The sound of shoes dropping is that of Derek Dooley’s death march
This morning, ESPN reported that Tennessee Vols defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox and linebackers coach Peter Sirmon are leaving for Washington — lateral moves. This is on the heels of last night’s decommitment of linebacker recruit Khalid Henderson, and of course the DeAnthony Arnett saga that is ongoing.
On New Years eve, I spoke with a person very close with the UT athletic department, and who has direct ties with athletic director Dave Hart as well as coaches and players. Here is what I was told.
- Derek Dooley has completely lost the team, and he lost it ages ago — most of the players despise him, and many would transfer if they could.
- The majority of the members of the athletic board think the time to fire Dooley is now, not at the end of the upcoming season.
- Recruits will likely be jumping ship, more than the usual attrition at this time of year.
- Three ‘candidates’ to replace Dooley have already been approached — one is an existing NFL coach and two are ex-NFL coaches.
- It is unclear to the members of the athletic board what Dave Hart and Jimmy Cheek will do, and when, but it is clear that the lay of the internal land for Dooley is not good.
- Many shoes will drop soon.
Wilcox and Sirmon are the first of the footware. This morning, my contact told me that Lance Thompson wants out badly, and he summed it all up by saying that there is a better than 50-50 chance that Dooley will be fired soon.
There you have it. Only two years into a new era of Tennessee football, the plaster is crumbling and the ceiling may be caving in soon. The foundation is already weakened. And Dooley is groundless — he has nowhere to stand.
To me, it sounds likely that Hart will fire Dooley, but only when he has a commitment from the right man. So far, he has the luxury of time, unlike former AD Mike Hamilton who had only a few days before National Signing Day when Lane Kiffin bolted for Southern Cal. Thus, replacing Dooley might not happen until the end of the 2012 season. However, that strategy might not be tenable if the Vols pull a 9-3 season out of the rabbit hat. But if Dooley indeed has lost the confidence of his players, and indeed it seems at least some, if not the majority, of his coaching staff, then 9-3, or anything even close, is just a pipe dream.
So, perhaps Hart doesn’t have the luxury of time after all. Stay tuned to the Dooley Watch.