Derek Dooley is out. That chapter is officially closed. However, whomever the Vols tab to be their next head coach, he will certainly have some work to do with the local high school coaches since, apparently, Dooley was the pits when it came to building rapport.
“If Derek Dooley had stayed as their coach, I would’ve had a hard time advising any player to go there,” current Hixson and former Rhea County coach Jason Fitzgerald said this past week. “That staff didn’t follow up or return calls, and really I had no idea who even recruits our area for UT because I’ve never had one of their coaches come through my door.
“I can tell you who recruits our school for Alabama, Georgia, Ole Miss, Missouri and even Tennessee Tech, because I have personally seen them here and get phone calls and emails from those schools and others,” added Fitzgerald, who played in the SEC at Auburn. “The only thing I ever heard from UT since Dooley was there was to advertise their camp and tell me how much it would cost.”
The lack-of-communication complaint was echoed by all 37 coaches who responded to the poll, and each said the staffs under former coaches Phillip Fulmer and Lane Kiffin seemed to care more about building a working relationship.
“To be honest, a lot of high school coaches in the state felt like Derek came across as arrogant,” Fitzgerald added. “We talked about that at coaches’ meetings around the state for several years, actually. It wasn’t just in the Chattanooga area; it was coaches all over the state. Derek is highly intelligent, but it just came off as him proving how smart he is when he talks. He just has no people skills.”
How much of this is sour grapes is uncertain—and honestly irrelevant—but most understand that college recruiting is about relationships. And from the looks of it, the next Tennessee coach will have plenty of rebuilding to do where that’s concerned.