Gage Arnold: What If Derek Dooley Succeeds Next Season


In the midst of Spring Practice and the Da’Rick Rogers mess, I got to thinking deeper on the topic of Vols head man, Derek Dooley, and what his future is here at the University of Tennessee.

It’s nothing that’s unknown to Dooley or any Tennessee fan, if Derek doesn’t produce with wins this season, he will have run his course and will be looking for work elsewhere next season. This is perfectly plausible because frankly that’s the way life has become.

Coach [Insert Name Here] enters a university as the football coach. Coach has fan base eating out of his hand after first press conference. Coach recruits semi-well after first period. Coach pulls a 4-8 season. Coach continues positive words and convinces fan base it was just a fluke. Coach rolls a 5-7 season. Fan base calls to fire coach. Coach begs for final year and his wish is granted. Coach leads team to a 6-6 record and a bowl loss and is subsequently fired.

You know what’s missing in that scenario? Time. All of those events take place in a mere matter of two and a half years. To COMPLETELY overhaul a football program you must have time.

Back to Dooley, there is a lot of talk about what will happen if the Vols lose to NC State, Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi State, Missouri, etc. and who the Vols should hire once Dooley bombs out this season.

Let’s take some perspective with this approach though and look at this statement in a different light.

Perspective began as a painter’s term that applied to a painter shifting lights and angles to make sure he fully encapsulated every bit of detail in his paintings.

In the same way, we should shape our opinions the same way by taking in every bit of information and then forming an educated perspective.

So I ask you this, what if Derek Dooley succeeds next season?

It’s a question that not a lot of people are asking and I don’t understand why. Dooley inherited a broken team, from Day One he spoke of the ‘process’ the Vols would face and continually he stuck to that. Two years down the road however we are about to see whether or not this process will come to fruition.

When you look at what Dooley has done I first and foremost see class. He understood he had to start six true freshmen on his offense and use countless more as contributors on his team. He understood that this was a team with off-the-field trouble and inserted discipline and dignity back into a program that had lost a lost of credibility after Lane Kiffin’s 2009 class.

As pro sports take a professionalism look the star athletes out of high school are beginning to do the same. Dooley’s idea that there is life beyond football will work if he can prove he can win. The fancy “White House” team dinners, the VFL program, and the professionalism will look good to these players’ parents as well and could really turn the talent level of this program back to elite if Dooley can prove to be successful.

If Dooley is to lead this team to a surprising 10-2 season with an SEC East title it could be just the jolt this program needs. UT is at a point where they are solely in the middle of the teeter-totter. If they win, the scales could all fall in their favor, but if they lose the penalties could be harsh. Frankly, there is no gray, this season is black and white for the Volunteers.

With SEC level size, speed, and talent on this roster, mixed with quality and experienced depth for the first time in years, it’s not inconceivable that these are not the Vols you have seen the past two seasons.

Winning is a fickle thing, it turns mediocre coaches (Dabo Swinney for example) to great commodities and the lack of it leads solid leaders (Tommy Tubberville for example) to be dropped for the next hottest name.

Could I be completely wrong about Derek Dooley and could have bomb out with another year of excuses, wining, and 5-7 records? Of course, but I fully think this team, along with Dooley, are ready to take the next step as a program.

A successful Dooley season could be the “IT” moment that many point to years down road if the Vols can make a return to their continued high-level solidarity in the 90’s.

Be wary Vol fans, just take some perspective and realize that this could be the long-awaited year that the Volunteers become the team we knew they could.