Reports say it's "not a matter of 'if,' but 'when'" Tennessee's Derek Dooley will be released from his position as head football coach.

That's unfortunate.

Dooley came to Knoxville in 2010 after former head coach Lane Kiffin left the team to coach at the University of Southern California. Fans saw Dooley as a kind of savior, the man who could reboot the system and bring the Volunteers back to their former glory.

Unfortunately, he didn't live up to their standards, and fans tossed him to the curb.

The debacle began in 2011 when the team fell 10-7 to the Kentucky Wildcats. The loss signified the end of a 26-year winning streak the Vols had held over Kentucky since 1985. The loss put Dooley on the hot seat and as the 2012 season has progressed, his job security has only gotten worse.

The Vols, currently 4-6 (0-6 SEC), just haven't been able to win an SEC game. Every game has been winnable and every game has been lost. With each issue that arose in every conference game, Dooley took the time to fix it. The only problem was, another issue always arose.

The argument for Dooley's release is strong. Fans don't want to watch a losing team, players don't want to play for a losing coach and donors don't want to invest in a losing program.

I realize I'm in the minority when I say firing Dooley is a poor decision. I understand the argument against him is strong. I'm not endorsing him as the next Phillip Fulmer or Johnny Majors, but as a man who can carry the team for one more year.

I'm interested in a football program that's built on a foundation, and a successful coaching change doesn't take place overnight — it takes time.

If Dave Hart doesn't have someone with experience lined up, the Vols are gonna end up with another Louisiana Tech hire who will stick around for three years until his fans turn on him in a surprising twist of cruel fate. There goes another $5 million.

Tennessee has been in a "year of transition" since 2009. It's 2012 and the team has made no great strides. Blame it on Dooley, but maybe the problem is that a post-Fulmer football program hasn't had time to recover from two coaching changes in the course of just a few years.

I'm not dead set on Dooley and I'm not saying he's got what it takes to be head coach of an SEC team, but I am dead set on giving him a year to figure that out.

The potential candidates that have been tossed around don't excite me. Most of them are far-fetched rumors, based more on wishful thinking than actual possibilities, and the rest are Kiffin-esque coaches who will only dig this program further into the grave.

Most fans are seemingly put out with Dooley and are willing to fall in love with the next flashy smile that dons orange.
I'd rather stick with a coach who has shown himself a faithful leader to the program than turn my attention and affection on an unsure thing.

Chancellor Jimmy Cheek and Hart may have already made up their minds, donors may be pulling out their checkbooks, but I'm not ready to let go. I don't see a future with the current list of potential hires and, until I do, I'd rather not add another coaching change to the budget and the players.

Someone told me yesterday that if Dooley isn't fired, he "won't be able to watch football next year."

Since when did Vol fans become such fair weather fans?

Stick with what you got. Support your team and maybe when it comes time for a coaching change, they'll be able to afford it.

— Lauren Kittrell is a senior in journalism and electronic media. She can be reached at lkittre1@utk.edu