Now the choice has been made and the new Head Coach for Tennessee is in place we are in a position of taking a look at where we are headed while remembering where we have been. Without a firm grip on how we got where we are today there can be no sense of where we are actually headed and how to formulate ideas on what we should be doing to facilitate real and positive change for the future growth of our University Athletic programs. What has worked in the past, what has failed. What produced the successes and what were the actual factual causes for our failures whatever they may have been at any given time in our history.
With regard to Derek Dooley, our new Head Coach, there is a lot of apprehension due to the fact that simply put no one really knows a lot about him. I have researched him since he was a student assistant at Georgia and the best things that can be said at this point is there are no real reasons to believe that he can not grow with our program as it makes the necessary changes to continue to compete in the national spotlight that Tennessee has always been accustomed to. He has worked around a lot of talent since he first began back then and I am sure that he has learned a lot from the guys that he has worked for.
I hope that one comment I have heard him make repeatedly continues to ring true and that being the fact he considers himself to be his own man and seems to resent being compared to or otherwise being "accused" of using the same style as any other Division I Coach. He is fiery, energetic and presents a positive attitude at this point; however having said all of this, he is still untested and underqualified to be our Head Coach. That does not alter the fact that I will support his efforts as long as they appear to be geniunely directed to our program in the spirit of growth and with a healthy respect for where he is within one of the greatest programs in College Football. After all, there is no greater tradition than that of the Tennessee Volunteers any where in College sports.
He has to prove to us all that he can embrace our tradition as it has been developed and help it to continue to be one of the most respected programs in the country while resisting any influences of his own or anyone else's making to change the program in a manner that is not conducive to the great reputation of those that preceeded him.
I read something earlier about bloodlines and breeding and I wish that I could believe in that; but the fact still remains that this is theory and conjecture and rarely proves to be true except in very rare cases. Case in point, the Bowden family. I have Coach Dooley's Father, Vince, listed in my all time favorites in Division I football and have been a longtime admirer of him; however in Derek's own words he is his own man and he is not Nick Saban and he is not Vince Dooley. Everyone else needs to remember that and leave the philosophising to those with greater expertise than that which most of us possess.
I am a Vol Fan and I am in a family that is rich with Tennessee Alumni and having said that; there are issues that we need to address that are simply not going away until they are dealt with in some manner and everyone is beginning to see that a lot of the problems we are experiencing right now are happening because of one person and one person only. There is no doubt that everyone that I hear speak or that I read who has any great wealth of knowledge within this genre have been questioning the motives of our Athletic Director for a long time. No one can seem to put their arms around the methods that this guy employs with regard to the way he goes about the everyday business at the University. We are talking a vast number of people here not just a chosen few nor are we talking about people who dislike our program no matter who is involved. We are talking about folks that just see no rhyme or reason to the methods or lack of methods that would seem to be plausible in the decision making process here at Tennessee especially as of late.
Tennessee fans felt that it was time for a change since the stagnation of the program seem to be the order of the day at that time; so instead of going about a logical process of trying to hire someone who could come in to our conference and hit the ground running so to speak, he hires a consulting firm as a "search team" to help us find a new Head Coach. We are all familiar with how that ended up and when it didn't work out we found ourselves standing in the showers holding our jocks at a time when we should have been solely preparing for signing day not having to search for yet another new Head Coach.
Now this continues to beg the same question....What was he thinking here again? Anyone who knows this situation is confounded by this latest series of events in the respect that there were several choices that could have been made here that would have been seemingly much better for the program had he instantly went about the business of pursuing them rather than insisting on sticking to his own agenda no matter how ridculous anyone thought or in fact knew it to be. There is a pattern here that should be alarming to anyone who genuinely loves Tennessee and wants nothing but the best for our school period. Say what you want, however in the AD position there is no substitute for someone who genuinely knows the program and has ties to the program in one way or the other and Hamilton does not. It seems to resonate in everything he does and don't bring up the Bruce Pearl issue because any part he had in that hire was blind outhouse luck period.
After a history of raising ticket prices, making it more difficult for alumni; or anyone else for that matter, to hold on to season tickets that they had possessed for years; because of the "fees or contributions" that he began to require you to pay if you wanted to keep those seats, while immediately starting to change things and some personnel that were in his words previously considered as "sacred cows" or just didn't agree with him were some of the first signs that his "agenda" was more important than the people who had always supported the program with all of their hearts. He fired one sports writer that I know of personally that I will not name out of respect for him simply because he felt that he had been to close to the the "past" of the program and suspected that he was too loyal to Doug Dickey and Phillip Fulmer just to name two. He was the best writer of the group to ever serve on the staff of the University and I know first hand that he told the truth about the things that he wrote no matter who or how high up in the administration they were. He was there for several years and is still revered for the job that he performed for the school then and the things he continues to contribute in the documentation of the history of our school. He is one of the most honest men I have ever had the pleasure of being aquainted with and I know no one that would ever question his integrity. These are just a few examples of detrimental changes that have been brought to fruition by Mike Hamilton since he has been there as AD and none of them have been positive nor produced an outcome that can in any way be construed as productive for our school.
I could go on and on; however my point is made fairly well here. The people who love our program most need to take a stand and go about the process of forcing the University to explain how any of this has produced a positive outcome or put a genuinely good face on Tennessee sports in any way. I know no one who says that he has been good for our school period yet we continue to have to live with an Athletic Director who is becoming more and more irrevelant as time goes by. This can not produce any positive outcome for our future.
With further regard to Derek Dooley, I truly wish him the best. I want nothing but the best for our program; therefore if we fail to support his best efforts we are failing to support our school and I know none of us want to be guilty of that. I feel for him in a way because he has come in to a situation that will work his behind off for a long time to come if he is to be truly successful. With regard to the recruiting that he has been praised for........ I have no doubt that he is a great orator and has a magnetic personality if he in deed is Vince Dooley's Son and he is; therefore he will be able to talk a good game but when it comes right down to it no matter who is doing the talking the prospective recruits want to know ultimately who they are playing for no matter how good the reputation of the school may be. When you are recruiting for well established Coaches in a lot of cases you could have a total lack of communication skills and get recruits to play for them; however when they do not really know who you are or how good you will or can be they do not necessarily want to play for you just because of who you have coached with or who your Father may be.
In other words he has to develope this program in a manner that is conducive to his personality within an established program with very old traditions that we have all grown up with and will love very deeply until we shuffle off of this mortal coil. That is a tall order.......Good Luck Coach Dooley and I mean it with all heart and soul!