In what can only be described as a tragically expected turn of events, the Tennessee Volunteers have fired head football coach Derek Dooley (via ESPN). The move comes with one game remaining in a season in which the Vols have started 4-7.
The question about Dooley's firing is simple. How did Tennessee have a worse season than Auburn?
As the Volunteers let go of their head coach, the Auburn Tigers are in the midst of a 3-8 season in which they've lost all seven of their SEC games. As they prepare for a showdown with No. 2 Alabama, common belief is that they'll fall to 3-9.
Whether or not the Tigers' projected loss will come to fruition has yet to be seen. What can be predicted, however, is that head coach Gene Chizik will have fans and program insiders calling for his job.
Even after he delivered the 2011 BCS National Championship.
Although Tennessee has managed to grab one more win than Auburn, there is a reason that Dooley was fired and Chizik has not been. Although some will cite Chizik's title, the truth of the matter is that Tennessee has failed even worse than Auburn.
As for why, start out by cutting Dooley some slack. Then you'll get to the core reasons.
Cut Dooley Some Slack
Does Auburn's Gene Chizik deserve to be fired?
To be fair, the Tennessee Volunteers played very good football for a long stretch of the 2012-13 season. In fact, four of their seven losses came in very competitive games against teams that would be ranked within the Top 10 at some point this season.
The Vols lost by seven at Georgia and three at South Carolina. They were also down three until the final 10 seconds at Mississippi State and trailed by just seven entering the fourth quarter against Florida.
That's four close losses against teams that, at some point, were considered to be the elite of the SEC. Tennessee was clearly competitive—they just couldn't close the deal.
In fact, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina remain ranked in the Top 10 of the BCS Rankings. So what was it that got Dooley fired after such significant progress was made?
Misuse of Elite Talent
Anyone who tells you that the talent on the Tennessee Volunteers' roster is on par with that of an Alabama or LSU has lost their mind. With that being said, those same people would sound even crazier if they stated that the Vols deserve to be 4-7 right now.
Not when Tyler Bray and Justin Hunter are picking apart SEC defenses.
Anyone who tells you that offense was an issue in Knoxville would be lying. The Volunteers were putting up 477.6 yards per game, ranking second in the SEC. They also ranked fourth in the conference with an average of 36.1 points.
That came against what was, arguably, the toughest schedule in the conference.
What Dooley appeared to have missed out on, however, was the fact that the Volunteers play in a conference in which defense rules all. With that being known, ranking 114th in the nation with an average of 37.4 points allowed per game certainly doesn't work.
Especially not when you're allowing more points than you're scoring.
Win the Games You're Expected To
Let this be a lesson to coaches around the country. If you want to keep your job, you better win the games that you're expected to.
Something Derek Dooley was unable to do.
Four of the Vols' seven losses are either excusable or promising for a team which returns a significant amount of starters next season. What is not encouraging, however, is how they lost to Missouri and Vanderbilt.
Oh, and that 44-13 mugging at home against Alabama.
Had the Volunteers defeated Missouri and Vanderbilt as they were expected to, Dooley may still have his job. The team would have been 6-5 entering their game against Kentucky with the potential to reach a bowl game and compete for an eight-win season.
Instead, the Vols fell apart and dropped out of postseason contention. For that, Dooley's firing was warranted.
The question is, could Dooley be the only SEC coach who deserves to go?