Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley entered this season on one of the hottest seats in America. While the Vols have improved tremendously in key areas from a year ago, it isn't enough to keep him employed.
The Vols' 51-48 loss to Missouri on Saturday afternoon in quadruple overtime in front of several thousand fans disguised as empty seats in Neyland Stadium was the culmination of a miserable eight-game stretch that saw Tennessee go 2-6 and give up more than 35 points in seven of those contests.
Saturday's loss to the Tigers should earn Derek Dooley the "Joker Phillips treatment" on Sunday.
Phillips was dismissed last Sunday, following Kentucky's 40-0 loss to Vanderbilt.
With the Wildcats already in the coaching market and Arkansas essentially in it since April, the Tennessee program would be better served long-term to cut bait with Dooley now and move on with an official coaching search.
Tennessee may be shooting for the stars with some candidates, but if you throw Auburn in the coaching mix, too, you can bet that Tennessee will be courting at least a few of the same candidates as the other programs in the SEC.
The Vols are now 4-18 in the SEC under Dooley, have lost 13 of their last 14 within the conference and clearly are not improving enough to appease Vol Nation.
This isn't like a regular offseason.
Arkansas changed the game when it signed John L. Smith to a 10-month contract, and Kentucky accelerated the process when it dismissed Phillips.
Tennessee would be wise to do the same after Saturday's loss to Missouri. Even though preliminary contact with potential candidates has already been made through back-channels, athletic director Dave Hart needs to get down to business.
Conversations are already taking place around the SEC, and Tennessee needs to get in on the fun now before it's too late.