John Adams: If UT replaces Derek Dooley, it better think big

John Adams
Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley watches his team warm up before an NCAA college football game against Akron in Knoxville on Sept. 22.

Photo by Wade Payne

Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley watches his team warm up before an NCAA college football game against Akron in Knoxville on Sept. 22.

Tennessee players on facing #1 Alabama

The next two games might leave Tennessee fans more envious than angry.

Up next is No. 1 Alabama at Neyland Stadium. Then comes No. 9 South Carolina in Columbia.

The programs share more than top-10 status. They both have succeeded by hiring big-name football coaches.

And hiring football coaches is suddenly topical again in Knoxville now that back-to-back losses have left the Vols three games under .500 two and a half seasons into the Derek Dooley era.

Alabama and South Carolina make hiring look ridiculously easy. Who needs headhunters? Why bother with coaching searches? You simply ask the best coach available "What will it take?" Then meet his demands.

Tennessee has followed a less prominent course in the hiring process. Phillip Fulmer had never been a head coach when UT promoted him as Johnny Majors' replacement in 1992. Lane Kiffin's only head-coaching experience was a brief fling with the Oakland Raiders before the Vols hired him after their 2008 season. Dooley, who replaced Kiffin a year later, had a losing record in his three seasons as a head coach at Louisiana Tech.

The exception was Majors, who returned to his alma mater as coach after winning a national championship at Pittsburgh in 1976.

Now, after struggling for most of eight seasons, would UT be willing to attract and pay the asking price of a proven coaching star? If not, then why would you make a change three years into a coach's tenure?

Obvious answer: You don't win enough games.

Six isn't enough. After back-to-back 6-7 and 5-7 seasons, it's reasonable to expect at least seven regular-season victories.

Tennessee has more talent now than when it hired Dooley. It has been significantly more competitive against good teams this season than in Dooley's first two. But to validate its progress, it still needs to win more games than it did in 2010 or 2011.

Suppose the next two games against nationally ranked teams go according to form, UT drops to 3-5, then wins its last four games. Given Dooley's starting point as a hurried replacement for Kiffin, a 7-5 record should warrant giving him more time.

A won-loss record is the best determinant, but fan apathy also is a factor. You saw that during the Vols' decline under Fulmer.

If UT fans stay away in droves for the last few home games, athletic director Dave Hart should consider that as well. He has tickets to sell and donations to elicit.

There's nothing complicated about how to energize your fan base. Just follow Alabama's lead. Or South Carolina's.

And you don't have to look hard to find the best coach available. Former Super Bowl-championship coach Jon Gruden, who has been the best coaching rumor in East Tennessee for the last five years, can't satisfy his competitive urges as a "Monday Night Football" analyst forever. Bobby Petrino, who won big at both Louisville and Arkansas, is out of work.

Availability notwithstanding, neither one of them is as much of a sure thing as Saban or Spurrier when they were last hired by Alabama and South Carolina, respectively. Saban had been successful at more than one school and won a national title at LSU. Spurrier won an ACC championship at Duke before he won a national championship and six SEC titles at Florida.

Gruden hasn't coached college football in more than 20 years. Petrino will have to haul his off-the-field baggage into every recruit's living room. That's why I don't consider them as surefire as Saban and Spurrier, but I would expect either Gruden or Petrino to be successful in any college coaching job.

And after all that has gone wrong at Tennessee the last five years, it would take a hire of that magnitude to convince fans that the school is committed to building a championship program.

John Adams is a senior columnist. He may be reached at 865-342-6284 or adamsj@knoxnews.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/johnadamskns

© 2012 govolsxtra.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Comments » 220

BigOrangeFever76 (Inactive) writes:

Booby Petrino.....H**L NO A MILLION TIMES. Can you imagine him walking into the living room of a recruit and sitting down with the parents? I would not even let Petrino in my house.

This season has been killing me. But I would still like to see CDD get 1 more year if we can make 7-5. I am not sold on that lardazz Sunseri by a long shot.

GO VOLS!!! Stun the Tide. :(

jobrando#216494 writes:

Not one word about what counts. Fans going to Neyland. If the stands continue to be empty enough to drop revenues. Seven and five will be Bye Bye

broom66 writes:

Gruden seems like it is a bit of a pipe dream. I know he has ties to K-town, but do we really think he is going to give up his cush gig he has now? Maybe, if he misses coaching enough and the offer is right.

civilianvol_formerly_marinevol writes:

Charlie Strong is more realistic.

DeltaCharlie3 writes:

Way too early for this new coach nonsense. Dooley needs more than 3 years to clean up the mess he inherited.

Keep Dooley!!!!

ReVolver writes:

in response to civilianvol_formerly_marinevol:

Charlie Strong is more realistic.

That's kind of Adams' point though...'realistic' won't cut it.

