Nov. 18, 2012
"Hello everybody. Thank you for showing up on short notice. As you are well aware by now, I have made a decision relative to the leadership of our football program. Derek and I visited at length very early this morning. I want to say because it is factual nature that I have really enjoyed the 13 months that I have worked with Derek. We have an open honest and respectful relationship and all of our conversations have reflected that as this season has progressed and it was no different his morning.
"I told Derek that we were going to move in a different direction with new leadership for our football program. He handled as you would expect. He handles it in a a mature manner, in a respectful and appreciative manner as far as him being the head football coach at the University of Tennessee for the past three years. It meant a lot to him. I will tell you while the results, which are very important are not what he wanted, now what the team wanted, not what our fan base wanted, Derek Dooley did indeed improve this program. There is no question about that. He inherited a very, very, difficult environment. One that I am familiar with having been here these 13 months. Quite honestly he was given a pretty short stick to take into that battle. Given those facts, he did a good job in a lot of areas in putting a solid foundation under our football program.
"He grew up in this as did I this is a result based profession. You can't ignore the results at the end of the day. As I told our football team and our staff, this team was close to having a very good season. I admired the fact that they never came unglued so to speak. They never pointed fingers or said this was your fault, my fault. They showed maturity through a very disappointing football season in terms of excruciating losses in October. I let them know that I did admire that. It was a tough morning. The one thing people forget is, yes coaches are paid well and are compensated well and they do know what the expectations are when they enter the profession, but they are human beings with spouses and kids. It's tough. Today is a tough day for that staff and our football team. We will now move forward in our search process with the goal of securing the best coach we possibly can to come and lead the football program at Tennessee. You have heard me say this before. This is a great place, a tremendous place. We have tradition, we have history, we have a brand that is still meaningful. But, we have a long way to go to get back to where we need to be. You can't put all of that on coach, I don't care if his name is Vince Lombardi or Derek Dooley. We have an obligation as an administration to give our coaches the resources they need, the support they need, intrinsically and extrinsically to back to where we want to be. This will be a collective effort from a lot of people to have us take our rightful place in the Southeastern Conference and beyond. I will be happy to open it up to questions and give you the most direct answer and most honest answer to any question you might have."
(On financial challenges)
"We are not going to let that be a detriment to securing the best coach we can. I have talked to the Chancellor at length about that. We have a 1.9 million dollar reserve which in the SEC is unheard of. We complete against people who have reserves of about 50-100 million dollars. We are in a tough position financially. The Chancellor doesn't want us to be at a competitive disadvantage of any nature whether it be financial, or academic or in any other arena where we are trying to compete and get back into the top of that pyramid. We are in a tenuous position, at a crossroads with our athletics program. But, we have people who understand that and are committed to helping us overcome those obstacles. That won't be a detriment, is it a concern? Yes it is a concern."
(On the financial difficulties)
"We have invested heavily, the athletic department has invested heavily in the university and we should. Now the Chancellor is committed to taking some of that investment of athletic generated revenues and investing some of it back in athletics to help us stabilize financially. Because that is what we need short term. When we get into the new television contracts, Chancellor Cheek thinks that those new revenues will come through athletics but that is a couple years down the road, and there are a lot of strategies in place that we have to implement to get where we want to go."
(On using a search firm)
"We probably will not use a search firm. That is the thinking at this moment."
(On Derek not coaching Saturday)
"His concern was for the players, Derek was not at all bitter, he was not concerned about himself in that regard. He talked at length about his concern and how difficult that might be for the players and it might take away their focus on the final game of the season and in particularly the seniors. His concern was the players and not himself."
(On returning stability to the football program)
"First of all, as you well know this will be our fourth football coach in six years. This is not what I wanted and I don't think this what we really needed relative to stability versus more transition. We have had 12 presidents since the year 2000. We now have four football coaches in six years. We need stability. But we need to find stability through a process that we are engaged in now. We have challenges, we have some competitive disadvantages that have been identified, that everyone in our campus has been working to overcome, together. We have some academic competitive disadvantages that we are eliminating. These are all historical in nature. This has been the case for some time, we are now beginning to address and rectify some of those disadvantages. That are real in nature."
(On the qualities he is looking for in a coach)
"You called me about wanting a job John, so I am going to go ahead and announce that. Obviously, we want a coach who knows how to be successful, who has had success and knows the difficulty of climbing the ladder in the SEC and can appreciate and identify what that takes. We want somebody with integrity. That is important. We just had our probation extended as you are well aware, we don't have a margin for error. We have to have a culture of compliance. That is the number one priority in our athletics department. The profile is one that you would expect it to be. Some of the people we will approach they won't want to engage until their season is over. Some people have a false sense that we are late, we are not, we are fine, I have done this many times. People need to take a deep breath. The door is not closing on our opportunities to find the right person."
