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Report: getting rid of Dooley, coaching staff could cost over $9 million

Derek Dooley AP

Derek Dooley‘s seat (or, a stool, as was the case last Saturday) is warming up rapidly with each passing week — which has usually equated to each passing loss — this season. Halfway through his third year in Knoxville, Dooley is winless against top-25 opponents and has just four SEC wins. Try not to cringe too much, Vols fans, but that would be the same number of conference victories as a certain current USC head coach.

So the pressure’s on Dooley to start winning and fast — a win at No. 17 South Carolina this weekend would go a long way to alleviating that pressure — otherwise, it could mean his job at season’s end and bring in that guy Jon Gruden I hear he’s a football coach, right?

Lee Corso says not so fast.

Evan Woodbery of the Knoxville News-Sentinel did a little number-crunching and determined that if Tennessee was fire Dooley and his assistants, the university would have to pay “at least $5.6 million, and perhaps as much as $9.3 million, over the next four years…”

You can read the entire piece HERE (and it’s well worth five minutes if you have ’em), but here are some of the highlights.

  • Tennessee would owe Dooley and offensive coordinator Jim Chaney $5 million over four years and just under $650,000 over one year, respectively. Those numbers are guaranteed and are therefore not affected by future employment. Dooley’s buyout was adjusted to remain static through early 2014 as part of an extension he received from UT following his first year with the Vols.
  • However, all other staff members, including defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri (the program’s highest-paid assistant), would have buyouts varying on good-faith efforts to find new and comparable employment.
  • Outside of special teams coordinator Charlie Coiner‘s whose contract runs through this upcoming February, all coaches are on multi-year contracts. Sunseri, for example, would be due another $1.84 million through February 2015 if he’s unable to find employment by then.

There are obviously a lot of variables in this situation, which affects whether the total buyout cost is somewhere between $5 million and $6 million, or over $9 million. A difference of $1 million alone came in Dooley’s extension after Year 1. Add in the university’s $40 million-plus athletic facility and the salaries of a new coaching staff, and the decision to can Dooley becomes more complicated.

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32 Responses to “Report: getting rid of Dooley, coaching staff could cost over $9 million”
  1. drozman says: Oct 24, 2012 2:17 PM

    How much would keeping him and repeating sub .500 seasons and no bowl games cost UT?

  2. deucez2 says: Oct 24, 2012 2:39 PM

    I’m sure there are enough pride-wounded Tennessee boosters that would be willing to write those checks.

  3. florida727 says: Oct 24, 2012 2:41 PM

    Can’t answer your question specifically “drozman”, but I do know that bowl game appearances are usually money-losers for most universities. Now, your reference to expecting alumni to keep those generous donations rolling in for a sub-.500 team, there you’re on to something.

  4. bigbuckeye76 says: Oct 24, 2012 2:47 PM

    What makes anyone think Jon Gruden would be a good NCAA coach? Has he ever coached at that level? Has he ever shown interest?

    I doubt seriously that UT would have any trouble flipping that bill…

    My question is, who do you get to replace him?

  5. mogogo1 says: Oct 24, 2012 2:53 PM

    Dooley is one of those guys where I look at his resume and end up scratching my head trying to figure out how he got that job. His prior head coaching experience was three years at La Tech where he went 17-20 overall. He coached for Nick Saban for a few years at LSU and the Dolphins but he never really rose through the ranks all that much.

    Nothing about him screams “You gotta hire this guy and guarantee him a ton of cash!” It increasingly looks like when the one young white guy named Lane Kiffen left, they picked the first other youngish white guy they could find.

  6. mogogo1 says: Oct 24, 2012 2:56 PM

    bigbuckeye76 says:

    What makes anyone think Jon Gruden would be a good NCAA coach? Has he ever coached at that level? Has he ever shown interest?

    Totally agree with you. Lots of NFL guys don’t really like the chores of having to recruit. Gruden is going to have his pick of a lot of NFL openings. Why would he want to go to the college level?

  7. stoog2454 says: Oct 24, 2012 3:24 PM

    Please refresh my memory, why did Tennessee fire Phil Fulmer?

  8. olskool711 says: Oct 24, 2012 3:29 PM

    There are a lot of reasons why Chuckie would like to coach at Tennessee.

