Will New NCAA Sanctions Against Tennessee Volunteers Save Derek Dooley's Job?

By Kris Hughes
Dale Zanine – US PRESSWIRE

Tennessee Volunteershead coach Derek Dooley has been on an increasingly warmer seat as the 2012 college football season has progressed. The Vols have struggled mightily once again in 2012, going 4-6 through the team’s first 10 games and needing to win out to assure bowl eligibility, much less a .500 season.

Given this, Dooley is a marked man in Knoxville, leaving many to assume he will be replaced when the season ends and the musical chairs of the college football off-season begins.

Well, maybe, not so fast.

News has broken today that the Tennessee program is facing additional NCAA sanctions due to misdeeds during the coaching tenure of current USC Trojans head coach, and former Vols head man Lane Kiffin— a tenure which continues to be a dark cloud over a struggling program.

More specifically, the sanctions are due to improper recruiting activities by former Kiffin assistant Willie Mack Garza during the 2009 season, in which he paid for the unofficial visit of a prospect to campus.  According to NCAA rules, the costs associated with unofficial visits are purely the responsibility of the recruit and their family.

Here’s the long and short of what the Volunteers are now facing (via Channel 6 WATE in Knoxville):

  • Public reprimand and censure.
  • A two-year extension of the probation period imposed in the August 2011 report from August 24, 2013 through August 23, 2015.
  • Three-year show-cause order for the former assistant coach (Garza). The public report contains further details.
  • The current football staff is limited to hosting 47 official visits for the 2012-13 academic year.
  • Reduction of evaluation days by four (from 168 to 164) by the current football staff during the spring 2012 evaluation period.
  • For football unofficial visits during the fall of 2013, no complimentary tickets may be provided to visiting prospective student-athletes for the first two conference games of the season.

While these additional sanctions aren’t necessarily earth-shattering, they are yet another example of the climate Derek Dooley has been required to work in for his entire tenure at Tennessee since moving over from Louisiana Tech.

In essence, the argument could be made–however tentatively– that Dooley has not been given the resources, time, or “clean” environment to work with which would allow for success in a Southeastern Conference that has as much parity as it has ever had.

Is it really fair, given this, to kick Derek Dooley to the curb now?

More so, is it a good idea to bring in yet another new head coach to campus to replace Dooley– should he be fired– when this coach will still have the cloud of sanctions hanging over his head?

Obviously, the Volunteer Nation is not content with Dooley or the product he has managed to put on the field. I understand this– and their concern is justified.

With more sanctions ahead, however, what purpose would firing him serve?

Would anything really change in the short-term?

All decisions made aren’t necessarily about the long-term, and in Tennessee’s case, perhaps a short-term tunnel-vision focus– one that includes keeping Derek Dooley on board, regardless– is one they should consider.

Even the brightest football mind can’t change external circumstances which impede short-term progress.

Kris Hughes is the College Football Network Manager for Rant Sports and a member of the Football Writers Association of America. You can follow him on Twitter or check out his Facebook page.

Kris is the host of  Rant Sports Radio on the Blog Talk Radio Network Wednesday evenings at 8 Central Time.

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