(On hiring assistant coaches)
"I have never been involved in hiring of assistant coach other than meeting with the prospective head coaches at the coaches request. I have told head coaches ever since I have been a director of athletics that I will do anything you want me to do, you hire who you want but you are accountable for your hires. That has been a standard operating procedure and I think the right line to walk."
(On the search process)
"There are a lot of variables, and no searches are ever identical in nature. Coaches won't want to engage until their seasons are over you may have others that are in a different scenario that may be able to talk to you. I have friends in this profession in my 29 years in athletic administration who I trust implicitly. Who I think share a level of expertise on the type of people that we will want to explore and that I will talk to and I trust those people. I will reach out to a few people of that nature."
(On when he decided to make the decision to relieve Dooley of his duties)
"What I wanted to do was give Derek and that staff and those young men every opportunity to succeed. Relative to players, every opportunity to reach a bowl. That was one of their goals that was still remaining until last night's game. For Derek and the staff, every opportunity to turn the corner. Throughout the month of October, particularly we were very close to going there but couldn't quite get there. That is how that unfolded. But until today, at no time did I tell Derek Dooley that we were making the change."
(On what his pitch will be to prospective hires)
"We are correcting every one of them. The coaches will know what goes on, they will do their homework just as we will do our homework. My pitch to them is that this is a great place, an attractive place to come and be the head football coach at the University of Tennessee and be the person responsible for providing the leadership that takes us back up the hillside."
(On getting over hurdles that can restrict the program)
"We have been having these discussions for several weeks and I feel very comfortable. What Chancellor Cheek wants, and he has been a great listener. You have to remember, a lot of these things are historical in nature and have been going on for a while. We have simply talked about the elephant in the room and how can we make progress for eliminating anything that may be perceived by a potential candidate as a hurdle that would perhaps be tough to get over. We are going to get over all of them."
(On Derek Dooley)
"I think this is a tough profession. I think the passion of our fans is one of our greatest assets and sometimes that can be displayed in a variety of ways. We are blessed with a passionate fan base. Derek knows that and has said so as well. Derek Dooley is a good person, he is. He is a good husband, good father, a good person and he loves Tennessee. He did a lot of things to help set a foundation. What people, is Saturdays. And we had a lot of Saturdays that had a lot of things that you couldn't put your arms around and hug in terms of performance levels. That is part of profession that we are in. Derek knows that. I have never been offended by that, you have heard me say this many times. I would hate to work somewhere where there was no passion, where there was apathy, where people didn't care what the product looked like or whether we were having success or not. I don't want to be a part of that program. That is not who we are at Tennessee."
(On the length of the contract)
"I think the new coach is going to ask me that question early on in our conversation. Four coaches in six years, I would ask it. Is three years enough? I think that is a fair question. I think you have to look at the results. Derek would be the first one to tell you. That is a good question and we will have to address that."
(On this year's recruiting class)
"We talked at length about that today with the coaching staff. We talked about managing the recruiting and this is relatively typical in these types of transitions. Those coaches are going to continue to work as you would expect. Darin Hinshaw is our recruiting coordinator, he will work with Jay Graham and some others to spearhead. Those two will spearhead that effort. I talked to the team at length about their academic responsibilities because we are not in the bowl. We had an issue a year ago and we don't want a repeat of that. We talked about things that are very important as we close out academic semester, as we get into recruiting. We can go on the road Sunday. We talked about all of those things. I will have a chance as the week progresses to meet with our coaches one-on-one to continue those conversations in more depth."
(On recruiting in the transition)
"That is usually the case. The new coach will have to do that assessment. We ran on some very good players. That is pretty typical, coaches are used to that transition and even prospects are used to how that will unfold."
(On being part of the meeting with the team)
"The team was great. It was a tough meeting. Derek Dooley and I went in together, Derek addressed them first and did a great job, spoke from the heart, said the right things. More than right, meaningful. There were a couple of very emotional players, tearing up. Tough meeting, but I thought it was good. Good group of young men. They are 17-22 years old. We forget that all the time. They are a good group of young men and on very short notice we weren't missing very many players. High percentage were in that room."
(On the difficult part of this job)
"It is hard. It is the toughest thing you do as an athletic director. It is not as tough with the coach. The coach knows. The coach understands, the family is tough. That is what makes it so hard. It is not the coach."
