It's finally official.
Any cushion that Derek Dooley had as the Tennessee Volunteers head coach is gone. His seat is bare and the blowtorch applied to its underside began firing up as the Kentucky players rushed the field in response to the Wildcats first win over the Vols since 1984.
Gone are the excuses of injury, lack of depth, and Lane Kiffin. And please stop with "the referees cost us the game" talk.
No one lost this game but Tennessee and Tennessee alone. Massive failures in execution, ridiculous play calls, and an inability to contain a wide receiver playing quarterback for the first time since high school on a handful of drives are the culprits in this loss.
This moment has been building for much of the season.
The Vols faced some big-time adversity with injuries to Justin Hunter and Tyler Bray. But there's little excuse for looking as bad as this team has in multiple games.
There was offensive ineptitude for three-plus quarters against Georgia. There was putting the entire offensive weight on a true freshman quarterback against South Carolina. There was one of the most embarrassing blowouts in Tennessee history at Arkansas.
The Vols were lucky to catch numerous breaks in the defeat of Vanderbilt last week, but those breaks, plus some more, went the exact opposite way against Kentucky.
Tennessee finished 1-7 in the SEC for the first time ever this season. It now has consecutive seven-loss seasons for the first time in Tennessee football history.
Going back to Fulmer's final season in Knoxville, the Vols have lost six or more games in four straight seasons.
Derek Dooley has done absolutely nothing to change the trend. Sure, a lot of players were lost through the Fulmer/Kiffin/Dooley fiasco, but there's enough players on that team to not embarrass the Power T, and more importantly, to beat Kentucky.
Regardless of what you may want to believe, Derek Dooley has no more room for error at Tennessee. He has a new athletic director, one that didn't hire him in the first place, and an 11-14 record in two seasons.
No excuse has been invented that can save a coach at a once proud SEC football program with that kind of track record. Dooley was miserable at Louisiana Tech and blamed injuries. He's been miserable at Tennessee while being excused for a plethora of reasons.
He inherited a dumpster fire to be sure, but this is not Tennessee football. If the Vols cannot muster eight wins next season, it will be time to bid adieu to Derek Dooley.
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