brats, go ahead and let us know what candidates you will find acceptable, so that the University can make sure you're happy with the hire. Because God knows, if you disagree with the hire the "culture of negativity" will only continue. Because, of course, you know exactly who should and should not coach this team.

I love Dooley, and know he's a good man. But I agree he had to go. But some of you bums show absolutely no class or compassion for a GOOD MAN who took the job that none of your dream coaches would take, gave it his all, suffered some of the worst luck and toughest schedule imaginable, and demonstrated true character that you LACK and will never have.

YOU have damaged this program with your classless negativity. What coach with other job opportunities would come here? What players with other opportunities will come here?

My rant ain't about Dooley...he needed to go. I think he'll spend a few years as an assistant and then reemerge as a very attractive HC candidate.

My post is about YOU...bunch of weak, classless, heartless, whining, ungrateful, unrealistic, spoiled, know-it-all, quitters.

rich182x writes:

We need a proven winner, no more of this saban disciple shite. Not even Kirby Smart. We don't know if Gruden can recruit after the initial buzz is gone. Exciting, yes. Proven, no. Here's my list

1.Nick Saban
2. Chris Petersen
3.Brian Kelly
4. John Gruden
5. Chip Kelly

DeltaCharlie3 writes:

Your in competition with Kentucky and Auburn at the moment for a head coach. Good move by Hart getting out there in the field quickly.

I'd recommend he complete the search VERY quietly as to avoid the public embarrassment of having the first 3, 4, 5 candidates say "no thanks."

That set Dooley back in my opinion, because it was common knowledge he was far from the first choice.

Having said that, I think Bob Stoops is itching to get out of Oklanhoma. I could be wrong, but I think he'd listen.

imw8n4u writes:

Pretty funny they aren't even going to let him coach the KY game, so even if we win Dooley's record shows a winless SEC year. I think once Dooley realized his job was in jeopardy, he mailed it in. Why deal with this headache when you can get paid $100k per month for literally doing nothing??? That's what I really hate about these buyout deals, they are counter productive!

NeedForSpeed writes:

Last year's Christmas finally came. Should have happend after Kentucky last year. I think the AD should be given the heave ho for not seeing it then like 99% of the Vol nation and TV talking head college experts kind of already knew. Bad hire, was not ready for it and sure as hell wasn't worth that contract. Yep, AD should be shown the door soon. I don't want that idiot anywhere near the decision process for the next coach. This is one time when I'd agree someone like Fulmer and even prominent former players like T Martin and Peyton Manning should be on a committee to help pick and recruit the 'perfect, already proven' next coach.

ULTIMATEVOLUNTEER writes:

Show some class people. Derek gave it his all and he didn't accomplish what he wanted. So what. That's life. He's a mature grown man and understands that results are what matter to a university, not all the other positive things. This isn't life or death and he'll move on to bigger and better things.

DeltaCharlie3 writes:

Youre in competition with Kentucky and Auburn at the moment for a head coach. Good move by Hart getting out there in the field quickly.

I'd recommend he complete the search VERY quietly as to avoid the public embarrassment of having the first 3, 4, 5 candidates say "no thanks."

That set Dooley back in my opinion, because it was common knowledge he was far from the first choice.

Having said that, I think Bob Stoops is itching to get out of Oklanhoma. I could be wrong, but I think he'd listen.

PennVol writes:

I hope UT has learned from this mistake and makes a much better choice this time around. Can't learn on the job in the SEC. Still think we can win quicker than the experts think with the right coaches.

vfl76 writes:

It says a lot about you as a coach if you decline to coach the last game for your players, and a chance to go out a winner.

TheStupidPolice writes:

in response to UT_Braddah:

Okay all of you classless, immature brats, go ahead and let us know what candidates you will find acceptable, so that the University can make sure you're happy with the hire. Because God knows, if you disagree with the hire the "culture of negativity" will only continue. Because, of course, you know exactly who should and should not coach this team.

I love Dooley, and know he's a good man. But I agree he had to go. But some of you bums show absolutely no class or compassion for a GOOD MAN who took the job that none of your dream coaches would take, gave it his all, suffered some of the worst luck and toughest schedule imaginable, and demonstrated true character that you LACK and will never have.

