published Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

Wiedmer: Tennessee Vols stuck in absurd situation

KNOXVILLE -- The rumor first appeared on the website "mrsec.com" late in the weekend. According to anonymous sources -- who else? -- University of Tennessee football coach Derek Dooley offered to resign after last year's season-ending loss at Kentucky if athletic director Dave Hart would hand him his $5 million buyout.

Confronted with the story during his weekly news conference Monday, Dooley labeled it "absurd."

He later added, "I'd have to be a dumb [rear end] to do that."

Sad but true, this is where we are. Unnamed sources. Unsubstantiated rumors. Unrelenting speculation. Unending stress and strain on Big Orange players, coaches and Hart. The escalated unraveling of a once proud program.

And until a solution is reached -- be it resignation, termination, a contract extension (unlikely) or the dreaded vote of confidence -- this is where we will remain.

It isn't pretty. It isn't productive. It isn't pleasant. But it seems somewhat unavoidable unless one or both parties -- in this case, Dooley and Hart -- reach a swift agreement to conclude what usually is a long, steady decline.

Of course, the Volunteers' decline began long before Dooley hit town. This blame game should include everyone from former coach Phillip Fulmer to former athletic director Mike Hamilton to Fulmer replacement Lane Kiffin to Dooley to even a few players (both past and current) who've been too stupid, stubborn or both to appreciate the opportunity given them by a full-ride scholarship to a storied Southeastern Conference program.

This isn't to say with certainty that the Dooley Era is almost over. The Big Orange Nation may not be nearly as divided as it was when Fulmer was forced out, but at least until the Alabama debacle -- and what game isn't a debacle these days for any forlorn Tide foe? -- there were still more than a few Dooley supporters.

But with the Vols now 3-4 for the season and 0-4 in the SEC (the latter against teams with a combined 27-1 record) heading into this Saturday's game at South Carolina, and with Dooley now 14-18 for his two-plus seasons with the Big Orange and 0-14 against ranked teams, time to calm the masses is almost out.

To his credit, Dooley has resisted the urge to pile much blame on either Fulmer or Kiffin.

"Are the people upset?" he asked rhetorically on Monday. "They should be. ... I don't think any of us expected to be where we are right now. ... It hurts when you are not performing the way you can."

He also repeated a theme he has used more than once the past few weeks, a theme that all coaches, administrators and athletes should accept and embrace.

"They all want to be cheered," Dooley added, "but nobody wants the criticism when they play bad."

Least of all, most unfortunate of all, his immature quarterback Tyler Bray, who dodged the media after the Bama game. Dooley labeled that "unacceptable in our program."

Many will say the Dooley record is unacceptable. At least a few will argue with some justification that terminating him after just three seasons with a $5 million buyout due him is unacceptable for a program already millions in the red.

In fact, the only thing that seems certain at this point may be that this situation seems far more likely to get worse than better in the days ahead.

Especially when even Dooley said of his team's psyche following the Bama blowout: "Their spirit's broken, and it should be."

All of which brings us back to the rumor that Dooley attempted to resign last November. Though probably untrue, if it really did happen, Hart's decision not to pay the $5 million may prove to make him a dumb so-and-so.

Because given Neyland Stadium's empty seats, unsold concessions and the growing malaise that has engulfed the program since the Kentucky loss, that $5 million might prove chump change to what this Big Orange reclamation project will cost from this point forward.

Contact Mark Wiedmer at mwiedmer@timesfreepress.com

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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amyinsparta said...

Hart may have to do what he obviously doesn't want to do-fire Dooley and give him big bucks to sail into the sunset. It is unfortunate that things have come to this, but it appears Dooley doesn't have the wherewithal to lead the team out of the morass. It also seems to me that last season's exit of most of his primary coaching staff should have set off alarms.Half your staff doesn't leave unless there is good reason for it. We don't know the reasons, but seeing how this season has panned out, we now have a good suspicion of why they left.

October 23, 2012 at 10:50 a.m.

Well, right on cue. Time to make the biggest noise you can while beating a dead horse so you lead the (supposed) charge for a regime change.

Maybe we can stack up all the idiots who bellowed about Coach Dooley being hired instead of our great, proud program making every monetary effort to hire a name-brand coach...like Chizik....then remove that pile of airheads from this conversation.

