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


Randy Smith: Time To Weigh In

After several weeks of reading and hearing about spousal abuse, child abuse and other atrocities in the sports world, it's finally time for me to weigh in. Neither spousal abuse nor child abuse should ever be considered a racial problem. It is a problem in our society; one that we have been dealing with for years. I wanted to state that fact first before going any further. The video ... (click for more)

USA Wins Bendabout International Cup

The USA team held off a team from Mexico to win the second Bendabout International Cup by a score of 11 goals to 10. The   Sunday   afternoon match of 18-goal polo was the culmination of two weekends of exhibition play at Bendabout Farm located south of Cleveland, Tennessee, in McDonald.   Watching the highest level of polo played in North America was a ... (click for more)

Chancellor Rules That IDB Must Reimburse Attorney Fees, Other Legal Costs For Helen Burns Sharp On TIF Lawsuit

Chancellor Pam Fleenor has ruled that Helen Burns Sharp, who sued over the validity of a $9 million Tax Increment Financing (TIF) for a planned major development on Aetna Mountain, should be reimbursed her discretionary costs as well as her attorney fees. Ms. Sharp said in a recent court filing that her legal bills to attorney John Konvalinka were $74,427 at the time. The ... (click for more)

Jumoke Johnson Jr. To Plead Guilty On Selling Crack Cocaine

A youth who was in the news earlier as a teen who had been the first in his family to graduate from Brainerd High School and who found a patron willing to pay for his college education is set to plead guilty on Tuesday to a charge of selling crack cocaine. Jumoke Johnson Jr., who turned 21 on Saturday, dropped out of Miles College in Alabama after one semester and has been ... (click for more)

ChattaData Is A Real Advance For The City

This past Tuesday, the city of Chattanooga's new performance management tool called ChattaData was unveiled. As the chairman of the City Council’s Budget & Finance Committee, I am excited to witness the city putting this important information online in a way that is accessible and transparent to all taxpayers. This approach shines light on how we as a city prioritize our ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: It’s ‘Hate The SEC’ Day

The boo birds came out on the fly on the ESPN website Sunday afternoon, this moments after the latest AP College Football “Top 25” included eight teams from the Southeastern Conference.   What set naysayers aglow was Mississippi State, after upsetting LSU 34-29 Saturday night, debuted on the list at No. 14 while Clemson, playing Florida State in an overtime thriller, got tossed ... (click for more)