The_Mayor writes:

Dooley isn't going anywhere anytime soon, so this is a silly article intended solely to stir trouble from half-hearted fans in search of instant gratification.

Patience. We're headed in the right direction. Dooley is our guy, but we have to have patience. He was handed a heap of ruins with this tattered program. He has not had the scholarships to bring in the talent level necessary to compete yet. But we're getting there. Dooley's off season JUCO moves were very creative and resourceful, given our circumstances. He has done so much to lay a new foundation on which to build upon. It will take time. Patience, please. Peace.

usnavyvolfan__times_free_press_can_shove_it writes:

Bobby Petrino? Really, Mr Adams? Haven't we had enough of the controversial figures making headlines in Knoxville? I know we have self-imposed restrictions, but I can't help but think that even the much publicized demise of our basketball coach (Pearl) steered football recruits away. Kiffin did quite a bit of off-the-field damage himself in the year he was here. No, thanks. Let's just pretend BP (uh, not Bruce Pearl) doesn't exist.

MooseandSquirrelVol writes:

in response to civilianvol_formerly_marinevol:

Charlie Strong is more realistic.

Coach Strong was my choice when Kiffin was hired.
He still is.

civilianvol_formerly_marinevol writes:

Of course, after we knock off bama Saturday, this conversation will be moot.

ReVolver writes:

I think that Dooley has done an acceptable rebuilding job. Would have been nice to get an upset victory somewhere along the way.
The decks been stacked against him from Day One, and it may be his destiny to just be a stepping stone to something better for the Vols.

Until there is a sure-fire superstar replacement, cutting him loose would be idiocy.

vq4nfo writes:

Gruden makes $4.3M doing 17 Monday night games and a few off field player interviews. Forget him even if his wife was a former cheerleader at UT. Gruden will coach again but it will be with a team that he can have an immediate impact.

Do not count the Alabama game as a loss. They look good but have not played a ranked team on the schedule yet. That can have an impact on the players and how they approach the game. UT has played 3 top 25 teams and granted they lost but if all falls into place this Saturday, if the QB does not try to win on his own and the defense steps up, then UT could upset Alabama.

Remember this post: UT 31 Ala 27

Dooley will be around for another year or two.

usnavyvolfan__times_free_press_can_shove_it writes:

in response to DeltaCharlie3:

Way too early for this new coach nonsense. Dooley needs more than 3 years to clean up the mess he inherited.

Keep Dooley!!!!

You know, I keep harping on recruiting. We just DON'T visit the state pens enough. It worked for you guys and Alabama, maybe we'll give it a try someday.

mountainbrook writes:

in response to DeltaCharlie3:

Way too early for this new coach nonsense. Dooley needs more than 3 years to clean up the mess he inherited.

Keep Dooley!!!!

I love it when Gators lose. They cry the best crocodile tears.

DeltaCharlie3 writes:

in response to civilianvol_formerly_marinevol:

Charlie Strong is more realistic.

Why leave Louisville to go get your head kicked in at UT in the SEC? Strong knows the ins-and-outs of SEC and Florida football, and he knows UT will never have the horses to compete with Florida.

Strong wouldn't leave Louisville unless it was a clear step up. At this point, the jobs (UT and Louisville) are about the same in national prestige, but Louky offers a much easier path to victories and recruiting.

Just give Dooley more time, at least 3 more years, you'll see a change!

stroker writes:

Frank Beemer at Va Tech took eight years to get to a bowl game. Johnny Majors did not win the Conf. for 10 years.It not realistic to expect to compete in the SEC after 2 years of recruiting.

dvhill100 writes:

We have seen progress in every year of CDD's tenure. He started with almost nothing, and has had a fair amount of coaching changes. I believe he deserves to get at least one more year. UT should really keep him for the contract duration unless things completely fall apart. This is the toughest conference in the nation with the best coaches top to bottom of any conference. The competition is killer and UT doesn't have the homegrown talent GA, FL, LA or SC have. Any coach is going to be butting heads with the best in the business for recruits and wins. CDD should be retained unless we want to suffer more $ lost in payouts and get a reputation of a short fuse for prospective coaches.

TWhite11 writes:

Just give Gruden the 5 million a year that he wants.

RememberWhen writes:

in response to vq4nfo:

Gruden makes $4.3M doing 17 Monday night games and a few off field player interviews. Forget him even if his wife was a former cheerleader at UT. Gruden will coach again but it will be with a team that he can have an immediate impact.

Do not count the Alabama game as a loss. They look good but have not played a ranked team on the schedule yet. That can have an impact on the players and how they approach the game. UT has played 3 top 25 teams and granted they lost but if all falls into place this Saturday, if the QB does not try to win on his own and the defense steps up, then UT could upset Alabama.

