It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us…
Derek Dooley’s tenure at Tennessee was, in a word, paradoxical. His teams on the offensive side of the ball were the definition of excellence, setting records and scoring points in ways unseen by a new generation of Vol fans. Defensively, his teams also set records – for points allowed and yards given up.
In Dooley’s first year on Rocky Top, he was twice crowned the victor only to have the officials strip him of wins, conjuring up images of Harry Truman proudly hoisting a newspaper titled Dewey Defeats Truman. There was no consolatory towel to dry off the shame of those Gatorade baths. Sticky and disappointed, Dooley twice flew back to Knoxville after celebrating wins that were, and then instantly were not.
There was the public Dooley: charming, gracious, a southern gentleman in every way. He had a law degree. He quoted Rommell. His father was SEC Royalty. Aesthetically, he was a perfect fit at UT. Then there was the much maligned private Dooley of rumor. He was a tyrant. He wouldn’t make eye contact with players or staff outside of meetings. He gave preferential treatment. The early weeks of his tenure were focused on getting a shiny red button on his desk that opened his office door, just like Saban’s.
The man whose tenure was erratic and unpredictable also exposed the hypocrisy and fickleness of a fanbase. Vol fans turned rapidly on Lane Kiffin, but he brought that upon himself. It was the pile of burning big orange britches in Ft. Sanders that first illustrated how quickly the big orange masses could vomit up the Kool-Aid.
However, if there is one coach Vol nation deserves to despise, and who is worthy of the fickle fanbase’s scorn, it is Dooley. If Kiffin is the woman who left Volfans at the altar, Dooley is the terrible first wife who tossed them the toaster in the bathtub, and raped them in a long protracted divorce. He got full custody of the kids, and they are still paying the alimony. Where Kiffin is what could have been, Dooley is what never should have been. Where Kiffin broke their hearts, Dooley broke their wills.
Derek Dooley torpedoed Tennessee football. He is unequivocally the worst thing to ever happen to the program. In 2012, he didn’t sign a single offensive lineman. Somehow it seems that they are still paying for his tomfoolery. While he is likely privately a man of high character, a good father and husband, he was an absolute Napoleon of a football coach. He was a poor caretaker of the brand that Vol fans love in every way, and it is difficult to find anything positive to say about him in that role.
Growing up, I played football for my church’s rec league team. We learned the game of football in junction with the teachings and values of Jesus Christ. I will always remember my coach’s favorite speech, delivered in his northern, Trumplike style, before a rematch with an opponent who had bested us.
“In life, revenge is bad. God doesn’t like revenge. But in football, maybe a little revenge isn’t so bad. Maybe we like a little revenge this week.”
I wish Derek Dooley well. I hope he leads a happy, healthy life. But I also hope that maybe, just maybe, we can have a little revenge this week.