Derek Dooley is no longer the football coach of the 4-7 Tennessee Volunteers. He leaves with a 15-21 record, and will be replaced for the finale by offensive coordinator Jim Chaney. The list of reasons why is long. His team's complete lack of SEC success is the first -- with only four conference wins in three years, Tennessee fell behind every rival (and several non-rivals) and put themselves years away from serious contention. They'll also miss a bowl for the second year in a row, something which hasn't happened since the '70s.
And, oh yeah, the Vols just got crushed 41-18 by Vanderbilt, a program that was once so inferior to Tennessee's that the very concept of the Dores being favored, let alone cruising to a win, is still a little too much to comprehend. Dooley's Vols even lost to Kentucky for the first time in 26 years. He won't get the chance to repeat that mistake.
And so the Jon Gruden watch intensifies. You'll hear no shortage of rumors surrounding the former Super Bowl coach and current Monday Night Football commentator, who's been strangely tied to the Vols job for weeks, including rumors of him checking out Knoxville schools for his kids this week. Rumors are rumors!
Other names you'll hear: Duke's David Cutcliffe, who has both Tennessee coaching and SEC head coaching experience; Mississippi State's Dan Mullen, who beat Tennessee this year despite far lesser resources; Louisville's Charlie Strong, who might suddenly have very good reason to leave the Big East; John Chavis, the LSU defensive coordinator who was previously in Knoxville; Louisiana Tech coach Sonny Dykes, since LA Tech hires have done wonders for Tennessee already; and Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart, since the Nick Saban coaching tree has done wonders for Tennessee already. And yes, you'll hear about the return of Philip Fulmer. Actually, Lane Kiffin might be available soon, too!
Dooley took over with odds stacked against him due to turmoil, turnover and NCAA troubles from the previous two regimes, plus pretty terrible injury luck and attrition along the way. This Vols team looked set to compete in the SEC East this year, but deciding to transition from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 might not have been the best choice for a make-or-break year.
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