Derek Dooley Fired: Timeline of the 5 Games That Doomed the Tennessee Coach
When Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart announced that Derek Dooley was fired as the Volunteers' head coach, it was no real surprise. Dooley came into the season on what may have been the hottest seat in the nation and that seat only got hotter as the losses piled up.
When Dooley inherited the Tennessee football program, it was in shambles. Dooley was the team's third coach in as many years and scholarship players were leaving Knoxville trying to put the fiasco that was the Lane Kiffin "era" behind them.
With few scholarship players left and a very young team, many were expecting that 2010 would be the worst season in history. However, the Volunteers finished the season 6-7 and qualified for its only bowl game under Dooley.
Dooley finished with a 15-21 record that included an 0-15 mark against Top 25 teams. He was also 4-19 in SEC play and had lost 14 of his past 15 league games.
Let's take a look at five games that doomed Dooley in Tennessee.
5. October 9, 2010 vs. Georgia
Tennessee was in need of a statement win after starting the Dooley era 2-3 and barely winning in overtime against UAB a week earlier.
SEC rival Georgia was the perfect matchup for the Volunteers to get back on track. The Bulldogs were riding a four-game losing streak and were the only unranked team Tennessee would see for a month-long span.
However, Tennessee made it easy on the Bulldogs, turning it over three times, giving up four sacks and falling behind 17-0 in the first quarter.
The Volunteers looked totally uninspired after their game against LSU the previous week, where they gave up the winning touchdown after time ran out because a penalty for too many men on the field allowed the Tigers to run an extra play.
His players' lack of motivation on the field brought up the question if Dooley was a viable leader for Tennessee.
Georgia 41, Tennessee 41
4. November 12, 2011 vs. Arkansas
After a treacherous stretch where the Volunteers faced the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 13 ranked teams in the nation, Tennessee got a break against Middle Tennessee. However, the glory from a 24-0 win didn't last long.
Tennessee now had to travel to Arkansas, a team with BCS aspirations on their mind. Dooley's team stayed close for a little, but by the fourth quarter the game would not even be close.
"They put it to us," Dooley said. "Not much you can say after a game like that. Very disappointing in how it ended, but we missed a lot of opportunities."
This game secured Tennessee's place as a doormat in the SEC for quite some time.
Final Score: Arkansas 49, Tennessee 7
3. November 26, 2011 vs. Kentucky
The Vols were on pace to make it to back-to-back bowl games. All they had to do was beat lowly Kentucky, who had been inundated with rumors that their coach, Joker Phillips, might be on his way out of town.
Tennessee failed to get up for the final game of the season and saw their hopes of going to a bowl game slip away. The Vols' last lost on the road to Kentucky came in 1981, and coupled with their 6-7 finish last year, it was the first time the team had ended seasons with consecutive losing records since 1910-11.
The seat that was beginning to get hot during the 2011 season was now getting very uncomfortable for Dooley, and it would not have been a major surprise if Dooley was cut loose in the offseason.
Kentucky 10, Tennessee 7
2. October 13, 2012 vs. Mississippi State
In 2012, when freshmen and sophomores were now juniors and seniors, expectations were reasonably high in Knoxville. Were the Vols going to make a BCS run? No, but they were not expected to be hanging out in the basement of the SEC.
Tennessee kept up with Georgia in a 51-44 loss and showed some life against Florida in a 37-20 rout. Beating the No. 19 ranked Mississippi State team did not seem like too tall of a task.
However, quarterback Tyler Bray would have one of his worst performances of his career and Tennessee once again found a way to lose.
It was becoming too common of a theme. Dooley was not doing a horrible job, but he and his team were unable to do the little things to get the close wins.
This loss was a testament to that.
Mississippi State 41, Tennessee 31
1. November 17, 2012 vs. Vanderbilt
Tennessee had won 34 of the past 35 games in this series coming into Saturday's game with in-state rival Vanderbilt. It was as close as a sure thing could be, but I guess there have been no easy wins in Knoxville lately.
Vanderbilt led just 13-10 at halftime, but took control with a dominant third quarter, scoring 21 unanswered points in a stretch where the Commodores out-gained Tennessee 175-13.
Dooley did all the moves desperate coaches are known for. Dooley pulled his quarterback, then put him back in, but all the strategy would be futile.
The Commodores' win also snapped a 14-game skid against Tennessee at home with their first win in Nashville since 1982. The 41 points Vanderbilt scored against the Vols was the most since a 51-7 win in 1923.
As the final seconds ticked off the clock, it became obvious that Dooley may have coached his final game at Tennessee.
Just a day later, the struggling head coach was let loose by the university.
Dooley is gone, but the season is not over. The team still has one game left against Kentucky. If they lose, it will be the first time ever that the Volunteers go winless in SEC play.
Vanderbilt 41, Tennessee 18