Effective immediately, head coach Derek Dooley became former head coach Derek Dooley Sunday morning. Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney will serve as the interim head coach for the final game against Kentucky.
Dooley's tenure has been filled with ups and downs, with near wins during his three years over No. 12 LSU, North Carolina in the Music City Bowl, No. 5 Georgia and No. 13 South Carolina, to name a few.
Unfortunately, there were far too many close losses and/or bad losses to the likes of UAB, Kentucky, Troy and Vanderbilt. The inability to make a serious improvement in 2012 ultimately cost Dooley his job.
After all, it was Dooley who said that other teams "wouldn't have Tennessee to kick around anymore" at SEC Media Days. In reality, the 2012 season featured more kicking around than any other season.
It can be argued that the Vols got worse each succeeding season under Dooley. After going to a bowl at 6-6 in 2010, Tennessee lost in a bizarre overtime game against UNC. The next year, the team was primed for another bowl trip before a bad loss at Kentucky prevented it.
But in 2012, when freshmen and sophomores were now juniors and seniors and expectations were reasonably high, the only improvement was in the margin of loss.
That's not good enough for major college football. That's not good enough for the SEC. And apparently, that's not good enough for Tennessee.
Dooley was hired just three weeks before National Signing Day in 2010. He managed to maintain much of the committed class, added a few more prospects and ended with a No. 10 recruiting class ranking according to Rivals.
That annual ranking has slipped each year since from No. 10 to 13 to 17 and currently to 23. It's clear that recruits were holding out and keeping an eye on Dooley's situation, which ended up being the right call.
Derek Dooley is a good man and has been a decent assistant coach in the past. He was not prepared to compete in the toughest conference, though. He'll find his way shortly after this season, whether it's back on the sidelines or in front of a camera. That hair is just too beautiful to keep from the people.
But what about the program he leaves behind? Dooley released a statement after the firing that said, "Although progress was not reflected in our record, I am proud of the strides we made to strengthen the foundation for future success in all areas of the program."
Indeed, the program incurred zero NCAA investigations for actions under Dooley. He created the Vols For Life program and required the utmost moral character from his players (ask Bryce Brown, Janzen Jackson and Da'Rick Rogers).
But there is a lot of work to do to make this proud Tennessee team great once again. The first and most obvious step has been taken.
Now it's time for fans to put faith in athletic director Dave Hart to make the right head coaching hire because if the Volunteers get the wrong guy twice in a row, serious competitive ramifications may be felt for years to come.