Remember this post: UT 31 Ala 27

Dooley will be around for another year or two.

are you this wrong about everything in your life???

ashvol7 writes:

in response to BigOrangeFever76:

Booby Petrino.....H**L NO A MILLION TIMES. Can you imagine him walking into the living room of a recruit and sitting down with the parents? I would not even let Petrino in my house.

This season has been killing me. But I would still like to see CDD get 1 more year if we can make 7-5. I am not sold on that lardazz Sunseri by a long shot.

GO VOLS!!! Stun the Tide. :(

I agree with you fully, you are also right about Sunserin, needs to go now, worst that I have ever seen at UT. Send him back to alabama,(does not deserve a capital a) with Hart, they both fit in real well in that RN state.

newportvol writes:

If we dont get a grand slam hire and keep dooley what are we gonna do next season when Bray, Hunter, and Patterson all turn pro after this season.. if we cant win with nfl type players this year what the heck are we gonna do next?

DeltaCharlie3 writes:

in response to mountainbrook:

I love it when Gators lose. They cry the best crocodile tears.

I guess it's been a miserable season for you, being that UF is unbeaten and all. Will Muschmap football, BOOM, m%&$)&@$@;:@r!!!

tennrich1 writes:

in response to civilianvol_formerly_marinevol:

Charlie Strong is more realistic.

He's gotta beat somebody for me to be on board...not saying he wont...just need to see it big time!!!

Ayres_Hall writes:

Adams is no more creative than a teenager.

civilianvol_formerly_marinevol writes:

I really like Coach Dooley. He has run a clean program. We haven't read about players getting busted for armed robbery, sexual assault, etc., the last 3 years, and there has been no hint of an NCAA violation. It's just that damn winning thing. If he could just get that going for him.

PHAT_VOL writes:

Give Dooley one more year.

John_10065 writes:

in response to MooseandSquirrelVol:

Coach Strong was my choice when Kiffin was hired.
He still is.

You guys really want to get me lynched.

Everyone that knows who I am in Louisville knows I am a UT fan!

TheStupidPolice writes:

Andy Reid, Jason Garrett, Norv Turner, Romeo Crennel, Chan Gailey, Rex Ryan and Marvin Lewis will all be available shortly.

RememberWhen writes:

in response to BigOrangeFever76:

Booby Petrino.....H**L NO A MILLION TIMES. Can you imagine him walking into the living room of a recruit and sitting down with the parents? I would not even let Petrino in my house.

This season has been killing me. But I would still like to see CDD get 1 more year if we can make 7-5. I am not sold on that lardazz Sunseri by a long shot.

GO VOLS!!! Stun the Tide. :(

I'm sure ole Petrino is staying up nights worried whether he can get in your house or not. Truth is very few recruits or their family cares what happened at Ark if they believe Petrino/TN can get their kid an education and a shot at the NFL. DoLittle deserves NOTHING...this program is no better today than when he got here and all he has is excuses. Gruden ain't coming and Petrino is the best PROVEN coach out there. Given his circumstances TN could also get him cheaper than a coach of that caliber would normally run. Sign him, put a huge buyout on him and move this thing forward - beginning the day after the KY game....if not NOW!

orange_eVOLution writes:

Petrino??? I'd rather keep Dooley for ten years.

VOLKING writes:

Dooley can save his job this weekend or against South Carolina...THEN, he has to win out and finish 8-4. That's the only way he will be around next year. He knew the pressures when he took this million dollar gig. It has made him a multi-millionaire and he hasn't improved the product on the field and fans aren't packing the stadium anymore. Bottom line.

John_10065 writes:

in response to civilianvol_formerly_marinevol:

Of course, after we knock off bama Saturday, this conversation will be moot.

I really want us to win but let's remember that The Tide losing at Knoxville gives Florida the inside track to the national championship.

Sad but true!

RememberWhen writes:

in response to TheStupidPolice:

Andy Reid, Jason Garrett, Norv Turner, Romeo Crennel, Chan Gailey, Rex Ryan and Marvin Lewis will all be available shortly.

you must be the Chief of the Stupid Police...none of those guys will ever grace the sidelines of Neyland Stadium wearing orange.

RememberWhen writes:

in response to PHAT_VOL:

Give Dooley one more year.

that would be about as stupid as giving George Bush another year!!

TheStupidPolice writes:

in response to RememberWhen:

that would be about as stupid as giving George Bush another year!!

You must have meant Obama.

usnavyvolfan__times_free_press_can_shove_it writes:

in response to RememberWhen:

that would be about as stupid as giving George Bush another year!!

Considering what we've had the last 3 1/2 years....never mind, not going to get into politics.
No, by all means, let's shell out $5million in buyout money, and then pay another coach. Makes perfect sense to me.

MikeInTN writes:

in response to ReVolver:

That's kind of Adams' point though...'realistic' won't cut it.

Agree 100%!!