But that doesn't sell papers, does it?

October 23, 2012 at 11:04 a.m.
outlawmm said...

Look, Im a big VOLS FAN!!! The coaches only problem are the players he brings into the program!!! We dont get winners!!! We need a QB that can both pass and run!!!! We need speed on defense and solid linemen!!! We need fast running backs, that can take it to the house and for our receivers to catch the ball!!!! I watch the games and we just give up!!! NO HEART and it starts with BRAY!!! He is not a leader!! He doesnt know how to win!! Hunter isnt looking like the top receiver in the nation and our defense just cant stop anyone!!! Nobody respects us and thinks the will just walk all over us!!! We need help in the defensive backfeild!! They have no speed and cant tackle and always look out of place!!! Im just being real!!

October 23, 2012 at 11:21 a.m.
Tn3mom said...

Please... give Dooley some time. My heart grieves for my beloved Vols, but it takes time to rebuild. I agree about Bray. He just doesn't have the leadership qualities that will bind the boys together. This mess started with firing of Fulmer. I lay the blame on Mike Hamilton. We don't need to hire and fire when we don't get the results we expect in a few short years. Our boys have suffered because of decisions made that have nothing to do with shaping these young men into outstanding men with character. To see those boys hang their heads is heartbreaking.

October 23, 2012 at 12:23 p.m.
tschieve said...

I know we as fans are disappointed with the Vols of late, but if you really take a look back we are playing at a UT level here in recent years. During the 70s we averaged 7.5 wins and 4 losses, during the 80s we averaged 7.7 wins and 4 losses, during the 90s (our Decade of Dominance) we averaged 10 wins and 2 losses and finally in the 2000s we averaged 8.3 wins and 4.5 losses. So over the past 40 years we are about an 8-4 team year in year out. The program really started it's decline in 2002. Fulmer went 11-22 versus ranked opponents along with 10 additional losses to unranked ones over his last 7 years. Our recruiting and developing of players saw a gradual decline which can be seen in the number of players sent to the NFL on a yearly basis. Looking at Dooley, he inherited at best a MAC level roster with little to no depth, talent, etc. We are currently getting contributions from 8 or so seniors. While Bray has shown flashes, remember that was a Kiffin recruit. If we are to blame anyone it should be Hamilton for letting Fulmer stay on as long as he did. The game started to pass him by and aside from a couple SEC East titles in 2004 and 2007 that we had to have help in other teams losing he was slipping. Three coaches in three years is unheard of these days, much less in the SEC. That will kill a program. We all think highly of the Vols, but when it came time to replace Fulmer and then Kiffin...no one wanted the job. Everyone knew how far the talent level had fallen and that it would be a 3-4 year rebuilding project at best. After seeing the game last week, we look like a couple more years away at the earliest to be on the same level as a Alabama team in regards to depth and talent. Finally, of Dooley's losses, how many of those should he have won? Obviously the UK game last season and I'm not going to count the UNC bowl game where we got robbed. But in all reality we have been losing to top ranked teams these last 3 years with a roster that would be considered as previously stated MAC level. Just an honest look at the program in my eyes.

October 23, 2012 at 1:55 p.m.
WKyVol said...

When we hired Dooley, I was all for him. But the fact of the matter, is that in his third year our rivals are distancing themselves from us in talent & we are 1-11 in the SEC; 0-11 against ranked teams & most importantly 0-9 against Florida, Georgia & Alabama. I see no way that Dooley is going to close the gap in recruiting & we need to stop the bleeding w/a big name coach that commands respect, that with his reputation would attract an all-star staff of great recruiters that can coach up the players & would allow us to catch up with our competition- that name would be Jon Gruden! He has said that he feels UT is one of 2 college coaching jobs that he would be interested in; has ties to the program as a grad asst.; his wife was a UT cheerleader from nearby Seiverville; & is reported that Gruden has bought some property near Knoxville. The quicker we can sever ties w/Dooley & jump on a Saban-like commodity, the better. With trustees like Jim Haslam (that just bought the Cleveland Browns), we have deep enough pockets to spend $5 million a year! UT is the second winningest program in the SEC & top ten in wins nationally. This once-storied program deserves better & not to wallow in bland mediocrity with the Vandys, Kentuckys & Ole Misses!!!

October 23, 2012 at 4:55 p.m.
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