Mike Strange: South Carolina was kiss of death for Majors, Fulmer; Dooley's case is different

Mike Strange
Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley looks on in the fourth quarter as the Vols play the Alabama Crimson Tide at Neyland Stadium Saturday, Oct. 20, 2012. (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Adam Brimer, Knoxville News Sentinel

Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley looks on in the fourth quarter as the Vols play the Alabama Crimson Tide at Neyland Stadium Saturday, Oct. 20, 2012. (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

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Dooley not foolish enough to offer resignation

Derek Dooley's opening statements about the loss to Alabama

It's a nervous time of year for Tennessee football coaches.

Losing to Alabama is one thing. Losing to the team that comes after Alabama on the schedule can be even worse.

In 1992, Tennessee fired Johnny Majors following a loss to South Carolina.

In 2008, Phillip Fulmer was fired following a loss to South Carolina.

In 2005, offensive coordinator Randy Sanders fell on his sword and resigned after a loss to the Gamecocks.

What is it about South Carolina that plants the kiss of death on troubled UT coaches? It's not the opponent so much as the timing.

By the end of October, you've measured yourself against your rivals, Florida, Georgia and Alabama. If a season is going wrong, it's pretty well down the path by the time the Gamecocks show up. It's last call for redemption.

So it's 2012 and embattled coach Derek Dooley takes his team to South Carolina on Saturday as a 14-point underdog.

A 0-5 SEC start is staring UT in the face for the second consecutive year. The chorus of wolves howling at Dooley's door is growing by the week.

"Are people upset?'' Dooley said Monday. "Of course. They should be. I understand that.''

An upset win in Columbia would do wonders for the morale of Tennessee's team and coaches. It might even mute the howling.

But it's difficult to find a compelling reason why the Vols might pull that upset. So when Dooley gets back to Knoxville it's likely to be another difficult Sunday.

Sundays have been his toughest day of the week. Trying to figure out what went wrong, why the Saturday performance lacked the proficiency he saw on Tuesday or Wednesday in practice.

But he won't get fired.

At least I don't believe he will get fired.

I believe athletic director Dave Hart will let the season play out.

Dooley certainly doesn't have the credit in the bank that either Majors or Fulmer had acquired. Both had won SEC titles at UT, and Fulmer a national title. Both were alumni, Tennessee guys to the marrow.

However, both Majors and Fulmer were in their 16th seasons at Tennessee. It wasn't a question of whether they could rebuild a program.

In Majors' case, the heir apparent — offensive coordinator Fulmer — was already in the building.

In Sanders' case, the heir apparent — David Cutcliffe — was back home in Knoxville ready to go.

Their was no heir apparent in Fulmer's case and we've seen how that turned out. But that's another story.

Perhaps one reason Majors and Fulmer got the early hook was to get the deed done before they got the chance to regain support with projected November wins — Memphis in Majors' case, Wyoming in Fulmer's and reliable Vanderbilt and Kentucky.

That would only make it harder to fire a legend.

Dooley is no legend. But he inherited an awful mess. Because this is only his third season, I believe Hart will let the season run its course.

He might well pull the trigger after the Kentucky game. But pulling it after South Carolina sends a message to potential candidates — you might not even get three seasons to prove yourself.

Dooley has five games left in his third season. He should get all five.

"I'm not in a position to defend what we are doing,'' said Dooley, "to make a case for what we are doing.

"We have to go prove it on the field.''

Proving it on the field hasn't worked out so hot in the past, not against South Carolina, anyway.

Mike Strange may be reached at strangem@knoxnews.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/strangemike44 and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/strange.

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

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Comments » 44

tnoutlaw2001#228008 writes:

Lets see Muschamp inherited a team minus superman (Tim Tebow) the Gators had over 22 players arrested or suspended under Meyer his last 2 years. Yet Florida has rebuilt just fine with all new coaches and they even lost their heir apparent at QB Brantley, and had his offensive coordinator Charlie Wise leave after 1 season.

More excuses please...

tnsportsman writes:

IMO Dave Hart should have already told Dooley, 8 & 4 Regular Season is the bar PERIOD! I hope Our VOLS can beat SC and must win the final 4 Games NO EXCUSES! IMO the next loss equals FIRING! Losing Makes Me SICK, so damn tired of it!

GO VOLS, VFL

CrankE writes:

"But he inherited an awful mess."

...and other teams have draft picks while we have to recruit players.