YOU have damaged this program with your classless negativity. What coach with other job opportunities would come here? What players with other opportunities will come here?

My rant ain't about Dooley...he needed to go. I think he'll spend a few years as an assistant and then reemerge as a very attractive HC candidate.

My post is about YOU...bunch of weak, classless, heartless, whining, ungrateful, unrealistic, spoiled, know-it-all, quitters.

STUPID!

td writes:

The real tragedy in this drama is the 7 fifth year seniors who signed with Tennessee in the wake of a SEC East Championship in 2007. I guarantee not one of those guys had any idea they'd go through 4 Head Coaches (if we count Cheney this week) and compile the worst cumulative record in post-1926 Tennessee Football. The seniors, in my opinion, deserve an A for perseverance. They stuck with the Vols and didn't bail out on the program. They're true Vols For Life!!!

BTW, wonder what the attendance will be against Kentucky?

Vol_USArmy_Soldier writes:

Good riddens.

bigdaddy37821 writes:

He should have to clean restrooms for all home games and Thompson Boling events to get the payout. Stick a fork in your behind you are done. Coach Battle can finally say that he is not the worst coach ever at TENNESSEE.

Voltman writes:

in response to Stooley_Dinks:

Now, we can all look forward. And, I will go back to my old screen name.

You know whats sad. Noone even wants you here with an attitude and a screen name like that.People like you give UT a bad name regardless of the coach they have and had.

NorthwestVol writes:

The Vols are better off than when Dooley arrived and there is a decent level of talent to take the next step. Best of luck to him as he moves forward. Heaven knows he didn't have much the last three years.

BigOrangeRock writes:

If you recall, Merlot predicted that in November Dooley would be fired and Chaney would be hired as interim coach. Man that poster is ALWAYS right.

rich182x writes:

Now is the time to get a proven coach, a proven winner. No more of this Saban Disciple Shite. Kirby Smart is not the answer. We don't know if Gruden can recruit after the initial buzz has worn off, but I guess winning helps. Exciting, yes. Proven? No. Here's my list:

1. Nick Saban (jk)
2. Chip Kelley
3. Brian Kelley
4. John Gruden
5. Chris Petersen

vollerdash writes:

I think if Dooley would have had just one more year,the Vols would have been a contender in the east... the middle east that is !!

BankerVol writes:

in response to UT_Braddah:

Okay all of you classless, immature brats, go ahead and let us know what candidates you will find acceptable, so that the University can make sure you're happy with the hire. Because God knows, if you disagree with the hire the "culture of negativity" will only continue. Because, of course, you know exactly who should and should not coach this team.

I love Dooley, and know he's a good man. But I agree he had to go. But some of you bums show absolutely no class or compassion for a GOOD MAN who took the job that none of your dream coaches would take, gave it his all, suffered some of the worst luck and toughest schedule imaginable, and demonstrated true character that you LACK and will never have.

YOU have damaged this program with your classless negativity. What coach with other job opportunities would come here? What players with other opportunities will come here?

My rant ain't about Dooley...he needed to go. I think he'll spend a few years as an assistant and then reemerge as a very attractive HC candidate.

My post is about YOU...bunch of weak, classless, heartless, whining, ungrateful, unrealistic, spoiled, know-it-all, quitters.

FANTASTIC POST!

sly_stone99#434111 writes:

Don't think Dooley had a choice in coaching the last game. For his safety it was best to part company with him immediately.

BigVolinCarolina writes:

Firing Dooley was not a bad decision, but not allowing him to coach the final game is. I've never understood the mentality of firing a coach with one game left and not letting him coach.

Was never sold on Dooley (for several reasons), but he should be allowed to coach & say goodbye to the seniors and players in their last home game. Just my opinion.

DonK37920 writes:

After buyouts, we will have paid him close to 11 million dollars for those kind of results. Hard to feel sorry for a guy that is that bad at his job yet makes that much money doing it.
After benching Bray for a tipped pass int, not going for it at the end of the Missouri game and countless other irrational and incompetent decisions he made constantly, I really question his football IQ.
I suspect his folksy sayins and aw shucks attitude will garner him a lot of sympathy in our fan base despite his pathetic record. Here's hoping we don't hire Kirby Smart or David Cutcliffe. We need a Big Proven Coach!

