What’s in a Name?
The recent news coverage I have read concerning Tennessee’s new head coach Derek Dooley has not been very positive. Most writers and bloggers are saying that Dooley isn’t big enough of a name to keep all of the big time recruits in Knoxville. Similarly to Georgia’s recent coaching search, the Vol faithful were clamoring for young coaches with name notoriety like Will Muschamp, Kirby Smary, and David Cutcliffe. But I ask, What’s in a name?
Notre Dame seems to have latched onto the “big name coach” philosophy and look how it has worked for them so far…Tyrone Willingham was hired by the Irish after leading Stanford to the Rose Bowl in the 1999 season. What followed was one of the quickest exits by a Notre Dame coach after a 21-15 record over three seasons. Some argue that Willingham wasn’t given enough time but the expectations are nearly impossible when you hire a “name.” Not much needs to be said about Charlie Weis. The highly touted Patriots coordinator was given an enormous 10 year contract after a single year in South Bend (with Tyrone Willingham’s recruits), and like I said not much needs to be added here.
Rich Rodriguez had a great deal of success at West Virginia, including beating Georgia in the most frustrating loss I have experienced as a fan. He single handedly brought the Mountaineers into national prominence; but when Michigan came calling after firing long time coach Lloyd Carr, Rich Rod bolted for Ann Arbor. Rodriguez’s struggles are also well known by most people. Michigan hasn’t been bowling yet and college football’s winningest program doesn’t seem to be headed anywhere soon.
But bad coaching hires like these are limited to Big 10 country. Ole Miss hired Ed Orgeron, a Pete Carrol assistant from USC and Orgeron never even got his feet on the ground. The Rebels had two wins against teams with a winning record and went 0-8 in SEC play under Orgeron. He quickly abandoned the whole head coaching thing and headed to Tennessee with Lane Kiffin and then left a year later to go to USC with Lane Kiffin ( and is trying to take all Tennessee’s recruits with him).
UCLA hired Rick Neuheisel to lead the Bruins back to glory after his success with Washington ( and after nearly being prosecuted for gambling on the NCAA basketball tourney) but he has only led his alma mater to more of the same mediocrity. Luckily for him, Pac 10 fans are pretty forgiving.
To be fair, there are plenty of big name coaches that have done exactly what was expected and more. I have begrudgingly watched Nick Saban and Urban Meyer go from success to even more success. Houston Nutt has moved around the SEC West with the same great results. Our own Mark Richt was a fairly significant name coming out of a very proven Florida State staff and I am sure there are plenty of more examples on both sides, but there just is no guarantee that a big name coach will produce.
So, what is people’s problem with Derek Dooley? He is a very smart man who just so happens to be the son of a legendary SEC coach. He worked his way up the ladder to where he is now with no favors. He worked as an assistant at the University of Georgia for free so that there would be no conflict of interest. Dooley worked under Nick Saban at LSU and was valuable enough for Saban to hire him when took the Miami Dolphins job. A year later Dooley was hired as the head coach at Louisiana Tech in 2006 and then added the title of Athletic Director to his resume in 2008. Louisiana Tech is no SEC school but the ability to balance head coaching duties as well as those of AD (not to mentions winning the Independence Bowl in 2008)demonstrates to me that Dooley can handle the pressure of being a big time coach. On top of all this, he is a well spoken, southern family man, and essentially the antithesis of everything that Lane Kiffin was at UT. Unfortunately being classy and qualified doesn’t always cut it in the SEC (see Lou Holtz) and Dooley very well may be a flop, but I for one will be rooting for him to do well, except for one week a year. It certainly will be a little bit harder to hate Tennesse with a Dooley at the helm…but I will try my best.
As always, Go Dawgs!