There has been a list of excuses given for the lack of success that the Tennessee Volunteers have had under head coach Derek Dooley. The list includes (but is not limited to) the team was undermanned when he arrived. The team has been decimated by injuries, and they are too young overall.
While these excuses had validity, their expiration date arrived on November 26th when the Volunteers were defeated by the Kentucky Wildcats 10-7. The loss ended a 26-game winning streak against the Wildcats.
The Volunteers are now 11-14 overall and have a record of 4-12 in the SEC.
In eight of their 14 losses, they have been defeated by 14 points or more and have only defeated three SEC teams—Vanderbilt, Kentucky and Ole Miss.
The Volunteers have had three losing seasons in the last four years and are close to taking up residence as a lower-tier SEC football team.
Next season, the Vols will have Tyler Bray, Justin Hunter and Da’rick Rogers back for their junior season. 2012 must be viewed as an “all-in” season. Tennessee is likely to lose at least Rogers and Hunter to the NFL draft at the end of the 2012 season and Bray could be gone as well.
If Dooley cannot win 10 games in 2012, the Volunteers must fire him or they will set themselves back another five seasons.
This is not similar to Mark Richt and Les Miles having a couple of bad seasons. Those coaches had successful seasons prior to their drop-off.
Dooley, on the other hand, had been a head coach for five seasons and has only had one winning season. The height of his coaching career was an eight-win season at Louisiana Tech.
It is for this reason that I believe that Dooley should bypass the hot seat and go straight to a five-game probation.
Tennessee opens the season with the following schedule:
- North Carolina State
- Georgia State
- at Georgia
If the Vols do not start the season 4-1 then Dooley needs to be fired immediately following the fifth game. This will allow the administration and athletic director to start a coaching search that will yield a competent coach.
This might sound harsh, but if Tennessee cannot win those three non-conference games and split Georgia and Florida this season, they will never be able to under Dooley.
The hire of Dooley was viewed as a last-minute hire because the Vols had been rejected by so many coaches. This time around, they need to reach for the stars and comprise a list of elite coaches. It is better to hire the 12th choice of an all-elite list than a coach who was coming off a 4-8 season in the WAC conference.
The University of Tennessee has a proud football history and the facilities that should help them remain relevant. Moreover, there is never a time that the Vols should be outcoached by the Kentucky Wildcats.
I know that Derek Dooley is a good guy and has instituted several good programs at Tennessee. However, he is not winning football games and the silver lining is almost invisible.
If the Vols do not implement a five-game probation for Dooley they could spend the rest of the decade dwelling in the land of mediocrity.