    Probably, one of the main ones is that he already owns a beautiful home in Knoxville.

    Isn’t his wife from Knoxville?

    It is easy to see him taking that job.

  9. blitz4848 says: Oct 24, 2012 4:03 PM

    I keep saying the best hire and at a relatively cheap price would be Charlie Strong!

    He’s an SEC guy, DC experience at UF, outstanding recruiter and well liked by school admin, alumni and players.

    Whichever SEC school:
    Arkansas, Auburn, Kentucky or Tennessee that will hire him will be rewarded for years to come.
    Tennessee won’t hire him but they should!!!!!

  10. pjduffey says: Oct 24, 2012 4:06 PM

    A few points:

    First, Gruden has some ties to Tennessee. His wife was a cheerleader there and he started his coaching career there as a grad assistant.

    That said, I don’t think he goes. He would be incredibly expensive (think Nick Saban money) in order to even come close to matching the NFL offers he has been getting. Combine that with the costs of firing Dooley and UT’s recent athletic department financial woes and I just don’t see it being financially feasible.

    Also, I don’t think Gruden really wants to go. He’s retired and has a great gig at ESPN (Erin Andrews agrees with me: Plus, as others have said, he has no real NCAA experience and none as a head coach. He would go from a cushy studio job to competing with the best coaches in the country on both recruiting (kissing the asses of 16 year olds with god complexes must be AWESOME) and coaching (your BEST CASE SCENARIO is battling with Nick Saban every year in the SEC championship). I don’t know why anyone would want that.

    Second, and more to the point, I don’t see him being all that fantastic at UT even if he went there. I’m a Florida guy and I don’t think he was all that great as a head coach in the NFL (his overall win/loss is like .54 or something). He was good at Oakland and won a Superbowl in his first year at Tampa Bay, but was otherwise pretty mediocre. And the college game is markedly different–he has virtually no experience recruiting and developing young talent.

    So, in summary, I don’t think Tennessee could afford him, I don’t think that Gruden would go to UT even if they could afford him, and I don’t think that Gruden would be successful at UT even if they could afford him and he wanted to go.

  11. ducej11 says: Oct 24, 2012 4:08 PM

    Gruden was an assistant coach at Tennessee previously and married a Tennessee cheerleader. Also like previously stated, owns a home in Knoxville.

    He has also gone on record as saying that the only two college opportunities he would consider are Tennessee and Notre Dame.

    With that said, I don’t see him ever doing it.

  12. pjduffey says: Oct 24, 2012 4:22 PM

    @ blitz4848:

    Agree on Charlie Strong–he would be a great HC hire anywhere. (Mullen, another former Gator assistant would also be good but, as crazy as it is to say this, I don’t think UT is an upgrade from Miss St. at this point and I think he waits for a better offer).

    The problem with Strong, from the rumors I have heard, is his wife. She is a beautiful blonde. Again, these are just rumors, but the talk was that the reason he didn’t get SEC offers despite being one of the very top defensive coordinators in the country for 7 years at UF was the racism angle.

    Note that the rumors were not so much that ADs were racist, but that Charlie Strong and the ADs recognized that a black guy (especially a prominent one) walking around with a white wife is still taboo in some areas of the country–i.e. SEC territory.

    Rumors probably circulated because otherwise it’s kinda tough to explain an elite assistant sticking around for so long at an elite school (two national championships under his tenure, several top defenses, and many top draft picks).

    Obviously none of this is confirmed. Who knows, maybe he just loved Gainesville. Anyway, he’s killing it at Louisville right now after winning the Big East last year. He’s going to do great things wherever he ends up.

  13. blitz4848 says: Oct 24, 2012 4:42 PM


    YOU are correct—I had that in my post but decided to take it out. His wife is blond, beautiful and intelligent. They would BOTH be an asset to any school and mark my words the school that does pull the trigger will benefit long term because he is a terrific man as well as a coach.

    If Auburn hires him he will give Bama some competition as he will be able to pull some of the best talent out of South Florida.

    Race is a bit of an issue but winning, sadly would trump the race issue so I am rooting for him to get that chance as he will be a winner!!!!

