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Finally, my thoughts on the Tennessee coaching situation

First, let me go back to Tuesday.  Again, my former affiliation with USC was ended with the decision by Mike Garrett, soon to be former athletic director at USC, to hire Lane Kiffin from Tennessee.  Horrible hire by Garrett…again.  Pete Carroll is about the only hire that Garrett has made in his tenure at USC that was worth a damn, and he didn’t want to hire Uncle Pete in the first place.  So, rather that re-hash all of Garrett’s errors, dating back to leaving the Kansas City Chiefs, let’s just say that Kiffin is a horrible hire for USC and will do more damage to the program than Paul “Buddy” Hackett did. 

I am relieved that Norm Chow didn’t leave ucla……not that I love the cruddy little bruins now, I never will, but basically to stiff Kiffin.

Second, I was pissed that they took Kiffin from Tennessee NOT because I was a big fan of Kiffin, but that I was a fan of the recruiting job his team of coaches put together.  Gave me pretty solid feelings that I could have become a Kiffin convert.  The timing of his departure, after one season and in the middle of the final recruiting push, is what pissed me off.

That, and the fact that he treated Tennessee like a stepping stone.  Tennessee, like Alabama, Notre Dame, USC, Texas, Oklahoma, Michigan and Ohio State is a destination job.  You leave for the NFL or when you get fired.  Lane Kiffin just pulled a Ty Willingham.  Oops……

After some thoughts on the matter, and hearing how Kiffin was NOT embracing the traditions of the Volunteers, I was relieved that the punk was out of Knoxville.  And I have come to the conclusion that Lane Kiffin is a pathetic character, who lacks character, who will be unemployable as a football coach before he turns 40.

Finally, the process of finding a new coach for the Volunteers.  I immediately told people that I trust Tennessee Athletic Director Mike Hamilton to make this decision.  I admitted that I did not like seeing Phillip Fulmer being let go, but I understood it.  I also admitted that I did not really embrace the hiring of Lane Kiffin, but I sort of understood what Mike was trying to do.

Let me put this in the simplest of terms.  I am not an Athletic Director at a major Division 1 university.  Never pretended to be and never made that a goal of mine.  That said, I limited my comments to the rumored candidates as they came forward.  When asked who I wanted for the next head coach for Tennessee, I gave a very honest and direct answer.  That answer was met with laughter by most.  And it was the same answer that I had given 14 months earlier.

Pete Carroll!!

Yes, that is who I wanted.  BUT, I know that wasn’t going to happen, not in 2008 and not in 2010.  I was serious.  That is a question that someone like me, not an AD, can and should only answer with a dream answer.

Will Muschamp…never head coached, so I had issues with him.

Kippy Brown…head coached in the XFL, but assisted also with the Detroit Lions.  Again, I had concerns with him…but would have been OK with him because he gets the tradition of Tennessee Football.

Troy Calhoun is a good head coach and is a great fit at Air Force.  Recruiting at a non-service academy would be a change, so I had some concerns there.  But, I think he would have done a good job in Knoxville.

Then David Cutcliffe’s name popped up.  I really like David.  For a year, I worked with him on game days on the radio.  Getting to know him was great and I have a ton of respect for him.  He is an Alabama alum, but married an East Tennessee girl.  He did a good job at Ole Miss and was only fired when he refused to make changes to his staff.  He is a loyal guy.  Most importantly, he is a good man too.

But, knowing the issue at Ole Miss with his assistant coaches, I thought there could be a problem.  And this is where all of the armchair experts were NOT thinking things through.

Mike Hamilton had over $3,000,000 in payroll for football assistant coaches that he had to eat.  This hire at Tennessee was not like a regular hiring process.  Due to that big chuck of cash that Mike had to deal with, he wanted to find a coach who would be willing to take on some of that responsibility.

David wouldn’t, and couldn’t, be that guy.  I get that.  David would not come to Knoxville under these circumstances.  And maybe the challenge of making Duke a respectable program in the ACC is a challenge that he’d rather face AND do so on his terms.

As much as I would have liked to see him, and members of his staff that I know, working for my alma mater again, I respect his decision.  So, Go Duke!!

But I also respect Mike Hamilton’s position as well.  I think he would have hell to pay by pissing away $3,000,000 from the Big Orange coffers.  Tennessee Athletics provides about $11,000,000 to the acadmic side of the University of Tennessee EVERY year.  To drop it down to just $8,000,000 for one year, or to spread it out over a few years, would put a lot of pain on UT.

Finally, Tennessee hired a coach that many of those same armchair pundits rolled their eyes at and turned their noses up at.  Derek Dooley from Lousiana Tech.  A head coach with a 17 and 20 record.

A coach with a losing record?  Tennessee is not Kansas, right.  I mean, the self-appointed experts thought, Turner Gill with his 20-30 record is fine for the Jayhawks, but never for the Vols.

I completely disagree.  Throw the records away in the case of both hires.

In the case of Turner Gill, tell me when Buffalo, where he came from, was a powerhouse in college football?  Tell me how deep the resources at Buffalo are compared to Kansas?

Think about that.

Now, same goes for Derek Dooley at Louisiana Tech.  But at La Tech, Dooley had a bit more control.  He was the Athletics Director there.  He could spend some of his time and attention on deepening the coffers in Ruston, right? 

But, how deep could the coffers ever get at La Tech?

Dooley is an interesting guy. His father was an Auburn guy who became head coach at the arch rival of his alma mater, the University of Georgia.  Vince Dooley was offered the job at Auburn more than once, but he stuck with the program that gave him his first head coaching job.  And he later became Athletic Director at Georgia.

But Derek Dooley walked on at Virginia rather than linger in his father’s long shadow.  Later, he earned a scholarship at UVA.  He did return to Georgia for law school and earned his degree.  Derek Dooley even practiced law, for a while.

But his apparently his father’s son.  Coaching was his love, his desire.

Now, he is the man at Tennessee.  I am guessing that Derek Dooley, like his father, respects what that means.

And I bet that Derek Dooley will do better than 17-20 in his first three years in Knoxville.  He now has resources.  He now has facilities.  He now has an impressive stadium, one that his employer owns and is improving every year.

With his experience as an Athletic Director, I am confident that he will win cleanly as well.

As for Kiffin, I think he will get USC in trouble before the next AD at USC cans him.  Meanwhile, Kiffin and company work with the Trojans team in that crumbling rental stadium off campus.

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