We're sick of hearing this BS, Mike.

IT'S BEEN THREE YEARS. WHAT HAS HE DONE WITH WHAT HE HAS?

UT has better talent, more depth, and more experience in 2012, but look to be headed to a similar record as the 2011 squad. Which means that 2012 isn't better. It's worse. It will only continue to get worse until Dooley leaves.

"We're can't just put our heads in our tails and go home"

"You're not going to have Tennessee to kick around anymore."

It's time.

tnoutlaw2001#228008 writes:

Do people forget what talent Kiffin coached with? He actually won or was competitive with less talent than Dooley has now yet the excuse about talent is still floated out there.

It's absurd

CrankE writes:

It's actually PAST time. 11/26/11.

underthehill writes:

Some of what you write seems logical..but who will be logical if UT loses the Vandy game..I have said in several posts that the Vandy game is the biggest game of the year for both schools and I believe that to be the case..many UT fans consider Vandy to be an automatic win..I watched some of their games with S Car and Auburn and these guys give 100% effort..UT will have to do the same to beat them...

redskinvol1 writes:

DOOLEY NEEDS TO GO!!

hglover40#234154 writes:

in response to tnoutlaw2001#228008:

Lets see Muschamp inherited a team minus superman (Tim Tebow) the Gators had over 22 players arrested or suspended under Meyer his last 2 years. Yet Florida has rebuilt just fine with all new coaches and they even lost their heir apparent at QB Brantley, and had his offensive coordinator Charlie Wise leave after 1 season.

More excuses please...

I am ready for Dooley to GO too, but FYI - Muschamp has 4 - 5 star DLineman that are jr(s) or sr(s) this yr. Go compare what he inherited to what Dooley was left up and down the lineup and you will see some differences. Anyway, talented as fla or not - we should not be 3-4!! I think a DC as good as last years and we would be 5-2!! I think Dooley will regret hiring Sal fo sure!! He was a position coach for sooooo long and no one else gave him a chance at DC, what made Dooley think he could do it? Anyway it was Dooley's mistake and we all know what it is going to cost him.

tnoutlaw2001#228008 writes:

in response to hglover40#234154:

I am ready for Dooley to GO too, but FYI - Muschamp has 4 - 5 star DLineman that are jr(s) or sr(s) this yr. Go compare what he inherited to what Dooley was left up and down the lineup and you will see some differences. Anyway, talented as fla or not - we should not be 3-4!! I think a DC as good as last years and we would be 5-2!! I think Dooley will regret hiring Sal fo sure!! He was a position coach for sooooo long and no one else gave him a chance at DC, what made Dooley think he could do it? Anyway it was Dooley's mistake and we all know what it is going to cost him.

I dont disagree, but its also why I mentioned they had a change over in offensive coordinators and starting QB'S.

They have talented players and we do too, outside SEC fans I doubt anyone knows who plays offense for Florida, but Bray and Hunter are projected NFL players. If you look at the overall depth and then compare coaching staffs, they should be as much equal as there is in the league.

hglover40#234154 writes:

in response to tnoutlaw2001#228008:

I dont disagree, but its also why I mentioned they had a change over in offensive coordinators and starting QB'S.

They have talented players and we do too, outside SEC fans I doubt anyone knows who plays offense for Florida, but Bray and Hunter are projected NFL players. If you look at the overall depth and then compare coaching staffs, they should be as much equal as there is in the league.

Good point - our Off is probably more talented than FLA. Well I think we both agree on the important point - we need a coach!!

laraccoon writes:

in response to hglover40#234154:

Good point - our Off is probably more talented than FLA. Well I think we both agree on the important point - we need a coach!!

i dont know why you think our offense is so talented , please enlighten me .

CrankE writes:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

OLROCKYTOP writes:

I was heading home from the game in Columbia in 08. I was listening to a call in radio sports show after the game and it said Tennessee had scheduled a press conference for Monday, well it was on Tuesday they made the announcement on Fulmer. It went down that fast shockingly.

6972 writes:

If DD pulls out a win at SC (which I think is in doubt) does that take him off the hot seat? I doubt that also. Too much water has gone under the bridge and a lot of that water was polluted. I think he stays till the end of the year before the ax falls. I've been wrong about a lot of things before, just ask my wife.

hglover40#234154 writes:

in response to laraccoon:

i dont know why you think our offense is so talented , please enlighten me .