  14. pricecube says: Oct 24, 2012 4:55 PM

    Haslam just spent over one billion on the Cleveland Browns. Ten million is chump change in comparison.

  15. hor2012 says: Oct 24, 2012 6:30 PM

    I’m from Lousiana so, I’m a LSU fan. And, I don’t want to make any Vols fans made. But, and I mean this in all honesty, I’m not try to be funny. But, I don’t see the Vols as being that bad. I think the only issue they have is at QB. And, before the season started I thought Tyler would be a top 10 pick. In any case, I think that coach Dooley is doing a pretty good job. And, the Vols have a lot of talent. I think the problem is that their playing in the toughest league in the nation. Most starters in the SEC is going to be playing in the NFL. I think the Vols should stay the course. I think Dooley is going to get it turned around

  16. vols84 says: Oct 24, 2012 7:02 PM

    One word….Haslam.

    Dooley and staff are gone. Could be Saturday night.

  17. jimbo75025 says: Oct 24, 2012 8:03 PM

    vols84 says:Oct 24, 2012 7:02 PM

    One word….Haslam.

    Dooley and staff are gone. Could be Saturday night.
    Nah, he will finish the season unless something truly obscene takes place. The schedule lightens up greatly in November-another loss to UK though and things could get interesting. If UT gets bowl eligible and wins whatever minor bowl takes them (considering the fan base, I am sure bowls would love to have them), I give him a 50/50 shot at another year. In other words, Dooley is going to have to beat South Carolina or Missouri to have a chance-personally I do not see it happening.

  18. pike573 says: Oct 24, 2012 8:47 PM

    Why, exactly, did they feel he was worth that kind of money to begin with?

  19. vols84 says: Oct 24, 2012 9:29 PM


    Have watched every game this year. This team has regressed. I believe they will lose to Vandy and Mizzou. The problem is not just Bray, but its also the secondary.
    This is not a bowl team, though it has so much talent. I look at the Florida game – 2nd half as the dropping off point. This team lost its confidence and its offensive flow. It’s over for DD. It might come Sunday morning or after a meaningless win over Kentucky, but DD cannot win SEC games. The stats are alarming.

  20. mcmuskie79 says: Oct 24, 2012 9:45 PM

    UT boosters will pony up whatever check needed to dump Dooley & his staff.

    Can someone tell me again why UT fired Phil Fulmer. He was one of them & the program’s been a mess since.

    Also, (BigBuckeye 76), brah, Chucky’s gonna be roaming the sidelines for us in Ctown.

  21. dmcgrann says: Oct 24, 2012 10:13 PM

    bigbuckeye76 says:

    What makes anyone think Jon Gruden would be a good NCAA coach? Has he ever coached at that level?

    Well, he did coach the Oakland Raiders, so he’s at least had FCS-level experience.

  22. houndofthebaskervols says: Oct 24, 2012 10:52 PM

    Dear totally retarded UT fans, Dooley aint going anywhere until after the 2013 season so quit yer bitching!

    The program was a total disaster with Fulmer was canned, and Kiffin made it worse. But genius UT fans, with all their great knowledge of football, recruiting, attrition rates. and the perils of playing and losing to 4 teams with a combined record of 27-1 just don’t think what Dooley is doing is good enough, so they just want to cash it in, hire SOMEBODY (Insert Coach X here), and start all over. Its ridiculous.

    All this talk about Gruden is as ludicrous as our fan’s expectations. He’s making $4Mil at ESPN, and he’s not coming to Knoxville to become a full time babysitter for a bunch of adolescent teens. And Charlie Strong….puleeze! This UT team would beat Louisville by 30 points and run away with the Big East crown. Strong has proven nothing.

    The current roster breaks down like this:
    9 RS Srs from Fulmer’s worst recruiting class ever
    6 holdovers from Kiffin’s disastrous 2009 class
    10 departures from Dooley’s (i.e. Kiffin’s) 2010 class
    So I ask you, where the hell is all this TALENT I keep reading about? UT has some talent and no depth, and our All World QB is about the 9th best in the league right now… a bust IMO, and he’s been awful in all four SEC games.

    Bottom line, Tennessee cant afford Dooley’s buyout, and there are no coaches out there that = Slam Dunk. Not one, and especially not Gruden.

