Derek Dooley’s Vol Tenure Ends, At Last

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Today the Derek Dooley era officially ended in Knoxville.

Congrats to Mizzou on a 51-48 four overtime win, but for those of us who have watched Dooley coached football teams for three years, the opponent is irrelevant. We saw incompetence on a massive scale no matter who the Vols played. Today just added to the misery — two fourth down conversions to wide open receivers on 4th and 9 or more — how is it possible for a wide receiver to be that open in the end zone!!!! — an utterly incompetent end of regulation when Dooley chose overtime rather than take a chance at going for the win with one of the best offenses ever assembled in Tennessee history.

It’s not just that Tennessee is bad, it’s that they have a ton of talent and are still incompetent. For two years, Dooley promised that all he needed was time to grow his bamboo. He never told us that when the bamboo finally grew he’d shove the pieces under our fingernails and step on our fingertips with his cane.

Three years into the Dooley regime the degree of incompetence is still staggering. After coaching 22 SEC games, Derek Dooley has the same number of SEC wins, four, as Lane Kiffin did in his lone season as Vols coach in 2009. In 2008 Tennessee fired Phillip Fulmer, who went 3-5 in the SEC. In his final season as Vol coach Fulmer posted one less SEC win than Dooley has in three years. Yep, Tennessee fired a coach who was 152-52 overall, a year removed from a late fourth quarter SEC title game lead against national champion LSU, and ultimately replaced him with a guy who was 17-20 in the WAC.

Anyone with half a brain — and on good days I have a half — could see that Dooley wasn’t the answer.

Today the final vestiges of residual Dool-Aid drinking idiocy collapsed as quickly as the Vol defense on passing downs. Tennessee is the first team in SEC history to allow 38 or more points in six straight conference games.


Dooley is now 4-18 as an SEC coach, 1-13 in his last 14 SEC games. 

For a program as proud and committed to excellence as Tennessee football has been for over a hundred years, that degree of futility is simply staggering. Mind-boggling, just about impossible for anyone to accomplish, no matter how bad of a coach they are.   

If Tennessee fired Derek Dooley today, the school would have paid him $2.75 million per SEC win.

That’s highway robbery. Only a Dooley highway robbery would doubtless end when the robber tripped, fail, knocked himself out, and drowned with his head buried in a pile of money.

Dooley’s losses aren’t just on the field either. Last week just 61,000 fans showed up, a degree of attendance futility that cost the university $2 million more. Add that up with multiple weeks of dwindling fandom and you’re talking about a deficit that makes bankruptcy seem like sterling management.

That’s why there’s no point in waiting a moment longer, Dave Hart should officially fire Derek Dooley as coach today. Before nightfall in Knoxville he should commence a full-on search for Dooley’s replacement. It’s time to load up the dump truck full of cash and start driving around the country.

The on-field product would be reason enough to make the move, but attendance is dwindling, fan anger isn’t even that common anymore, indifference is becoming the coin of the Volunteer football realm. You know that blank look from Dooley, the one he always has on the sideline when he stares off into the distance and you know that no matter what he’s thinking the result is going to be bad? That’s the look that UT fans in the crowd have game after game after game.

Whether it’s 13 men on the field, 21 on the field for the opponent, a broken hip, being hoisted above his team in the locker room while celebrating an overtime victory over Vanderbilt, being wheeled down the stairs after losing to Mississippi State, giving up a 26 game winning streak to a wide receiver from Kentucky who is playing quarterback, or the constant weekly beatdowns this team has endured time after time, one thing has been consistent — Dooley’s Vols have found a way to lose.

Generally in memorable fashion.

As these losses have mounted, it’s been convenient for the Dool-Aid drinkers to claim that I dislike Derek Dooley. That’s much easier than opening your eyes and seeing what those of us who don’t wear orange-colored glasses have been seeing for a year and a half. This is a bad football team, slowly descending even as the talent grows, a child’s balloon losing helium each day, a big orange with no juice. The problem for those who disagreed with me was this — I don’t and never have disliked Dooley at all, I think he’s a good guy, funny, smart, and when he chooses to interact with the media — as he has all season as a guest on our 3HL radio show — really good at communicating. If I had to pick one current college coach who would be an outstanding television pundit, Dooley would win in a landslide.

