After weeks of swirling rumors about the future of Derek Dooley, athletic director Dave Hart announced Sunday afternoon that he would no longer be the head coach of the University of Tennessee football program.
“I told Derek that we were going to move in a different direction with new leadership for our football program, and he handled it as you would expect,” said Hart. “He handled it in a very mature manner, very respectful and appreciative manner in terms of being the head football coach at the University of Tennessee for the past three years.”
Talk about Dooley’s job security began to grow louder following a winless month of October, with close loses to Georgia, South Carolina and Mississippi State, as well as a blow out loss to then-No. 1 Alabama.
Though they failed to win a game in October, Hart was complimentary of the team’s ability to stick together through the rough time.
“As I told our football team and our staff…this team was close to having a very good season. I admire the fact that they never came unglued so to speak, they never pointed fingers, they never said ‘this is your fault, not my fault.’ They showed a lot of maturity through a very, very disappointing football season in terms of the excruciating losses in October, the close games. I let them know that I really do admire that.”
Hart was appreciative of Dooley and what he brought to Tennessee during his time at the university too.
“I’ll tell you while the results, which are very, very important, we’re not what he wanted, not what the team wanted and not what our fan base wanted, there is no question that Derek Dooley improved this football program,” said Hart. “There is no question about that. He inherited a very, very difficult environment, one that I am now familiar with having been here these 13 months.”
Hart later acknowledged that when it came down to making a decision, the results weren’t what the program needed.
“Derek knows this, as did I, this is a results-based profession. You cannot ignore the results at the end of the day,” Hart said.
Under Dooley, the Volunteers were 15-21 overall and 4-19 in SEC play. Possibly the most telling statistic, however, is the Vols record against ranked opponents under Dooley, a dismal 0-15.
In a statement released by the Tennessee athletic department, Dooley expressed his gratitude to the university and the city of Knoxville.
“I am sorry we could not generate enough wins to create hope for a brighter future,” said Dooley. “Although progress was not reflected in our record, I am proud of the strides we made to strengthen the foundation for future success in all areas of the program.
“During the last 34 months, I’ve given my all for Tennessee, and our family appreciates all this University and the Knoxville community has given us.”
Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney will be the interim head coach for the Kentucky game this upcoming Saturday.
“I believe Jim is respected by his peers and knows what needs to be done in order to prepare the team to play on Saturday,” Hart said.
Hart and the university will now begin the search for a new head football coach.
“We will now move forward in a search process with a goal of securing the best coach we possibly can to come and lead the football program at the University of Tennessee.
“If you’re a competitor and you want to prove your worth, come to the SEC…come to Tennessee.”