  23. houndofthebaskervols says: Oct 24, 2012 11:02 PM

    @ mcmuskie79

    Why did we fire Fulmer, very simple. He got lazy and complacent after his miracle BCS title in 98′, hired shitty coaches, took his eye off recruiting, and allowed the program to lapse into perennial mediocrity while making excuse after excuse blaming players, fans, the media, recruits and their parents, Haley’s Comet, “perfect storms”, etc. He became an embarrassment, and with two 5-7 seasons in 4 years it was an easy decision.

    “The job of the offense is to get a few first downs, then punt.” Phillip Fulmer aka. Flummo the Magnificent

  24. bigbuckeye76 says: Oct 24, 2012 11:54 PM

    Hope you are right McMuskie…..Chuckie to the Browns would be a solid hire.

  25. pricecube says: Oct 25, 2012 12:05 AM


    Dooley will be 4-17 in the SEC (.190) after the game Saturday. That is a record of winning less than one out of every five SEC games. Furthermore I do not believe Dooley can get through November unscathed. He will lose at least two more SEC games. There is no way they keep him around another year if that happens.

  26. houndofthebaskervols says: Oct 25, 2012 1:14 AM

    @ pricecube

    You’re not a UT fan are ya? Tennessee has 19 starters returning…no way he is fired. Besides, UT is losing money and a $5Mil buyout and the liability of the assistants are just not in the cards…not this year.

  27. jimbo75025 says: Oct 25, 2012 2:44 PM

    houndofthebaskervols says:Oct 25, 2012 1:14 AM

    @ pricecube

    You’re not a UT fan are ya? Tennessee has 19 starters returning…no way he is fired. Besides, UT is losing money and a $5Mil buyout and the liability of the assistants are just not in the cards…not this year.

    Hound, I am a UT fan/alumni and I somewhat agree with pricecube. Saying 19 starters means nothing-would those 19 “bodies” be starting on many other SEC teams-I doubt it. UT is losing money now, but imagine how much more money they will lose with another sub-par season. People are restless and that counts for everything in college football-this was Dooleys “make or break” season. Not saying he had to beat UF/UGA/Bama, but close, hard-fought losses would have given some hope. As things are, there is none in the ranks at the moment. If somehow UT runs the table in November, I still only give him a 50/50 shot. What a joke the Mike Hamilton period as AD has turned UT sports into.

  28. pricecube says: Oct 25, 2012 4:53 PM

    I am a UT fan.

    Haslam spent 1.05 billion on the Cleveland Browns. That is one thousand and fifty million. I do not think a five million dollar buyout is going to prevent change if Haslam thinks it is time.

  29. houndofthebaskervols says: Oct 25, 2012 6:17 PM

    @ pricecube

    UT is not Haslam’s problem. And I dont recall him writing a check to Fulmer.

    UTAD is losing money, the liability of Dooley and his staff will strangle the balance sheet. Maybe you could write the check and go hire Bill Belichick or somebody. LOL

  30. houndofthebaskervols says: Oct 25, 2012 6:21 PM

    @ jimbo

    Here’s the problem….there are no coaches out there that UT can hire that are a slam dunk. Not one, and if there is one they haven’t been identified. I understand the frustration, but Dooley is a redshirt Sophomore head coach who is till learning on the job. Until I hear who the replacement candidate is I’m not going to support his dismissal, and you shoudnt either.

  31. jimbo75025 says: Oct 27, 2012 2:46 PM

    houndofthebaskervols says:Oct 25, 2012 6:21 PM

    Here’s the problem….there are no coaches out there that UT can hire that are a slam dunk. Not one, and if there is one they haven’t been identified.
    Hound, I agree with this part of your statement. No coach, no matter the resume is ever a slam dunk. However, the perceived inertia of the program (and even regression) is a hard slide to stop. Look no further than Miami (even w/o possible sanctions) and say Colorado for instance. Hell, for the 90’s, the boys from Boulder were top ten every year-much like UT and what is the last time Colorado was relevant. Dooley was a rush hire whose first year was his best and left UT enamored of potential-much like Charlie Weiss at Notre Dame, things have gone downhill from there.

  32. hallzer02 says: Oct 28, 2012 11:44 PM

    Dooley is horrible like his orange pants

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