John Shearer: Sad Derek Dooley Tale

Tuesday, November 13, 2012 - by John Shearer

When I think about the situation regarding Derek Dooley, I am saddened more than anything else.

As a diehard University of Georgia alumnus and football fan, I can understand why fans want their teams to win enough games, especially if they have a past history of championships.

It is human nature to want to become associated with something larger than we are, even if most of us probably take it a little too far regarding sports teams or our alma maters. 

But as one who lives in Knoxville now and has observed coach Dooley and his family up close and away from Neyland Stadium, I hate it for him and still wonder if his possible dismissal after three seasons is completely fair.

I had first seen Derek in 1979 as an elementary school youngster running around the now-razed Georgia athletic dorm, McWhorter Hall, when I was trying to play football as a walk-on. His family, including his father -- head football coach Vince Dooley -- were eating Thanksgiving dinner there, and Derek was apparently running off some turkey, as most 11-year-olds like to do.

And when Derek was named as the new football coach at Tennessee, I was ecstatic, especially after observing him and his family at his press conference. He had been a high school valedictorian who played football at Virginia and had gone to law school, but he still seemed to have some great Southern manners and grace.

Shortly after recruiting season ended in early 2010, about the time I was thinking about writing him a letter and welcoming him to Knoxville as someone who had played football under his father as an anonymous walk-on, my wife and I were sitting in the United Methodist church we attend in Knoxville and saw Derek and his family.

I eventually wrote him a letter, explaining my past connection with his family and saying I thought I had also seen him in church.

Within a few days, he wrote me back a kind note.

He and his family have continued to worship at the church, and I have spoken to them on occasion when they were sitting or walking nearby. However, I never have taken the time to refresh his memory about my letter and my past connection to Georgia. Other people generally greet them as well, as can be expected, and I just have not wanted to take up their time.

I continued to pull for Derek’s team to do well while enjoying seeing his press conferences in which he had humorous one-liners. At times, his voice sounded like his father’s and at other times I could tell he was definitely from Athens, Ga., just by his mannerisms.

I even occasionally observed him in other settings. On one or two occasions when I was teaching some journalism classes at UT, I would be getting out of my truck in the parking lot near Neyland Stadium, and I would see a cart zoom by.

On it would be coach Dooley trying to eat a meal quickly while being escorted by a student manager or assistant from his weekly press conference at Neyland Stadium back to the football offices. Such is the busy life of a major college football coach.

Well, fast forward to this year. It was obviously a season in which Tennessee needed to win a certain number of games, since the challenging rebuilding job had been slow moving during his first couple of years.

Unfortunately, the team now sits at 4-6, and the vast majority of Tennessee fans think the time has come for a coaching change.

Three years are probably not long enough, especially when one considers that successful football coaches Frank Beamer at Virginia Tech and Bill McCartney at Colorado (now retired) had slow starts, as did former North Carolina basketball coach Dean Smith.

I hate it for coach Dooley, especially since he seems to be trying to recruit players with character and his teams have had some horrible luck. The Vols could have easily won the games against Georgia, Mississippi State, South Carolina and, of course, Missouri. Florida was also close until the fourth quarter.

Ironically, his father’s Georgia teams were always known for winning more of the close games than they lost and for having a good defense – two problems that have plagued Derek this year.

If Tennessee does not enjoy solid wins over both Vanderbilt and Kentucky in their final two games and he is fired, I will certainly be disappointed for Derek, knowing the negative effect it will have on his family.

But I will also understand.

The coaches are given good financial compensation, and the fans and officials of a school expect to receive some compensation as well in the form of an adequate number of victories – especially if the team has a rich tradition.

It is just part of the crazy world of sports in which we live.

Jcshearer2@comcast.net


Grace's Aruca Shines On Senior Night

Grace Academy hosted CSAS in a District 5-A match that was also senior night for the Lady Golden Eagles (16 –12, 8-2). Krissy Aruca, the lone senior for the Lady Golden Eagles, had a strong performance as Grace defeated the Patriots 25 – 5, 25 – 4, 25 – 10. Aruca collected 13 digs and 5 aces to spark the Lady Golden Eagles. Also contributing outstanding performances ... (click for more)

Grace Nets 9-0 Soccer Win

The Grace Academy Lady Golden Eagles kept themselves in a tie for first place in district 5-A/AA with a 9-0 win over Sweetwater High School Tuesday night. It took Grace Academy about 15 minutes to net its first goal, but then the goals came quickly. Kayla Bibbs and Maddie Ferrel led the way for Grace scoring two goals each while five other Lady Golden Eagles scored once.  ... (click for more)

Teen, 17, Charged With Aggravated Rape In Attack On 69-Year-Old North Chattanooga Runner

A 17-year-old has been charged with aggravated rape in connection with an attack on a 69-year-old runner in North Chattanooga on Monday morning. The teen was identified by Juvenile Court officials as Diontae Smartt. Authorities said he has given a confession. Smartt has a detention hearing Thursday at 12:30. The incident happened at approximately 7:30 a.m. ... (click for more)

Berke Implements New Pay Plan For Chattanooga Fire Department

Mayor Andy Berke joined the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) and leadership of the Chattanooga Fire Department to unveil the department’s new pay plan Wednesday afternoon. At a press conference at Fire Hall #1 on Main Street, Mayor Berke and IAFF Local 820 President Jack Thompson signed a memorandum of understanding which sets forth regular raises for fire ... (click for more)

Keep John Roberts, Commissioner Of Red Bank - And Response

It has been a week since the Red Bank Neighborhood Pride Association held their candidate forum at Red Bank Middle School. I was privileged to have been asked to moderate the affair. What follows is my interpretation of the current issues facing the citizens of Red Bank and, at the end, a summation of whom I feel should be elected and whom I will be voting for personally. First, ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: My October Garden

Hark! It is the first day of October and, as I make my monthly stroll through the garden, I find a growing numbers of leaves and acorns. Autumn leaves are beautiful while acorns are nuts, thus you will get the idea as we make our monthly awards: A PRETTY LEAF to Phil Hughes after the Minnesota Twins pitcher came within one inning of earning a $500,000 bonus this season. The deal ... (click for more)