There’s A New Sherriff in Town

UT head coach Derek Dooley during his press conference on Wed 17 Mar 2010. Photo by Michael Patrick

On the eve of the first day of spring practice, Coach Dooley had a lot to say during his press conference (prepared remarks; Q&A Part I; Q&A Part II; Q&A Part III). For example, Savion Frazier, Nick Reveiz, and Art Evans are out for spring drills due to injury. Also, Dooley said he does not believe he will have made a decision on the QB position by the time spring practices are finished. And, Dooley informed the press corps that Aaron Douglas may not participate in spring practice because he is going through some personal issues right now.

But this news is nothing compared to the buzz that has been going around concerning former players showing up at UT facilities.

The subject here that apparently has concerned some former players and others is regarding former player access to football practice sessions. Dooley’s main policy is that former players are required to call Condredge Holloway of the athletic department before they attend practice.

Here are some quotes from Dooley on the subject:

“How confusing is this? When you go to somebody’s house, what do you do? You just don’t walk in. You go ‘Hey Jimmy, I’m going to come over today.’ Boom. What so hard about that? We try to create an issue that isn’t there.”

“This is how difficult it is,” Dooley said, holding his hand to his head as if it were a telephone. “ ‘Hey Condredge I want to come to practice today.’ OK. Psst. We act like that’s an act of congress. I’d like to know who is coming. I don’t think that’s unreasonable. I don’t know a lot of the former players. So I’d like to know in advance that ‘Hey, so-in-so is going to be here’ so I can go shake his hand, meet him and talk to him. I don’t know why that’s so unreasonable. What am I missing? Is there some tradition I’m missing here?”

“They’re (former UT players) part of the family. My brother, he lives in Atlanta. He’s a part of my family, but he doesn’t drive up to Knoxville and open up my door … It’s basic human interaction. That’s all it is. It doesn’t mean I’m excluding my brother because I’d like him to call me before he comes to Knoxville.”

♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

Dooley is going to run this ship his way. He has a right to do things his way within reason. As far as I can tell, he is not blacklisting former players, and he is not preventing former players from attending practices. He is simply creating rules for former players attending practices.

The new coach knows that discipline will be key to creating a successful football program. One way to instill discipline is to create an environment that eliminates unnecessary distractions. Former players just “showing up” might create an unnecessary distraction. Or, as Dooley characterized the issue on Wednesday, it is a matter of common courtesy. Thus, a rule has been created that mandates former players to provide notice before they will be allowed to visit practice sessions.

Perhaps this will evolve into a situation of former players asking for and the football program granting permission rather than just simply taking phone calls to fill out the daily visitor list.

But, it really doesn’t matter. Dooley is in charge, and he is trying to control the environment within which he will attempt to mold this and future squads into winners.

The policy makes sense, even if it might tick off a player or a member of the media. But after watching the press conference, and reading about how this issue has been misunderstood by some players, former and present, anybody offended by this policy need to look no further than the mirror to see where the problem really is.

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3 responses to “There’s A New Sherriff in Town”

  1. tk says :

    does this mean strickland too?

  2. rockytop78 says :

    Personally, I enjoyed the smack-down of the local sports media by Coach Dooley. I think that all of the attention that Kiffin gave them created (even more of) a monster; I mean, for all that Kiffin stroked them and used them to his own advantage, look at how they turned on him at his final “press conference.”

    So now we get to hear the media whining, “But Coach Dooley won’t talk to us! He won’t let us wander around and talk to whomever we want on the team! He might have made Eric Berry upset! He’s MEAN!”

    The local sports media reminds me of the lines by Vachel Lindsay: “a clever servant, insufferable master.” They are certainly insufferable, all right.

    Good for you, Coach Dooley. Now, just back it up with performance on the field.

    • NorCalVol says :

      Rockytop78, well stated. This appears to be more of a media-generated issue than anything else, because the media are having their access restricted more than before, and, as you point to, Kiffin was a goldmine of material for the press whereas Dooley is more of a barren mine in comparison.

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