published Friday, May 7th, 2010

Wiedmer: Warlick likens Dooley to her UT boss, Summitt

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Holly Warlick

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Bob Kesling

History tells us that you would enjoy more job security under Donald Trump, George Steinbrenner or the "Dancing with the Stars" panel than as a Southeastern Conference head football coach.

Since 1976, when Tennessee Lady Vols associate head coach Holly Warlick first arrived on campus as a freshman point guard, the SEC's current 12 member schools have employed a total of 78 football bosses, not including interim appointments.

Yet perhaps because Big Orange football had only two coaches during a 32-year stretch from 1977 to 2008 -- or just as likely because Pat Summitt has been the school's only women's basketball coach since 1976 -- Warlick assumed UT athletics was different.

"We've always been a school of tradition, a school of doing things the right way," she said during Thursday evening's Big Orange Caravan stop at The Chattanoogan.

So the notion that the Vols could have three football coaches in three years never crossed her mind?

"Never," she said. "Never."

But then UT parted company with Phillip Fulmer after his 16 seasons as head coach in November 2008, Lane Kiffin went west to Southern Cal a mere 13 months later and the Vols were forced to reach out to Derek Dooley less than four months ago, technically making him the third coach employed by the school in less than 15 months.

Yet if you ask Warlick, who grew up a deep 3-pointer from the UT campus in Rocky Hill, Dooley will be UT's last football hire for the foreseeable future.

"I see a lot of similarities between him and Pat," said Warlick, who has spent the last couple of days with Dooley on the caravan. "He demands discipline. He demands academic excellence. He expects his players to represent the University of Tennessee the way they should."

It's easy to sound all the right notes on the caravan. You're preaching to the choir, after all.

Take 53-year-old Greg Whitehead, for example. Clad head-to-toe in orange, he brought his 19-year-old son Brett to the caravan's Thursday afternoon stop at Cleveland Country Club.

After both Whiteheads collected Dooley's autograph and Brett posed for a picture with the coach, Greg said, "I'm expecting us to have some growing pains this season."

Asked to predict what record that might produce, Greg said, "Nine and three." His son seconded that notion.

With expectations like that, it may be Dooley suffering the worst growing pains during his first year as a head coach in the same league his father, Vince, lasted 25 years at Georgia.

Not that young Dooley appears nervous.

At the Cleveland stop he drew big laughs when he said, "We've got five new offensive linemen, a new quarterback and a brand new running back. Other than that, we're in great shape."

Said Bob Kesling, the Voice of the Vols, who's been with Dooley all week, "He's not being flamboyant. He's not in there trying to stir things up. He's marching forward. He can't do anything about what happened last year, or three years ago in recruiting. I just like his message and the consistency of his message. I think he really understands the task ahead of him."

It's a task Warlick believes he's more than ready to complete.

"Derek's working so hard to get things back to the way they used to be around here," she said. "And I think that's pretty tough to beat. I've always said of football recruits that if you visit Neyland Stadium on a game day, and you see our guys run through that 'T' and see our fans go crazy, how can you not want to be a part of that?'"

Particularly if your football coach is a guy with a lot of similarities to Pat Summitt.

about Mark Wiedmer...

Mark Wiedmer started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press on Valentine’s Day of 1983. At the time, he had to get an advance from his boss to buy a Valentine gift for his wife. Mark was hired as a graphic artist but quickly moved to sports, where he oversaw prep football for a time, won the “Pick’ em” box in 1985 and took over the UTC basketball beat the following year. By 1990, he was ...

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