Dooley cool, calm and collected under pressure
UT fans should give credit where credit is due.
They now have a coach who won't let stupidity plague a program.
Derek Dooley handled the initial impact of the BAR Knoxville incident last week with poise. UT's first-year coach dismissed safety Darren Myles, Jr., thanks largely to what was Myles' second run-in with the law in four months, then indefinitely suspended two other players, Marlon Walls and Greg King, for their roles in the July 10 brawl.
It goes without saying that Tennessee coaches and fans alike don't want that behavior around the UT program. But it wasn't what Dooley did, it was how quickly he did it.
Even upon returning from a scheduled (albeit brief) vacation, Dooley wasted no time in laying down the hand of the law. Less than 24 hours after the incident where one off-duty police officer was knocked unconscious after a brawl at a bar in Knoxville, a fight UT players allegedly took part in, Dooley didn't miss a beat.
Sitting back and waiting out the process wasn't an option for Dooley. He didn't wait for police reports to dictate his decision-making. He knew all he had to: That behavior doesn't belong in Big Orange Country. And if he's going to build HIS program, thing will go HIS way.
From Day One of the Dooley era at UT, the son of legendary coach Vince Dooley preached character, values, and a family atmosphere. Tennessee shouldn't just get the best players, it should get the right players, the one-time attorney said.
Translation? Character off the field is just as important as talent on the field. The end (a winning record) doesn't justify the means (how it was reached).
Tennessee's brand had taken some hits over the last several months. The Pilot stick-up in Novemeber, the Baller Vol traffic stop on New Years Day. If no publicity is bad publicity (a la Lane Kiffin), the Vols were ridin' high (no pun intended) on the national stage.
But the BAR Knoxville incident hit at a time when the football program was gaining ground. Dooley's staff was hoping one poached USC tranfer could turn into several. Fans liked the sound of that.
But oh, but how quickly things change.
With a depleted roster and a dauting schedule, the last thing Dooley needed was another challenge in year already labeled as "rebuilding."
But just like that, with blatant stupidity and a knocked-out cop, Dooley's first year in Knoxville became that much tougher.
But don't cry for the Volunteers lost; Dooley isn't. Every player connected with the bar brawl was a key cog in the Tennessee machine, including Da'Rick Rogers, the jewel of Dooley's first recruiting class. Every name was one capable of shining on game day.
Did that stop Dooley from making the right decisions? Not in the least.
Myles? Out the door. King and Walls? On the sideline. And they might not be the only ones.
The roster surely will take a hit from those losses. Perhaps the win column will, as well. But Dooley pulled no punches (again, no pun intended).
If character will be the foundation of Dooley's era at Tennessee, those who don't adequately represent the Vols will be shown the door. And for a coach to talk the talk, then walk the walk, that's refreshing.