I want to be real clear about this right off the bat. I do not want to see Derek Dooley lose his job, and more importantly I believe firing him would put this program further behind schedule to rebuild. With that said I strongly believe there is a very good chance Dooley will be fired at the end of the year.
There really isn’t anybody out there saying this is even possible, but we live in a world dominated by sports in the moment and results are supreme. UT fans by nature love their coaches. We have never made a habit of firing coaches. Most of the coaching changes in my lifetime have been around basketball but we have never seen a hair trigger firing. So what could lead to an early dismissal of Dooley? The answer is obvious Vandy and Kentucky.
Vanderbilt and Kentucky are the cesspool of the SEC. These two programs are absolutely a disgrace to the conference. Considering how bad these two programs are plus the thought of losing to them would lead to horrific images and sounds on the TV and radio. If Tennessee loses to these two teams this year they will finish the season at 0-8 in SEC play for the first time in school history, and it will be the first time since 1964 Tennessee has lost to both teams in the same year. It would also be their first 4 win season in 34 years and the first back to back losing seasons in 100 years of Tennessee football.
Do I think Tennessee will lose to both Kentucky and Vandy? No, but it is very possible. From what I have seen so far this year there is absolutely no reason to believe Tennessee will beat Vandy. Derek Dooley is 10-0 with the spread and 0-13 against the spread since he has been at UT. The last time Tennessee scored in the 2nd half was late in the game against UGA on Oct 8th. There is no way Tennessee can beat Vanderbilt if they do not score in the 2nd half. I know UT fans don’t want to hear that we are out manned against Vandy but we are. You can say all day that Vandy is Peabody U and we have more talent but that is not the case. Don’t get me wrong there is never an excuse to lose to Vandy! However we are basically a Junior Varsity football team. If you don’t believe me then take notice of the senior class this Saturday night when they come through the T and ask yourself how many of them have been contributors. Just look at these numbers to grasp what type of football team we have.
§ Senior Class 13 players 4 starters
§ Junior Class 19 players 5 starters
§ Sophomore Class 35 players 7starters
§ Freshman Class 40 players 6 starters
My fear is that Tennessee will just pack it in after a loss to Vandy and then walk through the motions against Kentucky. Even though UK is horrible you cannot just lie down and beat a SEC team. Most people think Dooley has one more year. Personally I think he needs two more years. I want to be clear and say I am not a Derek Dooley fan. I am a Tennessee Fan. (I don’t care who the coach is as long as we beat Florida and Alabama.) I did not want to hire him in the first place, and when we hired him I said we just hired another Mike Shula. Ironically he has the same record as Shula at this point with a 10-13 record in his first 23 games. Even though this is pathetic you cannot place all the blame on Dooley. He has taken over a program that basically has been through a series of events that only major probation could create such an uneven class level. This mess did not happen overnight and it will not be fixed over night.
The good news is Tennessee will be back. We can easily see in recruiting circuits that UT has a lot of Pop out there and some nice prospects are starting to pay attention to UT. Peter Sirmon and Darrin Hinshaw are creating networks among 2012 and 2013 recruits that is going to pay off if their staff is still in place long enough to bring these recruits into the program. Dooley and his staff will have a top 10 class this year based on what I have heard from the guys they have committed plus who they think they may get by February. The 2013 class is also looking like there is a possibility to land a good class because the staff has had time to build so many relationships with high school players and coaches.
If Dooley can survive another year there will be enough players on campus to compete in the SEC, but he may never have the chance to coach a full roster. If Derek Dooley is going to be a coach much longer at UT he is going to have to start winning games that he probably should not win, but for now he has to beat the teams we never lose to.