DeltaCharlie3 writes:

How about Tommy Tuberville folks? That's if, and only if, Dooley doesn't turn this around in 2-3 more years.

RememberWhen writes:

in response to stroker:

Frank Beemer at Va Tech took eight years to get to a bowl game. Johnny Majors did not win the Conf. for 10 years.It not realistic to expect to compete in the SEC after 2 years of recruiting.

Really? Then why is FL undefeated? If you recall the cupboard was bare when Urban left...last year was a near disaster for them...and now what???? This BS about taking 4 years, 5 years etc etc is a bunch of trash. This school has all the resources necessary and more than most. The only thing lacking is a coach with a brain and the balls to go get the players. Petrino was 5-7, 8-5, 10-3, and 11-2 at ARK after that idiot Nutt left....it DOESN"T TAKE FIVE YEARS!!!

walt2010 writes:

in response to newportvol:

If we dont get a grand slam hire and keep dooley what are we gonna do next season when Bray, Hunter, and Patterson all turn pro after this season.. if we cant win with nfl type players this year what the heck are we gonna do next?

Stop, you're making too much sense. We'll suddenly magically be unbelievable even if we do lose our three best players - five-star players are suddenly going to come out of the woodwork a day before national signing day begging to play for our current coach who's never beaten a ranked team.

UTKin1992 writes:

These comments convince me of one certainty: the "fans" of my alma mater have no guts, no competitiveness, and have become complacent whiners.

Terminate Dooley or keep on keeping on.

wycoller writes:

John, ol' buddy, I would rather see you as the head coach over Petrino. Now don't get the big head.....I would take any coach over Petrino with the exception of Jerry Sandusky.

OklaVOL writes:

in response to orange_eVOLution:

Petrino??? I'd rather keep Dooley for ten years.

AMEN!

DownTheField15 writes:

Tommy Tuberville figured out a way to beat Bammer consistently.

Oh, wait, I forgot who our AD is. Nevermind.

TheStupidPolice writes:

Whatever decision UT makes, they will have to make it before Arkansas and Auburn make their decisions.

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to civilianvol_formerly_marinevol:

Charlie Strong is more realistic.

Not a "WOW" hire..

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to VOLKING:

Dooley can save his job this weekend or against South Carolina...THEN, he has to win out and finish 8-4. That's the only way he will be around next year. He knew the pressures when he took this million dollar gig. It has made him a multi-millionaire and he hasn't improved the product on the field and fans aren't packing the stadium anymore. Bottom line.

That's fine and dandy, but he's playing bammer this weekend..The third Saturday in October thing, remember?

Witch_Doctors writes:

Witch Doctor say if we going fishing for a coach and not willing to pony up 5 million or better..just keep Dooley. Witch Doctor say the reason Ky wins in BBALL is they pay to win in BBALL. Witch Doctor say Saban aint at Bama for the scenery. Witch Doctor say if we aint going BIG and REALLY Open up the checkbook then dont complain.
Bones never lie.
PS Knoxville IS NOT a coaching destination and the sooner we learn that the better off we will be..money talks, bs walks.

calvolfromkingsport writes:

The medicine ol Hammy gave when he fired Fulmer and gambled on Kiffin will be the same sour taste the fans will have to endure again if some of the knuckleheads posting here get their way. This talk of firing CDD no doubt is helping opposing coaching staffs in their abilities to sway any potential star recruits from ol Tennessee. Such a shame to keep making the same mistakes because of misguided passion. Go Vols...true Orange!

rockytopjeff writes:

in response to vq4nfo:

Gruden makes $4.3M doing 17 Monday night games and a few off field player interviews. Forget him even if his wife was a former cheerleader at UT. Gruden will coach again but it will be with a team that he can have an immediate impact.

Do not count the Alabama game as a loss. They look good but have not played a ranked team on the schedule yet. That can have an impact on the players and how they approach the game. UT has played 3 top 25 teams and granted they lost but if all falls into place this Saturday, if the QB does not try to win on his own and the defense steps up, then UT could upset Alabama.

Remember this post: UT 31 Ala 27

Dooley will be around for another year or two.

I love your optimism, but that Bama defense is nasty. I think we stay competitive for 2 and a half quarters, then our lack of depth shows. Bama is 3 and 4 deep where we are 1 and maybe 2 deep. We just lack the manpower that Bama, Florida, SC, Georgia, LSU and all the powers of the SEC have. Until we get QUALITY depth. We will be the "Louisiana Tech" of the SEC. We keep recruiting against mediocre programs and getting average at best players. We will not be relevant in this league until we can recruit studs who can play. I hate to say it because I love UT and my Vols, but the facts are pretty clear. Kiffin was going to win here but break every rule in the book, Dooley is a nice guy but WAY out of his league. I usually think John Adams is full of S--T, but this article is pretty much dead on the money

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