Climer: Loss to Vanderbilt will seal Derek Dooley's fate

9:38 AM, Nov 18, 2012   |    comments
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Commentary by David Climer, The Tennessean

Add yet another entry to the list of things Derek Dooley has gotten so very wrong since his arrival at Tennessee.

After beating Vanderbilt in overtime last season, Dooley was caught on video uttering those words that shall live in infamy:

"The one thing Tennessee always does is kick the (bleep) out of Vandy."

Wrong again, Coach.

On Saturday evening, Vanderbilt bludgeoned UT 41-18 in what should be the death knell for Dooley's tenure at Tennessee.

With a third straight losing season now certain, no legitimate case can be made for bringing Dooley back for a fourth year. On his watch, the Vols are bad and getting worse.

Asked after the game about his job situation, Dooley said: "That's not my call. I don't know how to answer that."

For those keeping score, this marks the first time UT has endured three straight losing seasons since 1909-11. And three different coaches oversaw that run of ineptitude.

Cue quarterback Tyler Bray, whose worst game of the season came in UT's ugliest loss.

"It's really surprising. I didn't think we would have a losing record," Bray said. "I thought we would only lose a couple of games, maybe two or three, and we've been getting our butts kicked so it's not fun."

Indeed, losing is one thing. Losing while playing with so little purpose and discipline is simply unacceptable. If UT athletics director Dave Hart doesn't announce Dooley's ouster - effective at season's end - in the next day or two, his job also should be called into question.

This is coaching malpractice, pure and simple. Dooley was ill prepared for the job when he got it in January 2010. With one game remaining in his third season, it is clear that Dooley is still in over his head.

The ugly numbers continue to mount. After 0-5 starts in SEC games in his first two seasons, Dooley's Vols now stand at 0-7 in league play headed into their final game against Kentucky.

It gets worse. This was UT's sixth loss in the last seven games, with the only uptick a 55-48 comeback against Sun Belt member Troy two weeks ago. The Vols have won only once in their last 15 SEC games. Since a 3-1 start in '11, UT is just 6-13.

The capper is a 23-point loss to Vanderbilt, a program that prior to Saturday night had beaten the Vols exactly once in three decades.

"I don't think you can say where this program is on one game," Dooley said. "You know, we've had a lot of really good games that we didn't win.

"The program is certainly not where we need to be. It's not anywhere close to where the fans want it to be. But it's probably a little bit better than what people think it is. That's how I would assess it."

I guess that's his story and he's sticking by it.

This is what it has come to: After the game, UT backup quarterback Justin Worley, who saw extended action for the first time this season, referred to the upcoming matchup with Kentucky as "a big rivalry."

"Hopefully we can win that one and finish the season with a win," Worley said.

Before we go any further, though, let's give credit where credit is due. These were two SEC ships passing in the night, with Vanderbilt clearly the superior team. Given the circumstances, if the Commodores didn't beat UT this season, when would they?

The Vols are at low ebb, playing for what essentially is a lame-duck coach.

In contrast, Vanderbilt is on the rise in James Franklin's second season and entered the game already qualified for a bowl.

The Commodores took care of business. They played solid football and waited for UT to self-destruct before pouncing.

It didn't take long.

Vanderbilt led 13-10 at halftime and it should've been worse. Then the Vols came totally unraveled in the third quarter as Vanderbilt went up 34-10.

As the second half went on, you got the distinct feeling the Commodores were toying with the Vols.

Payback is heck.

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