Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley entered the 2012 season with a lot of pressure. Fair or not, the third-year head coach of the Tennessee Volunteers had to show marked improvement—otherwise, his job would be in jeopardy.
After Saturday's 38-35 loss to South Carolina in Columbia, the time has come for Tennessee to cut bait with Dooley and move on to the next chapter.
The bottom line is that Dooley isn't getting the job done.
By now, you know the stats.
He's 4-17 as a head coach in the SEC, and has lost 12 of his last 13 games within the conference.
His defense ranks at or near the bottom of the SEC in virtually every statistical category, and the vocal minority of detractors within the fanbase has become a majority following four straight losses in which they've given up 38 or more points in each game.
But it's the last three losses that should put the final nail in the coffin for Dooley.
After losing 51-44 at Georgia, Tennessee had a bye week to prepare for a tough October at Mississippi State, vs. Alabama and at South Carolina.
With a relatively easy November schedule, it's conceivable that the Vols could run the table in the season's final month.
One win after the bye week could have put the Vols at 8-4 at the end of season. They'll now be—at best—7-5; and the difference between 8-4 and 7-5 in a make-or-break season is the size of one of the highest peaks in the Smoky Mountains.
When should Derek Dooley be let go by Tennessee?
At this point there are no moral victories for Dooley.
No matter what the situation was when he took over in 2010, he needed to show significant improvement to stay employed.
Instead, the program is regressing, and even though the Vols fought hard in the loss to South Carolina, they can't seem to win conference games anymore.
Lane Kiffin did. Philip Fulmer did, too.
Derek Dooley can't, and it's time for new athletic director Dave Hart to find someone who can.
That person is likely coordinating the defense in Tuscaloosa at the moment, not providing color commentary for ESPN's Monday Night Football.