Firing a head football coach is tough. When he generally recruited quality individuals, emphasized academics and developed character through his Vol For Life program, it's even tougher.
But, simply put, Tennessee coach Derek Dooley had to go. His dismissal — confirmed by school officials via email earlier today — was inevitable. The numbers make that abundantly clear.
Dooley's overall record since arriving on The Hill is 15-21. Worse, there has been no upswing to provide hope for the future. He went 6-7 in Year 1, 5-7 in Year 2 and stands 4-7 in Year 3 after suffering a humiliating 41-18 loss Saturday night at Vanderbilt. The roster may be deeper and more talented than it was two years ago but the results remain unacceptable.
As a result, this year's recruiting effort is lagging. Prospects want to play for a winning program, and Tennessee has hovered around the .500 mark ever since Phillip Fulmer directed a 10-4 season in 2007.
After dropping 13 of his last 14 SEC games, Dooley's league record is a putrid 4-19. Lane Kiffin also inherited a mess on The Hill, yet he won as many SEC games (4 of 8) in his lone season leading the Vols as Dooley has in nearly three years at the helm (4 of 23).
Dooley's record against top-25 opponents is an abysmal 0-15. He was non-competitive against his mentor, Alabama's Nick Saban — losing by 31 points (41-10) in Year 1, by 31 points (37-6) in Year 2 and by 31 points (44-13) in Year 3. Dooley also went a combined 0-9 against SEC East rivals Georgia, Florida and South Carolina. The point differentials weren't as ugly in Year 3 as they were in Year 2 but that's small consolation.
Dooley's 2012 defense has to be the worst in program history. Heading into Saturday night's game at Vanderbilt the Vols ranked 110th among 120 Bowl Championship Subdivision teams in scoring defense, allowing 37.0 points per game. They ranked 111th in total defense at 480.2 yards per game and 113th in pass defense at 289.7 yards per game.
Dooley's 2012 defense looks even worse if you judge it in SEC games only. Heading into the Vandy game the Vols were dead last among the 14 teams in rushing defense at 226.5 yards per game, 10 yards behind 13th-place Auburn (216.3). The Vols were dead last in passing defense at 284.7 yards per game, nine yards behind 13th-place Arkansas (275.5). The Vols were dead last in total defense at 511.2 yards per game, nearly 67 yards behind 13th-place Auburn (444.6). The Vols were dead last in scoring defense at 43.7 points per game, a full touchdown behind 13th-place Kentucky (36.3). The Vols were dead last in pass-defense efficiency at 182.0, well behind 13th-place Auburn (159.0). The Vols were dead last in red-zone defense, too, having allowed foes to post a 100 percent success rate (23 of 23).
One final number warrants mentioning: Home attendance has eroded steadily during Dooley's tenure and is likely to hit a new low when his team hosts lame-duck coach Joker Phillips and the Kentucky Wildcats this Saturday in the regular-season finale.
When the fans stop coming and the donors stop contributing, the handwriting is on the wall. And the handwriting, in this case, was written large enough that it could be read from the nose-bleed sections of Neyland Stadium.
Not in letters but in numbers.
Dooley versus ranked teams
No. 7 Oregon 48, Tennessee 13
No. 10 Florida 31, Tennessee 17
No. 12 LSU 16, Tennessee 14
No. 7 Alabama 41, Tennessee 10
No. 17 South Carolina 38, Tennessee 24
No. 16 Florida 33, Tennessee 23
No. 1 LSU 38, Tennessee 7
No. 2 Alabama 37, Tennessee 6
No. 14 South Carolina 14, Tennessee 3
No. 8 Arkansas 49, Tennessee 7
No. 18 Florida 37, Tennessee 20
No. 5 Georgia 51, Tennessee 44
No. 19 Mississippi State 41, Tennessee 31
No. 1 Alabama 44, Tennessee 13
No. 17 South Carolina 38, Tennessee 35
Watch as Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart addressed the media Sunday:
Here is what Dooley had to say after the Volunteers lost 41-18 to Vanderbilt on Saturday night: