Dooley calmly moving from one fire to next at Tennessee

Derek Dooley is still smiling despite famous a difficult job in turning around the Tennessee program.

Derek Dooley, son of the former Georgia coach, is still smiling despite facing a difficult job in turning around the Tennessee program.

HOOVER, Ala. – The first question was about his mother. The second question was about his father. The third question was about the bar fight.

At some point, Derek Dooley might become just a football coach but for now he’s a novelty.

His mother, Barbara, has all but started the first Athens-based Tennessee fan club (“She made no bones about it in Atlanta at a ‘Big Orange’ caravan event, walking in with an orange boa.”).

His father, Vince, the Georgia icon, views orange as the color of the walls in Hades.

The bar fight? It defines the mess Dooley has stepped into. He left a law practice to coach football, not the typical career transition. He left Louisiana Tech, where he went 4-8 last season, to take the head coaching job at Tennessee. Whether that’s a step up right now is a matter of debate. A once-proud program slid under Phil Fulmer, morphed into a cartoon under Lane Kiffin, and then became a target of scorn and a source of embarrassment two weeks ago with a late night bar fight that left an off-duty police officer on the ground after allegedly being kicked by Volunteer players.

When news of “Vol Brawl” broke July 9, Dooley was vacationing with family and friends at Lake Burton. He had seen his parents during the July 4 weekend, but Vince and Barbara then returned to Athens. When Derek began the drive home, he phoned his father.

“He called me when he was driving back to Knoxville,” Vince Dooley said by phone Friday. “I got angry, and I think he thought I was mad at him. I wasn’t, but he preferred talking to his mother. He thought I was chewing him out.”

It’s easy to project Derek Dooley as a great football coach one day. He is football smart, street smart, book smart. He has been a player, a coach and an administrator. He has a law degree, leading him to crack at SEC media days: “I’m able to read the NCAA manual and understand it the first time.”

A byproduct of the law background means he’s also equipped to interrogate players, which has become an unfortunate part of his profession.

But his coaching potential notwithstanding, even his father projects “it will take three or four years” to turn around the Volunteers. This being the SEC, there’s no guarantee he’ll be extended a long lifeline.

Tennessee doesn’t just have a football problem, it has an image problem. Imagine taking the top MBA from a Wharton graduating class, putting him in charge of Enron and saying: “Fix it.”

“I wish I could snap my fingers, but it just doesn’t work that way,” Dooley said. “It takes time.”

Referring to Tennessee’s image, he said, “It’s not where we want it to be now. Whether you have two incidents, four, five — you don’t want any in your program.”

It’s believed up to a dozen Tennessee players were at a Knoxville bar on the night in question. Details remain fuzzy because while the university police have issued their report, Knoxville police are still investigating. Darren Myles Jr., a safety from Atlanta, has been kicked off the team. Two other players were suspended indefinitely. The fate of freshman Da’Rick Rogers from Calhoun remains uncertain because Dooley isn’t certain of his role, even though he’s facing disorderly conduct and resisting arrest charges.

Sound like the big career break every coach wants?

When Dooley returned to Knoxville, he questioned every player involved and tried to sort out the details. He also reamed out the team. Everybody on the team.

“He told us what we’ve done, how we’ve embarrassed not just the university but our whole state, and I agree with him,” linebacker Nick Reveiz said.

Here’s the kicker: Reveiz wasn’t even there that night.

Dooley is trying to find the balance between good cop and bad cop.

“I’ve made plenty of bad decisions,” he said. “We’re human. There are bad things out there. It’s been that way since the Bible.”

He added, with remarkable candor: “We put so much emphasis on football and so much emphasis on academic support, which we should. But there’s a little area out there that sometimes we neglect. We talk about it, but what are we doing structurally to really emphasize what we’re saying? That’s your personal growth as a man.”

He has moved from trying to put out one fire to the next, presumably with little sleep in between. Recruiting, staffing, planning, coaching, counseling, selling. He impressed a roomful of cynical media members Friday, expressing his vision and sharing anecdotes about his parents.

Asked later off stage if this has been overwhelming, he said: “It is if you allow it to be. But if you go in knowing there’s going to be crisis, there’s going to be exposure and you’re going to get scrutinized, you can manage it pretty well.”

The games may seem like a welcome relief.

Previous SEC/Georgia posts

SEC media days: Tennessee and Dooley take center stage

Spurrier’s lament: Team is better academically than on field

Richt’s words, actions haven’t changed ugliness at Georgia

SEC media days: Waiting on Richt as NCAA hovers at Georgia

NCAA inquiry is the last thing Georgia and Mark Richt need

It’s no coincidence Saban suddenly is concerned about agents

SEC media days: Hey, who let the BCS in here?

We’re LIVE at SEC media days (with no shortage of storylines)

NCAA reportedly investigating Florida (but temper excitement)

Can Dogs end Alabama-Florida monopoly in SEC title game?

Listen up, Ole Miss: I’ve got Colonel Reb’s replacement

Follow me on Twitter @JeffSchultzAJC and Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC

134 comments Add your comment

Boogers are Salty

July 23rd, 2010
3:13 pm

Good for him!

Stef

July 23rd, 2010
3:21 pm

He definitely has some serious work cut out for him. GO VOLS!!!!

Pi$$onaDawg

July 23rd, 2010
3:24 pm

HAHAHA Jeff you used my line from the earlier blog about the questions. I think Dooley is ready to TRY to fix the VOLS, but I don’t know if he can. The players will have to buy in and the fans will have to back the coach for a few years.

82Dawg

July 23rd, 2010
3:26 pm

Is Reveiz a kicker or a linebacker? You call him both

Pi$$onaDawg

July 23rd, 2010
3:31 pm

82dawg are you stupid? THE KICKER is he was not there. THE KICKER you know the thing is Reveiz was not at the bar. THE KICKER is Reveiz felt bad of no fault of his own doing.

Pi$$onaDawg

July 23rd, 2010
3:32 pm

82dawg can you read your diploma?

GT Alum

July 23rd, 2010
3:34 pm

Well, sounds like Tennessee took a major step up in the intelligence and integrity categories with this coach compared to the last. We’ll see how that works out on the football field, but it sounds like Tennessee under Dooley will be a lot harder to hate.

Boogers are Salty

July 23rd, 2010
3:35 pm

Oh First too!!! My one free wish if for Pi$$ to get a life, and a job!!!

GeoffDawg

July 23rd, 2010
3:36 pm

Good luck to Coach Dooley, Esq. Except when they play you know who of course.

JB

July 23rd, 2010
3:37 pm

He’ll either win them over or lose them and we’ll know by the middle of next season……Nobody knows what the Chemistry is on that team right now, and what the leadership is……If he has a good “core” of 10-15 guys who can lead the others, he’ll be fine….if that core is rotten, Tennessee will be down for a while……

Put on notice

July 23rd, 2010
3:37 pm

Like UGA and Richt did with Montez Robinson ………. Coach Dooley will put Mr DaRick Rogers on notice that if “there is one more infraction at this level ………….son, you are gone.” Now, it is up to Mr. Rogers. That is all. His choice ………a degree and possible NFL career or thugery. His choice.

That is all …………red, yellow, black and white ………….put them on notice once and if it happens again ……………..Houston We Have A Problem. DUMP EM.

If all big time schools embark on this program, it will stop it right now.

Go Dogs. Go SEC.

Damon Good Dawg

July 23rd, 2010
3:38 pm

I smell a rat or is that red panties I smell?

Old Dawg

July 23rd, 2010
3:39 pm

Nice piece, Jeff. Can’t wait to read your weekly picks column, it always keeps me laughing throughout the weekend.

Pi$$onaDawg

July 23rd, 2010
3:39 pm

Its odd that for the first time in many years the Vols coach sounds smarter than the Vandy coach.

Pi$$onaDawg

July 23rd, 2010
3:42 pm

But salty I like spending your tax dollars that give me $312 a week in unemployement.