I like Dooley, but he’s not a good football coach.

Turns out I’ve been completely right about him from the moment I first wrote last season that Dooley wasn’t the answer for Tennessee football. Yes, I pissed off Tennessee fans, the deep set Dool-Aid drinker who wanted to believe that Derek Dooley was the answer all along.

But, you know what, the reason they were so mad at me was because secretly, deep down beneath those orange colored glasses and big orange t-shirts and overalls, they knew I was right.

On October 8th, 2011, in the wake of a home loss to Georgia midway through his tenure, I wrote this:

“On Saturday night a very mediocre, undisciplined Georgia team rolled in to Neyland Stadium, once one of the fiercest home venues in all of sports, and waited for the once mighty Tennessee Volunteers, a team even more mediocre and undisciplined, to self-destruct. That finally happened on the first drive of the second half when, tied 6-6, Tennessee failed to execute an incredibly complicated play called the “snap.”

Volunteer quarterback Tyler Bray fell on the loose football, the Vols shanked a punt, and several plays later Georgia scored on a short field to take a 13-6 lead that the Bulldogs would never relinquish…When the Vols weren’t taking timeouts for being unable to get lined up, wasting a third and inches with a delay of game penalty late in the third quarter, or pounding the football into a line of scrimmage with as little success as the Situation had throwing himself into a concrete Italian wall, they were struggling to get off the field on defense. It appeared that Tennessee’s defensive gameplan was to allow Georgia receivers to run past them and then hope that Aaron Murray couldn’t complete deep passes to wide open receivers. For most of the night Murray obliged, missing wide open receiver time after time. Then, finally, he hit Mitchell for 71 yards.

Suddenly it was 20-6 and just like that the energy from a night game at Neyland Stadium was drained.”

Go back and read that column now.

Tell me it isn’t a perfect window into the entire Dooley era.

For three years, the refrain has been the same, can Dooley finally win a big game? And the answer has always been the same, no.

In the end give Dooley credit for something, he’s united the entire Tennessee fan base in a similar opinion — Dooley has to go. There isn’t a single Dool-Aid drinker left in the entire country without the last name Dooley. That degree of unanimity is tough to pull off.  

So let’s say goodbye to orange pants and crutches, hop on the dump truck full of cash — Next stop, Jon Gruden.

After that I’d work my way down this list of six additional names — your list can be different than mine — until I find a taker. With UT’s assets, program strength, and rabid fan support begging for wins, it won’t take long to find a taker.

1. Jon Gruden

2. Bobby Petrino

3. Charlie Strong

4. James Franklin

5. Dan Mullen

6. Gary Patterson

7. Gus Malzahn

At long last, everyone can finally agree, even the Dool-Aid drinkers, Derek Dooley is Mike Shula without the wins.

Written by Clay Travis

Clay Travis is the founder of the fastest growing national multimedia platform, OutKick, that produces and distributes engaging content across sports and pop culture to millions of fans across the country. OutKick was created by Travis in 2011 and sold to the Fox Corporation in 2021.

One of the most electrifying and outspoken personalities in the industry, Travis hosts OutKick The Show where he provides his unfiltered opinion on the most compelling headlines throughout sports, culture, and politics. He also makes regular appearances on FOX News Media as a contributor providing analysis on a variety of subjects ranging from sports news to the cultural landscape.

Additionally, Travis serves as a co-host of The Clay Travis and Buck Sexton Show, a three-hour conservative radio talk program syndicated across Premiere Networks radio stations nationwide.

Previously, he launched OutKick The Coverage on Fox Sports Radio that included interviews and listener interactions, and started an iHeartRadio Original Podcast called Wins & Losses that featured in-depth conversations with the biggest names in sports.

Travis is a graduate of George Washington University as well as Vanderbilt Law School. Based in Nashville, he is the author of Dixieland Delight, On Rocky Top, and Republicans Buy Sneakers.