David Climer: Derek Dooley's job safe for now, but Tennessee Vols must produce

11:48 AM, Jan 4, 2012   |    comments
  • Share
  • Print
  • - A A A +

Orthopedic surgeons should be on alert. With all the knee-jerk reactions to the goings-on at the University of Tennessee's football program, there's sure to be an epidemic of torn ACLs.

Lose to Kentucky for the first time in 27 years?

Torches and pitchforks.

No bowl game?

Time to set mattresses afire.

Freshman receiver DeAnthony Arnett transferring?

Oh, the humanity.

Three vacancies on the coaching staff?

The sky is falling.

Instead of Smokey, maybe UT's mascot should be Chicken Little.

The way some people see it, say it and tweet it, Derek Dooley is in coaching purgatory. He's damaged goods, a lost cause, a buyout waiting to happen.

In short, Dooley's future at UT is alleged to be exactly that: short.

So it goes. These days, every action results in an equal and opposite overreaction. When you're the football coach at UT, there's no middle ground. You're either building the program or you're overseeing its decay.

Hate to break it to you, folks, but Dooley's not going anywhere, at least not in the near term. He has support where it counts. Those that make these fire/hire decisions are willing to give him a legitimate opportunity to get the program back up and running on a satisfactory level.

Look, I'm not saying Dooley is untouchable. If Vol Ball completely craters next season, he won't survive. You have to feed the monster.

And the monster isn't satisfied with a diet consisting largely of victories over Montana, Middle Tennessee State and even Cincinnati. Barring a collapse, though, he'll get every chance to set things in order. Why? Because that's UT's style.

It's difficult for those relatively new to Vol Ball to comprehend but this is an athletics department and a university that value stability more than most. From 1977 to 2008, the UT football program had one -- count it, one -- head coaching change. Please make a note of it.

Say what you will about UT's leadership -- or lack thereof -- but it has never been quick to judge. Coaches tend to get the benefit of the doubt. The school can be loyal to a fault.

Consider: UT Chancellor Jimmy Cheek was on board with keeping basketball Coach Bruce Pearl last year until he was finally persuaded otherwise by public and private backlash as details of Pearl's Pinocchio act with NCAA investigators became embarrassingly clear.

While Dooley hasn't won as often as anyone would like, at least he's kept the Vols off the NCAA's blotter. That should count for something, particularly after the Pearl debacle.

Granted, nobody knows the agenda of first-year Athletics Director Dave Hart. He's the wild card in this. But Hart's track record at Florida State shows an inclination to stay the course rather than make change for the sake of change.

Yes, Dooley has made plenty of mistakes, both on and off the field. He arrived in Knoxville thinking he had all the answers only to discover that they kept changing the questions. After two years of SEC on-the-job training, it's high time for him to stop making excuses and start showing results.

He'll get ample opportunity to do exactly that.

Like it or not.

David Climer's columns appear on Wednesday, Friday, Sunday and Monday. Contact him at 615-259-8020 or dclimer@tennessean.com.

Most Watched Videos