Missing The Boat On Derek Dooley

Friday, November 16, 2012

I enjoy Mr. Exum's articles, even if I don't always agree with them, and I certainly don't agree with his view of UT and Dooley. I believe that Roy misses the boat on many of the issues involved here. First, and central to his writing on whether or not integrity is dead at UT is the issue of the contract. The buyout Roy mentions is a part of the contract. So, if the university decides to fire Coach Dooley, they will be required to pay the buyout stipulated in his contract. That is not being shady, or acting with a lack of integrity, but is honoring the terms of the contract should they decide to go that route.

Yes, this is a game, but it's also a business. The athletic department, chiefly football, brings in millions of dollars of revenue that go towards the academic side. Roy questions whether it's good business to pay Dooley's buyout. First, it's $5 million, not $7.5 million, which is a 50% difference. Second, did you see how many empty seats there were during UT's games against Troy and Missouri? Many estimate there were 60-70 thousand people at those games, which is far below the reported attendances. So, here's some of that math. Neyland Stadium seats nearly 110,000. 40,000 empty seats, times a conservative average ticket price of $40, comes out to $1.6 million per game in ticket sales alone. Now, factor in concessions, merchandise, etc. and you're looking at millions of dollars lost a game. And I can tell you, if Dooley stays on board, less and less fans will show up every week. That's not even mentioning the number of businesses in the area, from hotels, to gas stations, to restaurants/bars that are all very seriously affected.

Now, let's talk about the job that Dooley has done. As I mentioned before, I've been a supporter for most of his tenure. There were those calling for his head after the embarrassing loss to Kentucky, the first loss to that team in 26 years, and we had far superior talent. I stuck by Dooley, and explained the circumstances that Roy mentioned as far as the awful state of affairs that Dooley walked into. Even with all of those conditions, there was absolutely no reason to lose to that Kentucky team, but I still stuck by him. This year was to be the year that we could begin to judge Dooley, since the vast majority of the team would be his players. Next year they would all be his players, so it was supposed to be the first year we could truly judge his work. The problem is, Dooley has shown enough this year to make most sour on him. Roy talks about the improvement of this team versus last year. To that I say, sure in some areas, but not in others, such as the historically bad defense, or where it really matters, the win-loss column. This defense has more talent on it than it did last year, and somehow this years defense makes last years defense look like the '85 Bears. This team has been favored in at least three games that it's lost this year. UT gave up over 700 yards and nearly lost at home to Troy. This team lost to a Missouri team that has looked just plain bad this year. When you consistently get beat by teams with inferior talent, and that you're favored against, that's on the coaches. I won't even really get into the panic the coaching staff displayed in the second half against Florida, the inability to have the team prepared against Mississippi St., or the absolutely inexcusable decision at the end of regulation against Missouri not to try to win. The coaching staff gets scared, and it trickles down.

Maybe the biggest indictment is something you said as an apparent compliment, "Personally, I think UT has a real chance of beating Vanderbilt in Nashville Saturday". UT is an underdog to Vandy. Since when has Vandy been in the same galaxy as UT football? Let's be honest, Dooley got this job because of timing, not because he had a stellar track record. UT is an historical top 10 program, with the largest recruiting budget in the nation, and top 5 facilities. That's not a program that a head coach with a losing record at Louisiana Tech generally gets hired at. As much as most of us fans rooted for him and wanted him to succeed, it's become glaringly obvious he's simply over his head. If, and when, the decision is made not to bring Dooley back next year, you can rest assured that it is a business decision, and that the people really paying his buyout like the Haslams, Thunder Thornton, etc. have excellent business acumen. You don't get to the positions that they do by making poor business decisions. More than anything though, I fail to see how this shows a lack of integrity or violates a contract. Regarding it violating a contract, it simply doesn't.

Tyler Fordice

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