GeoffDawg

July 23rd, 2010
3:47 pm

I was thinking about making a kicker/LB joke about Reveiz but it fell flat in my head so I thought better of it. I also considered writing something along the lines of “He’s the kicker? But he wasn’t even at the bar.” That seemed in poor taste also.

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Robert Morgan, Jeff Schultz. Jeff Schultz said: Dooley calmly moving from one fire to next at Tennessee http://bit.ly/dgHEVG [...]

Tosh.No

July 23rd, 2010
3:49 pm

Wow this guy can say “pi$$ on your a$$ you f@g” and they let him comment. Yet I have never said anything remotely innappropriate and like half the sports writers on here won’t let me comment. Stay Classy AJC… Anyway, give Dooley some time, and he’ll be fine. And just like all the people on here trashing things that UGA has no control over, just let these Universities handle their business. Its getting old all the dirt being thrown around by ALL the schools. Not one of your schools are perfect. Fact.

dap01

July 23rd, 2010
3:49 pm

Jeff, this article is certainly written with a different tone than ANY article written by you about UGA.

If this was about Georgia, the headlines would have read,

“Dooley desperately tries to remain calm despite bar fights, defections and total chaos!”

Be objective, be consistant.

BravesFan79

July 23rd, 2010
3:49 pm

its a shame the charges against Da Rodgers were dropped. His criminal history will be long i predict, and hopefully more time in jail (from charges not being dropped in the future) will keep him from spreading more fatherless kids as he goes thru out his life. Last thing we need is more Travis Henry’s: 11 kids by 11 women, then spent all his money on “ice” so now he cant support any of them. Tenn must be proud of their African football players. Especially after the tragedy of Channon Christenson/ Christopher Newsom.

GeoffDawg

July 23rd, 2010
3:50 pm

Damon Good Dawg – panties are more likely to smell like fish than rat.

Tosh.No

July 23rd, 2010
3:50 pm

Or Shove it up your a$$ you f@g. Whatever. Still what gives AJC.

BravesFan79

July 23rd, 2010
3:51 pm

BTW… im a UGA fan.. but if 4 players attacked me and my girl in a cab, at least one of them is getting a hollow point bt the eyes. Watch out thugs, not all of us whites are liberal pansies.

GeoffDawg

July 23rd, 2010
3:53 pm

BravesFan79, those weren’t Georgia players responsible for that incident. The only player there was trying to act as the peacemaker according to the police.

Jeff

July 23rd, 2010
3:56 pm

Nick Reveiz is a LB…his father and uncle were kickers for UT (Fuad and Carlos).

Tosh.No

July 23rd, 2010
3:59 pm

“at least one of them is getting a hollow point bt the eyes”

LOL I love internet gangsters. They are always so funny. And yeah check your facts there buddy.

Damon Evans

July 23rd, 2010
4:03 pm

I be damned, say it ain’t so jeff. why are you slobbering all over law degrees, lawyers, etc.

it’s just a fancy degree for professional liars, who can read and write.

Sven Ottke

July 23rd, 2010
4:05 pm

It would go something like this:

Derek Dooley: “Daddy, what do I do?”
Vince Dooley: “Do as I did, son. Cheat like crazy. Why do you think every 4.16 years we landed on probation when I was at the helm?”

Jack was really a jester...

July 23rd, 2010
4:07 pm

Yeah…some peacemaker…he picks great friends too. Isn’t he in more trouble?

William

July 23rd, 2010
4:08 pm

Will he be like his dad and bring more golf etiquette to football.

...who held is one good eye on the Queen

July 23rd, 2010
4:10 pm

Sounds like Derek has deep seated issues with ol’ Vince…”put mommy on the phone”

HonestDawg

July 23rd, 2010
4:10 pm

I hate Tennessee worse than Florida.

Drunkyard Dawg

July 23rd, 2010
4:11 pm

“He left Louisiana Tech, where he went 4-8 last season, to take the head coaching job at Tennessee. Whether that’s a step up right now is a matter of debate.”—come on Jeff, lets not be ridiculous here. No matter where ut is currently as program, its one of the most tradition rich programs of all time. Hell, vandy is a step up from la tech, so to question whether or not ut is a step up is simply put…dumb.

also, ut really clobbered us last year. they still have good players on their roster, they’re not as far away from being good as youre implying.

