After more than a week of rumors, Tennessee has finally let coach Derek Dooley go.
Dooley, 44, was informed Sunday by vice chancellor and director of athletics Dave Hart that his position with the university was terminated. This, on the heels of an embarrassing 41-18 loss to Vanderbilt, which sealed a second consecutive losing season for the Vols.
Things have not exactly been rosey since Dooley took over. He was 15-21 in his three seasons, but 0-15 against ranked opponents and won just four SEC games in 23 attempts.
"I'm sorry we could not generate enough wins to help create hope for a brighter future," Dooley said in a statement. "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."
Dooley's seat became increasingly warm throughout the season, but hit a boiling point last week following a four-overtime loss to Missouri — a game in which Tennessee led late in regulation. Dooley might have been able to save his job had he been able to win his final two games against Vanderbilt and Kentucky, but Saturday's embarrassing loss to the Commodores sealed his fate.
Dooley was hired with a bit of skepticism three years ago after producing a 17-20 record at Louisiana Tech. He went 6-7 in his first season after losing in the Music City Bowl and then last year, the Vols lost in the regular-season finale to rival Kentucky to miss a bowl altogether. The 2012 season appeared promising from the outset, but the wins weren't there and Tennessee brass had no choice, especially after rampant fan outcry for a change.
According to VolQuest.com, Dooley's contract has a $5 million buyout that is payable over 36 months.
"We very much appreciate the effort and energy that Derek Dooley and his staff have poured into our football program at the University of Tennessee. Derek and I met early this morning, and I informed him that I believed a change in leadership, despite the positive contributions he has made to the overall health of the program, was in the best long-term interests of Tennessee football," Hart said in a statement released by the university. "We will immediately begin the search for the best possible candidate to assume this leadership role."
So who will the next coach be?
Candidates include TCU's Gary Patterson, Louisville's Charlie Strong, Duke's David Cutcliffe, and the most popular name in the bunch, current NFL analyst Jon Gruden. Despite its struggles the past few years, Tennessee does remain an attractive job, one that should generate some buzz, especially with the Vols finishing its $45 million expansion to the football facility.
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