10SE writes:

in response to 14th_rated_sec_coach:

now I am going to have to change my screen name. You wont have Dooley to kick around anymore trolls.. Bring on Petrino...proven winner....

Also a proven loser!

dirtmerchant writes:

Dooley is a good man, a solid person with excellent character. I will miss his candor, humor, and wit with the media, unlike so many coaches who simply give 'coach speak' responses. I've grown to like him these three quick years and hate to see him go out like this. Of course losing sucks, and winning is a huge criteria, but Dooley had great personality and character and was dedicated to the program. Win-Loss record aside, Derek was a great ambassador for UT, and amid the on-field losses a lot of good inside the program. He's a first class guy. I wish you well Coach Dooley.

LCPanthers (Inactive) writes:

in response to DeltaCharlie3:

One correction to the article, the Florida game wasn't close.

Regarding Dooley, he was awful from day one. But the next guy will do about the same after 3 years.

I expect UT to take a major step back next year regardless of the coach. We're talking 4-8 at best next year.

Get this bum from Fl off of this site

born2ride writes:

Thank God the nightmare is over.

Dooley should have never been hired.

TheReal-Ville_Vol writes:

Every MONTH from now until 2016 Dooley will make 3x as much as the average American makes per year and he won't even have to work. A percentage of everything sold UT(tickets,merchandise,etc) will be filling his pockets long after he's gone...all of this for a coach who was .500 in the WAC. Please hire someone who is WORTH the money this time.

UTKin1992 writes:

We're letting you go "despite the positive contributions."?!?! What positive contributions!?! He took the team to new lows! I never wanna see his face or name ever again. Good riddance to a disgrace; The worst coach in Tennessee history.

eb502us#225637 writes:

Damn, there goes the lame duck bowl next week.

UT_Braddah writes:

in response to TheStupidPolice:

STUPID!

Explain why my post is stupid? Is something untrue?

Is he a good man? Was he wrong for moving up and taking a better job that NOBODY wanted? Was he unethical or lazy? He worked his tail off and tried his very best. But, he wasn't successful so he had to go.

But what did he do to deserve the immature hatred?

gobigorange1 writes:

It'll be very interesting to see if whoever takes the position will be a solid enough commodity to keep the interest of Bray, Hunter and Patterson. I think CP is gone regardless, but if Bray and Hunter have any sense about them they need to realize that they're not ready for primetime yet and need one good season with a staff that can instill fundamentals, drive and precision...

That being said, all you classless hacks who still insist on bashing Dooley even after this announcement really need to shut your pie holes. The man may not be SEC caliber but he volunteered to take over a dumpster fire with Kiffin's sloppy seconds of assistant coaches. A nightmare scenario in which he was at least able to stop the hemmorhaging.

BankerVol writes:

in response to Vol_USArmy_Soldier:

Good riddens.

Good riddens? Really retard?

rich182x writes:

Bring Fulmer back!!

honesthoward writes:

Good guy. Bad coach. Best of luck to him and his family. While we're firing people, how about we fire whoever signed the buyout clause in the contract and the guy at KNS that grades the games?

ournextguest writes:

in response to DeltaCharlie3:

One correction to the article, the Florida game wasn't close.

Regarding Dooley, he was awful from day one. But the next guy will do about the same after 3 years.

I expect UT to take a major step back next year regardless of the coach. We're talking 4-8 at best next year.

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Basketvol writes:

CBS NFL Today reports that Jon Gruden has been "asking around" about putting together a staff and has been studying college offenses.

iowa_vol writes:

While I think that this is necessary, I really wish it hadn't come to this. I think at Coach Dooley is a class act and wish him all the best in his future. He should stick with athletic administration as he is articulate and intelligent. He didn't seem to have the ability to coach a football team though.

I think it is in poor taste to not give him a chance to coach against Kentucky. The season is over and no damage can be done. I think that he could have at least gone out as a winner at home with an opportunity to make up for the debacle last year in Lexington.

Best wishes coach. I appreciate your efforts.

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