Heath

July 23rd, 2010
4:12 pm

Dooley will never be around long enough to right the ship which is a shame. But then again, he’d never have gotten the job in the first place without his last name, so I guess it evens out.

All I'm Saying...

July 23rd, 2010
4:15 pm

Why does he need three or four years to turn Tennessee around? Did I miss something? Are they on probation? They were 7 and 6 and 4 and 4 in their division so its not like they stunk up the joint last year.

It's a shame what he did to that dog

July 23rd, 2010
4:15 pm

So what did Chizek say?

Vol4ever

July 23rd, 2010
4:17 pm

After the past year we have had in Knoxville, Coach Dooley is a breath of fresh air. I know we are picked fifth in the east but we will be ok in the future. I’d rather have Coach Dooley and some losses in the near future for long term gain. I think every fan wants their team on top and no problems, but we know all programs go through hard times.

Go Vols! Go SEC!

Russ, the Temporary Mascot

July 23rd, 2010
4:20 pm

Derek Dooley seems like a pretty nice man – a man who would understand the consequences of painting a little dog’s a$$. I may just ask Derek Dooley if I can catch on with the Tennessee program.

GeoffDawg

July 23rd, 2010
4:21 pm

At UT, they set your a$$ on fire. That’s why they call him Smokey.

82Dawg

July 23rd, 2010
4:23 pm

GeoffDawg …too funny

Bolt

July 23rd, 2010
4:25 pm

What a boring week. Not a single UGA athlete arrested all week.

But now for the weekend!

Russ, the Temporary Mascot

July 23rd, 2010
4:26 pm

You can call me Smokey, just don’t call me temporary. I want the job full time. What can a dog with a pure white a$$ do that I can’t do? Besides, those dogs are so inbred that they can hardly walk and the last two had exploding hearts. I say go with a proven winner – Russ, the Full Time Mascot.

tim mcnally

July 23rd, 2010
4:32 pm

Money changes people. Money changes the rules. Money changes football. Alumni with money. The NFL with money. Television with money. There is very little scandal in D-3 (now connect the dotes) because there is no money, no TV, few scouts. Why is this so complex? Do away with the term Student-Athlete.
Here’s where NCAA D-1 & 2 are going: 1) high school seniors are drafted by an NFL team 2) the draftee picks a college and the school pays him to play for 1 or 2 years 3) the draftee doesn’t have to go to class, get grades or dress nice.4) he follows the special rules drafted by the NFL & NCAA 5) his monthly salary while playing for the NCAA is based on the football revenue of the school 6) at the end of the year the NFL can purchase his “option” and move him up to the big league or he can play for the school another year. 7) Oh, one more thing, he can’t kill, maim or rape any students at the school.

Pi$$onaDawg

July 23rd, 2010
4:33 pm

Russ if you are on the sidelines and the dawgs lose to So. Carolina you will lose the job for sure.

Dawg'88

July 23rd, 2010
4:34 pm

Why am I not surprised?
Schultz siding with Dooley but slams CMR. Here is a parody of the stupid scathing article by Schultz about CMR….only thing?…should and could put Dooley’s name in the story because its the same as CMR’s story really!

Enjoy the stupidity of the original author:

Bottomline…just like Richt…Dooley has had a “tumultuous summer also.
Given that several of his players were illegally in a bar drinking (as those UGA players who were arrested…only difference here…VOL players didn’t get caught or charged) , a few players kicked out of the program, and two beating the hell out of a police officer.

Just how low does Schultz set the bar before its a tumultuous summer for Dooley also?

