Your football team went 5-7, your men's basketball team spent almost all of December under .500, and your baseball hire has yet to play a game. Oh, and your football DC left for Seattle. Happy New Year, Dave Hart!
Will captured the genesis of what this means for Dooley this year, but there's more to it than that. This was the fire alarm going off. The smoke was obvious, but regretfully that burrito the dumb guy on your floor freshman year who thought you microwave burritos for half an hour at 7 AM on a Saturday morning done went and set off the fire alarm. (In this case, the dumb guy on your floor is played by Kentucky and Justin Wilcox is a burrito. Metaphors have never been so tortured.)
Meanwhile, we're back talking coaching changes, coordinators, and hemorrhaging recruiting classes. Again. For what seems like the 15th year in a row. At least we're good at it by now, right? We should have all the names tucked away on a list somewhere (maybe we wrote the list fourteen months ago, back when Wilcox was flirting with Texas and Texas was attempting to become Boise State South). It's not about our list, though; it's about Dave Hart's list.
This isn't Hart's first hire; that would be Dave Serrano. (edit: Serrano was hired by Hamilton, so this would be Hart's first hire.) However, it might be the most critical hire of his tenure so far. (edit: obviously, it is now since it's his first hire.) Not to put too fine a point on it, but football's a bit more visible than baseball to most fans. Best as we can tell, Hart isn't not happy with the football program; for one, he said as much after the Kentucky game, and for another, it's not hard to read between the lines (emphasis added):
"I think this, we're not young anymore in football. We're not young anymore. While it is realistic and it is factual to say that we have fielded an inexperienced team the last year or two, we're not going to field inexperienced teams anymore. Those are the kinds of things you have to sit down, talk about and assess. I have thoroughly enjoyed Derek Dooley. I think Derek Dooley has the skill sets to be a highly successful coach."
I'm glad Hart thinks Dooley is entertaining, at least. That's a good sign. But the rest of it sounds like an ultimatum, doesn't it?
So how can the new DC hire go? I see two schools of thought:
- Get someone in and salvage the recruiting class! This is the quick-fix approach. We went through the blasted recruiting class torture a few years ago with the 2008 class, and Tennessee just now finished cleaning up that mess. Saving this class - such as possible - helps this year, and it helps down the road. The more cynical among us would also note that if Dooley's toast next year no matter what, the DC hire basically needs to be a warm body. I might be among the more cynical of us.
- Hire someone for the future! I like this, at least in theory. The one caveat: who among the future hires (which in theory should be higher-quality DCs than the DCs Tennessee would bring in with that first group) would be interested in what - right now, at least - looks like a one-year deal? I'm not sure that happens without unspoken promises about becoming a potential head coach in 2013 if this season ends up being less than the sum of its parts. This option doesn't bode well for Dooley's future either.