|Parker: Change gone come|
While no official announcement has been made, another losing record in Knoxville come November is spelling the end of the football coach's tenure on The Hill.
What do you do with a closet full of orange slacks when a crew is boxing up your belongings to move you and your family out of Knoxville?
Who knows, but it's a thought sure to pass through Derek Dooley's mind soon, along with numerous others, wondering how it came to this and how so quickly.
The second Tyler Bray's pass sailed into the hands of Kentucky defensive back Taiedo Smith last November, a year of patience evaporated.
Nearly 12 months and six more Southeastern Conference losses later and the InsideTennessee staff is brainstorming for a list of head-coaching candidates.
In nearly every way possible, Dooley has done exactly what he was hired to do — except win at a double-digit-per-year pace in the country's premier collegiate football league.
The guy left Louisiana Tech for Knoxville and inherited attrition levels worse than most programs fresh off probation, an NCAA black cloud, one of the toughest schedules in the country and a wounded fan base.
Lane Kiffin's news that he was taking his "dream job" at Southern California over what Peyton Manning calls a "destination job" on Rocky Top put his replacement in the batter's box with two strikes against him.
Picking up the pieces following the departure of a coach that was the complete opposite of Phillip Fulmer just 407 days into the job left then-AD Mike Hamilton filling up voice mailboxes instead of talking contract terms with the top of the list.
Still, in spite of mattresses still smoldering on Johnny Majors Drive, Dooley pounced all over the opportunity, knowing the Tennessee job is one loaded with rich tradition, elite facilities and a challenge that could leave a guy remembered forever (for the right reasons).
"If you're going to look for sound bites and things from me that's going to attack other programs and disparage people, that's just not how I am," said Dooley at his opening press conference back on Jan. 15, 2010, coincidentally showing the hand gestures and head movement of a man he holds the utmost respect for — Nick Saban.
Dooley's conservative, lawyer-like approach to things was just what the doctor ordered to keep five-star prospects that hold up fellow students off the roster and well-rounded young people at its core.
Is he going to draw up an exotic blitz at halftime to rattle A.J. McCarron's cage from the back-side and raise the eyebrows of Dick LeBeau?
Are the Vols going to emerge from the Peyton Manning Locker Room looking like they're ready to unleash a thunderstorm of pain following a stunning pregame speech?
Is he going to get with adidas to design a snazzy black jersey and satin helmet that's going to get his 20-year-olds pumped?
"There's nothing more important than an institution's culture and an institution's tradition," Dooley said from the beginning.
Back on Oct. 2, 2010, Dooley should have earned his signature win with the Vols poised to take down his former employer, LSU, in their own back yard. Alas, too many men on the field snatched victory away.
With an opportunity to enter that winter on a momentous upswing with a Music City Bowl victory, North Carolina found a way to stop the clock with 17 men on the field and get a kick off with 1 second showing. Then, an interception in overtime sealed Tennessee's fate and the 30-27 defeat is one of a host of the "snake bites" Big Orange Country is growing accustomed to.
Regardless of how close the Vols have come over the last three seasons, results speak volumes and it's been the "same ole song and dance in the SEC games."
Dooley does not provide a schematic advantage to the defensive side of the football. As he mentioned in Columbia just weeks ago, few head men can bring a leg up to all three phases: "I spend all my hours on offense and special teams. I don't know anybody that can do all three. I want to meet him if he can — Superman."
Timeouts were not used to stop the clock at the end of the first half this year against Alabama or at the end of regulation while tied versus Missouri. Plentiful timeouts were burned because of too many or not enough men on the field on special teams units.
He has his own philosophies on things, and he hasn't been afraid to voice them, such as consistently asking the NCAA to allow more coaches on football staffs.
He has his reasons for hosting a majority of the organization's official visitors when the season is over just like he has his reasons for not attending high school games on Friday nights.
What if Dooley is relieved of his duties or steps aside and Jon Gruden is not the next head coach on Rocky Top? The seed of Chucky has spread so deeply into Big Orange Country already, one has to wonder if Dooley or the next guy will be given a fair shake.
Still, depending on who all exits early for the NFL Draft, the Tennessee roster is in much better condition that it has been in years and construction on the Neyland-Thompson Sports Center expansion will be complete in mere weeks. Thus, this job is much more appealing than the one for which Dooley signed on.
Followers of recruiting talk about how hamstrung Tennessee is with the lack of in-state talent and with Memphis always being a wild card, but Atlanta, Charlotte and Louisville are all within five hours drive time. And, at least a few airlines fly to select cities in Florida from Alcoa for extremely cheap rates.
The losses to rivals have taken away the swagger of Vol Nation in water cooler talk but there's no embarrassment from the head coach getting caught straddling his chopper through the Smokies with a coed in tow and there aren't any rumors of duffle bags of cash on prospect's doorsteps or families being told to hit certain casinos with the knowledge that they'll walk out big winners.
At 15-20, the spenders that frequent Neyland Stadium haven't seen a relentless pursuit of continuous improvement — A.K.A. victories.
A fourth coach in six seasons doesn't sound attractive in any way to Big Orange Country and it's going to take a skyscraper loaded with dough to get a lead guy that worries Nick Saban, but it's what must be done.
Que up Sam Cooke on the iPod, a change gone come.