Dooley has had just as bad a summer. Just after all the hype about what he was doing in the spring…changing the culture at Ufk. Well you can’t just change it at Ufk or UGA as CMR has tried…its the culture at large that has caused this…not coaches. Punishment, words, actions aer not going to do it. The culture at large says its cool to drink and go to bars. Just watch the commercials. According to them, you’ll also have several half naked women all over you. Its called enticement. Dooley should be have just become used to this sort of thing

“It’s like, you know [something is] gonna happen,” Dooley says to himself as (CMR admitted to doing. “It’s just like a ballgame. You know there’s going to be a penalty or a turnover, even though you don’t want there to be. Now you have to decide: How are you going to react to that? You can lose your cool and start spouting things you wish you didn’t say. Or you can just take care of the issue and move forward. That’s what I try to do.”

Problem being: It’s not working at UFK either.

We can go round and round about how players are individuals who make individual choices (sometimes dumb ones). We can talk about how a coach, who has given a thousand speeches and made a thousand threats, may be on a talking to Mommy and Daddy while almost entire Vol team is in a small-town bar. But does it really matter?

Whether Dooley is saying the right or wrong things, or recruiting the right or wrong players, or setting the right or wrong tone, this is his program. He knows that. Anything that happens, whether it’s a stirring win or an ugly arrest in Knoxville, reflects on him.

Right now, the ugliness reflects on Derek Dooley.

When he met with a small group of media members , prior to his main news conference at SEC media days, Dooley was calm and cordial, even as a storm swirled around the program. Some would say that’s one of his strengths, not seeming like he’s going to put his fist through a wall every time something goes wrong.

The downside to that is it gives others the perception, whether accurate or not, that Dooley’s either bringing in the wrong players or he’s not a strong enough disciplinarian when they get here.

Question: Do you get a sense that when Nick Saban walks into a locker room that every one of their players is just a little bit intimidated. If so, do you get that same sense with Dooley? Hell no. But then, intimidating your players means that you hate them and you’re only worried about your ego not about their well being.

“I’ve got a process of handling these situations and I think I do a good job of it,” Dooley says, calmly.

He was asked if he has tightened restrictions on player, in light of the arrests this summer. Dooley should use this example as an answer:

“In the end, we’re still in process of educating young people: How to handle adversity and rebound from that,” Richt said. “[Former UGA linebacker] Dannell Ellerbe. He had an issue early in his career: a DUI and a car wreck. I said, ‘Look, what you did damaged your reputation and Georgia’s reputation. But it didn’t destroy it. It only destroys it if you let it destroy it. If you allow this to put you in the tank, then you’re probably not going to make it.’ He was on his last leg at Georgia. But he got his act together.”

He will have success stories. But arrests and losses have a cumulative effect. To use the following words, they can damage the reputation of a man and a school. I (Schultz) would have just kicked every player who does anything wrong off the team…no questions asked. And then I would resign because it is the coach’s fault for what 100 guys do. 93 out of 100 do the right thing but the coach should be hanged when only a few do wrong. Minor offenses (except one) but no mind…these players are heathens. I (Schultz) never drank beer under age…yeah right!

layinlow

July 23rd, 2010
4:37 pm

If he doesn’t suspend Roger’s at some point I will lose respect for Dooley. Is he afraid to suspend the “crown jewel” ( being from calhoun I had a laugh while writing that) of their recruiting class because he knows that will already be strike one? I read that the guy in the bar claimed it was Roger’s who hit him but refused to press charges. What is Dooley waiting on? Roger’s at best has two charges against him and is probably guilty of assault as well.

Shug

July 23rd, 2010
4:43 pm

Coach Dooley will rue the day he decided against bringing Tom Spangler as his defensive coordinator to Tennessee!!!! All his other problems pale in comparison.

layinlow

July 23rd, 2010
4:43 pm

Tim, good idea. lol. Sure we need a bunch of these immature trouble making kids running around a college campus with a big wad of money in their pockets. Boy that would solve everything! Do you really think the NFL would agree to draft players out of high school? Football players develop in college and it’s harder to identify which ones will be able to play at the next level until they are older. It is a much different concept than basketball or baseball.

Pi$$onaDawg

July 23rd, 2010
4:47 pm

Mama dont touch me there!

What's Important

July 23rd, 2010
4:47 pm

Jeff, do you have a little man crush on DD?