I don't know - NFL scouts think Patterson, Bray, and Hunter are talented. Also the Off line is pretty good and may have some NFL talent too. You have to admit we can score at times. How many guys on our off do you think will play in the NFL?

BigOrangeFever76 (Inactive) writes:

in response to CrankE:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

mbible1utk#324980 writes:

I've heard Kentucky is getting Petrino, rumors circle that arkansas wants Malzahn. We're still going to be competing with Auburn, and maybe even Georgia. We need to be willing to move quickly. If Dooley loses this game, Haslam needs to have a chit-chat with Jon Gruden about what it'd take to get him on our sidelines.

Stooley_Dinks writes:

I will agree that it MIGHT have taken a good coach longer to get where we need to be, but I have 2 pts of contention:

1). The standard long term is a championship contender each year. That does not mean it is attained, but it does mean that we are not out of the picture after our 3rd SEC game.

2) In order to get more time, you MUST have shown you have done SOMETHING with the time you have already been given.

On Dooley's watch, we have consistently had lopsided losses against the top of the conference. We have not made strides in performance on the field, nor in recruiting. We have had a high amount of turnover in assistant coaches, arguably our best ones. We haven't beaten 1 ranked team. We see blame being thrown at players. And he opted to overhaul the defense in a year widely known to be critical for our program and his job security. Nothing and I mean nothing here suggests the quality of coach we deserve.

Yes, if we wait long enough, Saban will leave Bama. Spurrier will retire. Joker will leave KY and Franklin will leave Vandy. Maybe Muschamp will go back to Texas. And, we will eventually have an easy SEC West schedule. Then Dooley might have 1 good season. That isn't good enough.

sambad writes:

in response to laraccoon:

i dont know why you think our offense is so talented , please enlighten me .

Enlighten me as well.

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to CrankE:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

orange_eVOLution writes:

I'm not stacking any chips on how well Strange thinks he knows Hart. I've always said I like Dooley. I just think as the third season unfolds, and we still do not have a win against a ranked team or a decent SEC team, you have to ask questions about where we are headed. I have always thought that 8-4 might be okay this season... depending on who we beat. More games to play and we'll see. Glad it's not my call. Dave?

GO VOLS!!

tvol71 writes:

Lets assess Dooley's record. This year, they have lost to 4 teams who have 1 loss between them, and are ranked #13 or higher. Clearly the defense is learning a new system, is not good this year. On offense, they are better overall, and if you don't believe the running game is much better, you have not been watching. Bray needs to learn to not get flustered and hurried at the end of a close game. If they finish the regular season with a winning record, he should have another year, 6-6 is a toss up, and with a losing record considering the last 4 teams they play, he needs to go. I just hate that we will pay him $4 Mil for doing nothing if he goes.

vol_fan8 writes:

in response to hglover40#234154:

I am ready for Dooley to GO too, but FYI - Muschamp has 4 - 5 star DLineman that are jr(s) or sr(s) this yr. Go compare what he inherited to what Dooley was left up and down the lineup and you will see some differences. Anyway, talented as fla or not - we should not be 3-4!! I think a DC as good as last years and we would be 5-2!! I think Dooley will regret hiring Sal fo sure!! He was a position coach for sooooo long and no one else gave him a chance at DC, what made Dooley think he could do it? Anyway it was Dooley's mistake and we all know what it is going to cost him.

We would still have last years defense if it wasn't 4 you trolls! Go back and read. Wilcox left bc of you so called fans. Thank you 4 killing my university. May you get your new coach, more debt, a 3-8 season, and more female doging from you. Go get a life or a degree. UT could use the money.

MidTennVol writes:

I personally believe they should give this guy another season, simply to show potential candidates that Tennessee gives its head football coach a fair shot to build his own program.

Smokey91 writes:

I don't think Dooley knows how to build a winning program. When I think of how Kippy Brown was treated, how they took Dooley over him after he had stuck around and held the team together, it just gets me all the more upset. Kippy is considered one of the best coaches in the pro and college ranks, and we pass over him for a guy who is totally unproven. No, he has to win or go. I keep thinking of a line from "Remember the Titans." "Attitude reflects leadership." What we are seeing from the players is a reflection of their leader. Dooley does not belong in the SEC as a head coach period.

claiborneh writes:

Based on record, I can make a case for retaining Dooley because he has lost to four ranked teams that are better than TN. AL and FL are two of the best in the nation, with the best recruiting classes. Miss. State appears to be a legitimate top 20 team. GA was a top 5 team when we played them.
But for me it ends there. The RECRUITING has not been good enough to compete for the SEC Championship. There are about 8 SEC schools ahead of us in recruiting at this point in the year, including Vanderbilt!
Many have argued that Dooley has displayed consistent game mismanagement and has been generally out schemed, or that he simply does not inspire.Who kicks a field goal with a score of 44-10, or inexplicably lets the clock wind down 13 points down against the # 1 team in the nation with nothing to lose except your job?! How many times in three years have the wrong number of players been on the field? His assistants were not inspired or loyal enough to stay, or they bailed because they did not believe in Dooley to turn the corner.
It seems Dooley could be a good coach, but is he dynamic enough to win a SEC championship and thus get to the national championship game? A dynamic coach would at least win one he is not supposed to win, land a class he was not expected to obtain, or rally excitement, hope,or ticket sales that were not anticipated. A dynamic coach has players play for him. They do not quit in the fourth quarter,they don't pout, or skip interviews.
The Tennessee fanbase yearns for a GREAT coach. Some scoff at national championship aspirations. For me any other goal is unacceptable with the investment in support and facilities, and the fanbase size and tradition. The football program should always be shooting for the stars, maybe get to the moon, and eventually the heavens. Does anyone really believe Dooley is the man to win an SEC championship based on the three year sample of evidence? Even if we win out this season, Bray, Hunter, and Patterson are not likely to be here. Especially Hunter and Patterson. What evidence leads one to believe year four would be a year of upswing? TN will be sitting on another middle tier stock of talent. Is the coaching going to be the reason they play beyond their skill level?
If great coaching is the catalyst to take two and three star players to the SEC championship game, you might need to play "moneyball" and scheme something unorthodox instead of trying to play pro-style offense and defense with the rest of the NFL bound competition in the SEC. Fulmer had Smith, Garner, Brown pillaging GA, SC, and others in the 90s. The SEC caught up, and TN has never won the same talent, particularly lineman and rbs. Dooley has yet to rally any momentum to possibly land the SECs top recruiting class. Not even close.

Sir_Spanky writes:

in response to BIVOLAR_BEARE:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

15_counting writes:

in response to mbible1utk#324980:

I've heard Kentucky is getting Petrino, rumors circle that arkansas wants Malzahn. We're still going to be competing with Auburn, and maybe even Georgia. We need to be willing to move quickly. If Dooley loses this game, Haslam needs to have a chit-chat with Jon Gruden about what it'd take to get him on our sidelines.

Has anyone even looked at Gruden's record as a head coach? He's great at evaluating film after the fact but he's just over 500 as a head coach.

14yrs (176) 95/81 .540%
7yrs (112) 57/55 .509%
4yrs (64) 38/26 .594%

Just something to think about.

brod writes:

now that the alabama beat down is 3 days behind us i have the slightest bit of optimism. every time i have had the slightest bit of optimism since 2008 that optimism has been crushed.

RealisticVol writes:

in response to hglover40#234154:

I am ready for Dooley to GO too, but FYI - Muschamp has 4 - 5 star DLineman that are jr(s) or sr(s) this yr. Go compare what he inherited to what Dooley was left up and down the lineup and you will see some differences. Anyway, talented as fla or not - we should not be 3-4!! I think a DC as good as last years and we would be 5-2!! I think Dooley will regret hiring Sal fo sure!! He was a position coach for sooooo long and no one else gave him a chance at DC, what made Dooley think he could do it? Anyway it was Dooley's mistake and we all know what it is going to cost him.

Did Muschamp have the players to compete for the National Championship in his second season? Did his season last year set him up for that or for also competing this year for the best recruiting class in the nation while Dooley is out-recruited by almost everyone in the SEC including VANDY?

LifetimeVolFan98 writes:

in response to notfunanymore:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Interestingly, we make every team we play look like a top 5 team. UT is walking into a fire storm Saturday for sure....it will get ugly early I'm afraid. But, I will agree with the article, Hart will most likely wait until the end of the season to pull the plug or make a statement.

volpreacher writes:

in response to mbible1utk#324980:

I've heard Kentucky is getting Petrino, rumors circle that arkansas wants Malzahn. We're still going to be competing with Auburn, and maybe even Georgia. We need to be willing to move quickly. If Dooley loses this game, Haslam needs to have a chit-chat with Jon Gruden about what it'd take to get him on our sidelines.

