Tennessee lost yet another SEC game last Saturday night. This one was to their oldest and most bitter rival, the Alabama Crimson Tide. The 44-13 beatdown from the #1 team in the country was the 5th straight loss in the SEC under Derek Dooley. In fact, the Vols are 1-11 over their last 12 conference games. Someone with that record should be fired immediately, right?
I’ve not been a fan of Coach Dooley ever since last season’s debacle at Kentucky. He was wearing thin on me before that. Blowout SEC loss after blowout SEC loss weighed heavily on my soul, but then the Kentucky game sent me over the edge. It was obvious to me and a few others that this guy isn’t the guy for UT. People called us “Negative” and said we have to give him time. Those people are finally coming over to my side of thinking. Listen, He’s a great guy and I truly believe that he wants to bring UT back from the ashes. But, he’s alienated a passionate fan base from the program, he hasn’t won a meaningful game in his 3 seasons and it’s clear to me that he just isn’t going to get it done.
That being said, UT can’t fire him right now. They can’t fire him after the South Carolina game. Think about this: What if UT loses to South Carolina this coming Saturday. That will put them at 3-5 overall with a 0-5 record in the conference. Say they then go on to win out in November. That would put them at 7-5 overall with a 3-5 conference record. That would probably be good enough to put them into a bowl game on the level of a Liberty Bowl or Music City Bowl against a mid-major opponent who they should beat. That would give them 8 wins overall. What would that say about our program if we fired our coach on October 28th then the team goes on to win 7-8 games?
Now, we all know that won’t happen. When UT fired Phillip Fulmer after the South Carolina game in 2008, they came out the next week and lost to Wyoming. That kept the Vols out of a bowl game for the second time in 4 years. I know what will happen if we fire Dooley on October 28th. We’ll lose to Troy and Missouri and maybe even Vanderbilt. We could end up beating Vandy and Kentucky and finish the season 5-7.
But, what if they fire him and the Vols win out? We’re already a laughing stock in the SEC. How much worse would it get if we fired the coach then we won 5 straight to finish 8-5?
The only argument I’ve had with myself over the previous statement is you’re supposed to judge yourself against the best. Tennessee has come up short against the best. Under Derek Dooley, Tennessee has lost all three match ups against Florida, Georgia and Alabama, UT’s three biggest rivals. They’ve also lost to LSU twice, South Carolina twice, Arkansas and Mississippi State, all ranked SEC opponents. So, looking at that point Dooley has to go. I would normally agree because I agree with judging yourself against the best.
But, in this case, UT must wait. Let the season play out. If UT slips up and loses a game in November, then cut ties the next day after the loss. But, firing Dooley now accomplishes nothing. Firing him now will plunge UT into disarray and another season is lost. Keeping him through the end of the season could promote some stability and even if they do fire him at the end of the season after winning out, you’ve finished the season strong and laid a foundation for the next man that we’ll hire. Keeping him through the end of the season is the right thing to do. If you fire him, wait until November 25th, don’t do it on October 28th.