Bradley Central senior offensive lineman Austin Sanders, who is committed to Tennessee, on Sunday evening disputed reports that Vols coach Derek Dooley has been dismissed.
Sanders tweeted: “Dooleys not fired I just got off the phone he is still coach.”
Sanders, a 6-foot-6-inch, 300-pound tackle helped Bradley Central to a 6-5 season that ended with a 31-6 loss to rival McMinn County in the first round of the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association’s Class 6A playoffs on Nov. 2.
Sanders committed to Tennessee as a junior and thus far has stuck with his decision. He's expected to sign with the Vols on national signing day in February.
Sanders is a finalist for the TSSAA Class 3A Mr. Football Lineman of the Year, along with Memphis Central's Frank Herrin and Brentwood's Logan Teichmann.
Earlier, volquest.com reported that Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart had made the decision to fire Dooley but allow him to coach the Vols’ final two games against Vanderbilt and Kentucky.
CBSports.com’s Bruce Feldman picked up on the volquest.com report, pointing out that “there are still some issues the school is trying to sort out” before making the move public. Feldman referenced the volquest.com report as saying the decision has been made and “the only question is when the school will make the announcement.”
Sports Illustrated's website, SI.com, also picked up the volquest.com report.
It was also rumored that Hart was meeting with the Tennessee teams as reports began to buzz around the internet.
Sanders’ tweet seemed to shoot down the reports, at least for the time being.
The Vols are 4-6 overall and 0-6 in the Southeastern Conference, ahead of only winless Kentucky in the SEC East. Kentucky fired coach Joker Phillips last week.
Dooley, in his third year with the Vols, has been under increasing fire for the past several weeks.
Tennessee lost four straight games to nationally ranked SEC foes -- Georgia, Mississippi State, Alabama and South Carolina. To break the skid the Vols had to fight for their lives -- and Dooley's job -- to beat Troy, 55-48.
On Saturday, Tennessee blew a 21-7 second-half lead and lost to Missouri, 51-48, in four overtimes.
Dooley was strongly criticized for allowing the final 30 seconds -- the Vols had two timeouts left -- to run off the clock in the fourth quarter without trying to gain enough yardage for a potential game-winning field goal.
Dooley is 15-20 in his three years at the helm, including a 4-18 SEC record.
(E-mail Larry Fleming at firstname.lastname@example.org)