While rumors continue to circle the Internet, nothing has been confirmed regarding Tennessee football’s head coaching position.

For head coach Derek Dooley, the difficulty lies in the unknown. Dooley said he asked Athletic Director Dave Hart about several issues and the two talked candidly regarding his concerns, specifically reports that the coach had been released over the weekend.

“He told me he had not made a decision if we go 6-6, despite what all the reports are,” Dooley said. “Either the sources are wrong or Dave wasn’t being forthright with me, and I have no reason to think Dave is not being forthright with me. He is an honest man, he has always been honest with me and I have appreciated how he has handled everything about this. I really have.”

For now, Dooley is focusing on damage control. He said the reports about his job affected both his players and his family and it was important to him that he addressed their concerns.

“(The players) are getting banged up on their phone the way my kids are getting banged up on their phone and the way my wife was getting banged up on hers,” Dooley said. “Everybody was saying I was fired and I didn’t even know it. I’m sitting there working on Vandy and I had already talked to Dave. You have to come home and address all that with your family and then you have to address it in the morning with the team. I addressed it.”

Dooley said the hardest part of the process for him has been the effect it has had on his family. He said, unfortunately, it just comes with the territory.

“The hardest thing is when they are seeing things that are contrary to what their dad is telling them,” Dooley said. “That’s where it gets a little tough, but that is part of the profession. We have to deal with it. That’s how it is.”

With credible reports and rumors being shared, Dooley said he’s proud of how the team has handled the situation.

“I think the irony in all this is that we beat up the young kids so bad on their behavior all the time and they are the ones handling all of this better than anybody,” he said. “There is no negativity on the team, there are no mean-spirited comments, there is no gossip, so I am proud of them for doing that.”

Dooley said he sees the team setting an example he would like to see emulated.

“We probably all ought to learn from them a little bit,” he added.

Uncertain about the future, Dooley said he couldn’t comment on whether he would or wouldn’t be Tennessee’s head coach for the 2013-2014 season. He said the decision is up to Hart and Chancellor Jimmy Cheek.

“I can give you compelling arguments why I should and there are plenty of compelling arguments about why I shouldn’t,” he said regarding whether he should remain at UT. “It’s not going to be your decision, it’s not going to be a bunch of these sources’ decisions, it is Dave and the chancellor. It is their decision, and I can’t control what they think.”

For the players, they are trying to go about business as usual.

“I don’t think we buy into things like that, especially for us seniors,” defensive back Prentiss Waggner said. “We’ve been through, what, three coaches now? That’s basically the last thing we’re thinking about. We’re just thinking about playing these last two games and having fun with it.”

Regardless, Dooley said he was pleased with the way Hart has handled the situation.

“We’ve had a lot of good dialogue,” Dooley said. “I think he has a good handle on how I do things in our program, where we are and why we are not getting the results we want, so you move on and live with it.”

The Vols’ 51-48 overtime loss to Missouri was the key reason for much of the recent speculation. Dooley summed up the game and said it’s time to move on to Saturday’s game against Vanderbilt.

“I guess the only thing I will really sum up on the Missouri game is we were sitting there with 4:43 to go in the game and our defense (to that point) had 59 plays, 295 yards, 14 points and two turnovers. At that point, that is about as good a defensive game that you can play,” he said. “Then we gave up three plays there on the last drive, two on fourth down, and we really struggled in overtime to slow them down. Another tough, disappointing loss, that is four in this league where it came down really to the last possession. For both squads, all three units had a chance to impact the game and we didn’t get it done.”

Dooley said he was disappointed with the team’s offensive performance.

“We were really sloppy on offense. A lot of stuff up front, we didn’t block them very well and we had some pre-snap penalties that we haven’t had in a while,” he said. “The deeper the game went, it started really showing up and affected us. We just didn’t perform up front as well as we had been.”

He said his decision to run out the clock towards the end of regulation was a decision was based on confidence in his team. Unfortunately, his confidence was ill-placed.  

“I felt like we could beat them in overtime. We were at home and I felt like our offense, over the course of time we performed better than their offense.”

Sophomore linebacker Curt Maggitt tore his ACL during the Missouri game. Dooley said he’s out for the season.

“That was a real blow and hurt us that last drive,” Dooley said. “He was doing a great job of copping the quarterback the whole game and that hurt us there on a couple of things toward the stretch.”

The Vols (4-6, 0-6 SEC) will head to Nashville on Saturday to face the Vanderbilt Commodores. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. ET.