Sunday afternoon it was made official: Derek Dooley would no longer be the head coach of the Tennessee Volunteers.
After wading in the waters of mediocrity in recent years, the Volunteers are ready to take their program back to the levels of prominence in the Southeastern Conference. They’re going to be looking for a proven head coach; one with a track record of success, an individual who can restore the University of Tennessee brand on a national scale.
You know, kind of like the guy they pushed out the door in 2008, Phillip Fulmer.
Fulmer had built Tennessee into a national brand winning a national championship, 2 SEC championships, and 6 division titles. Then a year removed from a 10-4 season, Fulmer started to struggle a bit, but never had a chance to right the ship.
He was forced out in favor of the excitable but unproven Lane Kiffin who’s only intention was to use the Volunteers as a stepping stone to his next opportunity; which just so happened to come after one season at Southern California.
The move sent Tennessee scrambling to make a hire, a hire that turned out to be Derek Dooley. A nice guy and overall good person, he was always in over his head at Tennessee, with his only prior experience as a head coach coming at Louisiana Tech.
Tennessee learned the hard way. You don’t fire your coach unless you have someone better lined up. It is the very reason the Auburn Tigers will likely hold on to Gene Chizik for another season as options at this point are very limited.
Now Tennessee, in dire financial straights ($1.9 million in reserves) will find themselves in a bidding war with the bottomless pockets of the Arkansas Razorbacks for their next head coach.
At this point Tennessee would be better off burying that hatchet and bringing back Fulmer.