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.

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5 responses to “The sound of shoes dropping is that of Derek Dooley’s death march”

  1. rockytop78 says :

    Assuming that the source close to Dave Hart is accurate, how can all of this have happened without any sort of indication of the loss of the team and/or other coaches? I would like to think that Wilcox and Sirmon would not leave but for the fact that they are able to return to the Pacific Northwest — after all, Wilcox turned down buckets of money at Texas just last year.

    This also seems at odds with what Dave Hart said earlier this year about his “hands off” approach as AD.

    If all of this is true, then I am just stupefied and dumbfounded.

    • norcalvol says :

      The only thing I can say to that is that no one that I know really knows what Hart will actually do. The person I spoke with said that. So, Hart may very well be very patient with this whole thing, and retain Dooley — now, and even after next season, even with, say, a 6-6 or 7-4 record. If he were to let Dooley go now, without another bad season as a reason, then the heat will be directly on Hart himself, and his hire would be his and his alone. Hart may not want that kind of pressure right now.

      It is true that Wilcox turned down the truckload of money, but that was last year as you say. I imagine a lot can happen between the end of year one and the end of year two. It sounds like it has. The discontent could be about a lot of things, including the utter frustration of getting beat very badly against three teams, and the frustration of losing two winnable games (GA and USC). Generally, in all kinds of life situations, discontent simmers for a long time and not until it turns into a rolling boil do things begin to outwardly decompose.

      The loss at UK was the tipping point. Everything changed after that.

      • rockytop78 says :

        Well, if Dooley/Hart can make a good DC hire and prevent the recruting class from evaporating, then things may look better. But who knows how easy that is going to be?

        In the long run, I think that it was Fulmer’s promotion (and retention) of Randy Sanders that was the proximate cause of his ultimate downfall. It may be that Dooley’s retention of the coaches on the offense will be his downfall, too.

        What a way to start the New Year.

        • norcalvol says :

          It’s depressing.

          I personally do not think Dooley will be fired now. Another 6-6 season will probably do him in. I see both of those as likely.

        • norcalvol says :

          A real problem is this — an updated conversation tells me that the word on the street (very recent phone calls) among current Vols, former Vols, and NFL folks, is to stay clear of Dooley. The street credibility is gone.

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