Saw an article this morning also that said Arkansas is looking at Gruden too.

LifetimeVolFan98 writes:

in response to volpreacher:

Saw an article this morning also that said Arkansas is looking at Gruden too.

Gruden's name comes up everywhere. But for the record, he has been quoted (recently I might add) as saying the only two colleges he would even remotely consider is
1. UT
2. Notre Dame

Volunteerfan74 writes:

Give Dooley another three years with his new recruits and look out S.E.C. ,!!!!!

arkyvol writes:

the excuse i keep hearing is what a mess dooley inherited. you'd almost think neyland had been declared a toxic waste site. here we are, three years in and the mess dooley's successor will be handed makes what kiffen left behind look like a garden of eden. dooley was the brooklyn bridge, the twenty acres of florida paradise, the pig in the poke. only a knucklehead like mike hamilton...

volinlm writes:

in response to tnoutlaw2001#228008:

Lets see Muschamp inherited a team minus superman (Tim Tebow) the Gators had over 22 players arrested or suspended under Meyer his last 2 years. Yet Florida has rebuilt just fine with all new coaches and they even lost their heir apparent at QB Brantley, and had his offensive coordinator Charlie Wise leave after 1 season.

More excuses please...

Given that Florida recruits in one of the best states (besides Texas & California), with just average coaching they could be a top ten team every year. Your analogy is way off. I live in Florida and watch the recruiting wars. The population is enough to supply Miami, Fla, and Fla State with great players. UT does not have that advantage. The best thing that could happen to the Vols would be for Mark Richt to get fired. Thought it would happen two years ago, but he managed to pull it out. Why do you think Kiffin left? Fight with Bama, Ga, Fla, Fl state, Miami, for players, or go to L.A. and a player gold mine. Tebow was from Jacksonville. Driskoll is from the Orlando area. These kids rarely travel far. Not an excuse...just the facts.

Memphis_VOL_Alum writes:

All of the comments here are pretty useless. What counts is how many times the turnstiles turn at Neyland Stadium the rest of the year. That is what got Johnny and Phil. Lack of fan support means less $$ for the University. That and only that motivates change at this level.

I'm headed up for the MO game. I go at least once a year regardless. You local folks can do more than you think by either showing up or not showing up. I think all true Tennessee fans should come out an support the team while we are in the middle of our present trouble. It's your call. Now you know what you can do to impact the decision...what about it VOL fans?

usnavyvolfan_on_duty writes:

in response to tnoutlaw2001#228008:

Lets see Muschamp inherited a team minus superman (Tim Tebow) the Gators had over 22 players arrested or suspended under Meyer his last 2 years. Yet Florida has rebuilt just fine with all new coaches and they even lost their heir apparent at QB Brantley, and had his offensive coordinator Charlie Wise leave after 1 season.

More excuses please...

Yeah, I mean, if ONLY we had tried to get him before UF did....oh, wait, WE DID! He declined the offer!

atnvol#283282 writes:

Here's a great read by Chris Low to go hand in hand with Strange's article.

http://espn.go.com/blog/sec/post/_/id...

SilatGamecock writes:

in response to Volunteerfan74:

Give Dooley another three years with his new recruits and look out S.E.C. ,!!!!!

I hope he gets three more years.

rockypop writes:

in response to mbible1utk#324980:

I've heard Kentucky is getting Petrino, rumors circle that arkansas wants Malzahn. We're still going to be competing with Auburn, and maybe even Georgia. We need to be willing to move quickly. If Dooley loses this game, Haslam needs to have a chit-chat with Jon Gruden about what it'd take to get him on our sidelines.

The only chit-chat Haslam will potentially have with Gruden will be to try and convince him to take over the head job at the Cleveland Browns - not UT. It's funny how a $1billion investment makes you do stuff like that.

Personally, I don't see Gruden as anything more than fool's gold - either at the college or NFL level. All he's ever done is win a Super Bowl with a team that Deputy Dog could have won with, and one that Tony Dungy built. Other than that, as a head coach, his teams barely won over half their games, and he was ultimately fired. Is that what UT wants?

HeyWhitey writes:

Sucks, i didn't get to read the "comments removed by staff".
"kiss of death" hilarious, so if Fulmer were to come back, would that be "death warmed over"?

Millisa writes:

Fire Dooley NOW before things get even worse than they are now

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