CFN Analysis: Derek Dooley Fired
Posted Nov 18, 2012

The Tennessee head coach has been reportedly fired.

By Matt Zemek
E-mail Matt Zemek

Derek Dooley walked into a difficult situation in Knoxville. No, he wasn't merely inheriting a program whose status had been decreased by Lane Kiffin; the larger point to emphasize about Dooley's tenure at the University of Tennessee was that its very existence was the result of unfavorable circumstances.

Remember that Kiffin didn't merely bolt for USC after one year on the job – the story of his exodus to the West Coast is more complicated than that.

It is destabilizing enough when a school has to hire a second coach within a one-year time frame, but Tennessee could have withstood Kiffin's one-year whirlwind if the current USC coach had announced his intention to go to Los Angeles in early December of 2009. The fact that Kiffin left for L.A. in the second week of January in 2010 is what hit the Vols with a double-whammy of sorts. Lane Kiffin left the Vols with more baggage on their hands and yet less time in which to fill the vacancy he created.

Simply stated, the way in which Kiffin dashed out of Knoxville made it virtually impossible for Tennessee to hire a coach worthy of the program and its pedigree. The Vols could not have landed a really big fish in January of 2010. No elite coach wanted to touch Tennessee with a 39-and-a-half-foot pole at the time. Smart coaches realize that circumstances matter, and that if Tennessee was a desirable job in general, January of 2010 was not the right time to pounce.

This is the right time.

Derek Dooley tasted three years in the SEC, three years in the world his father, Vince, inhabited for a quarter of a century at Georgia. On the field, Dooley did not cover himself in glory, but he didn't embarrass himself off the field or do anything to further diminish the reputation of the Volunteer program. Wise people within the college coaching business will realize that Dooley took on a tough job in much the same way that Mike Shula was asked to clean up Alabama's image following the Mike Price scandal. His career prospects weren't exactly enhanced by these three years, but thoughtful athletic directors will realize that Dooley certainly deserves a chance to work his way back up the coaching ladder. He should be considered for an opening at a Conference USA school (UTEP, perhaps?), and if he can make good at his next stop on the path – wherever it may be – he would have a shot at a power conference job at the end of this decade. He's young, and time is still on his side.

Don't hang down your head, young Dooley: You cashed in a large paycheck in exchange for a few seasons of stress, struggle and setbacks. You're a wiser man now, a person who is in position to apply a lot of lessons at future places of employment. Tennessee can now move on as well… and Barbara Dooley doesn't have to split allegiances between Tennessee and Georgia anymore.

As far as coaching firings go, this one should not be seen as a uniquely sad story. It was, however, the product of circumstance.