(On hiring a football coach being the most important hire)
"I have been doing this a long time, I have done a number. It is a pretty important hire. I think any leadership position hire is critically important. Because of the visibility, it makes it extremely important. Your head football coach is the face of the program, just like the head basketball coach and in our case the head women's basketball coach. The Lady Vols basketball coach is very important. Not only in our community, but state. So it is very, very important."
(On the importance of previous head coaching experience)
"Critically important. I think it is very difficult to come into the Southeaster Conference without that being present. This league, it is a different world. We are at the end of the football season and we still have five teams in the top 10 in the country. I won't be surprised to see one or two SEC in the national championship game again. This is the ultimate challenge that competitors embrace for a football coach. If you are a competitor and you want to prove your worth, come to the Southeastern Conference and Tennessee."
(On the time frame for hiring a new coach)
"I wouldn't put a time frame on it, because of variables I mentioned earlier. I think it is more important to get right, the best person that we can possibly attract. I don't think the landscape plays into that in every case."
(On trying to salvage the recruiting class versus finding a new coach)
"I think both of those are important. I think it is important to not let the recruiting class come apart, and I don't think it will, but I think we also need to get the right person."
(On his vision for the university and athletic department)
"I have presented that vision to our chancellor and he has received it very well and has been extremely helpful in finding ways to implement it. At some point we will talk about that in great detail. I think the financial piece is what I am referencing more than anything when I say we are at a crossroads. We have to solve that. We can't have a 1.5 million dollar reserve moving forward and do the things we want to do. We still have phenomenal facilities but we still have a lot of facility needs. As nice as the football training center is, if Derek Dooley had not come when he did that design would not be what it is. His fingerprints are all over that building and he deserves a lot of credit for that. Everybody is building football training centers now. Tickled to death that we have it. It is fantastic and when we finish moving in at that moment it will be the nicest in America. Look around our conference and see the multi-million dollars being invested, whether it is the two new schools, Missouri and Texas A&M or South Carolina. Every place we went this year I talked to my peers about, what are they building and what are the projects they have on the table. You would be stunned. You would be stunned at the investments going around in this conference relative to facilities."
(On the current coaching staff staying together until a new coach is hired)
"That is our intent. Certainly if those men have opportunities that behooves them to explore we would help them and encourage them to do that. They are professionals. You won't be able to see a difference in their work ethic and job performance in terms of their commitment and obligation to the University of Tennessee and our football program."
(On Derek Dooley addressing the apparent disadvantages when he became AD)
"He did. Again, every conversation that I have ever had with our Chancellor, he has acknowledged it. He has repeatedly said, 'I want you to bring me those things because I don't want us to be at a competitive disadvantage."
(On the decision for Derek Dooley to film his TV show this morning)
"We talked about that. I don't know that either one of us slept more than an hour. It was a late night when we got back. We met early this morning and part of the reason was to talk about the tv show. He wanted to do it and he said he could handle it. It was an obligation and he should follow through with it. We talked about those things in great detail this morning. Jim [Chaney] is interim and will handle all the head coaching responsibilities as we head to Kentucky Saturday. He will also do the radio show and the TV show, he will handle those responsibilities."
(On where he will begin his coaching search)
"I think when you have done it several times you know how to do it and how to go about that process. I think every athletics director in America and every one that I know, you have a list of people. That list changes because you don't know when you will be in a coaching search. Heaven forbid, it could be a tragedy. You don't know what could happen. How many of those names at the end of the day will get traction, that remains to be seen. I have not begun that and I will begin that in earnest now. I think there is a right and wrong way to do everything in life. This is how I have always done it. I have contacted no one, back channeled no one, I think that is fair to current head coach. Do I have a plan, I do. Those conversations have not begun."
(On the rumors floating around town)
"There aren't too many of the 120 coaches left that haven't had their name in the paper. I suspect you will cover the rest of those in the next week."
(On naming Jim Chaney interim head coach)
"Jim is well respected by his peers on our staff. Jim is capable of handling the duties that we discussed today. JIm and I will meet tomorrow to go over that in more detail. Darin [Hinshaw] and I will meet and go over that tomorrow. I will meet with all of them. Jim readily accepted those responsibilities."
(On being a coach at Tennessee losing it luster)
"I don't know that it has lost it's luster so much, as you just track it. We haven't had success in five to six years. And we have had five very difficult years. I look at that from a positive perspective. I always put myself in the other role. Trade places, I am the candidate how am I viewing this. I would view it as a heck of an opportunity. If the support is there and it is, I would have every level of confidence that I can turn it around."
(On the NCAA restrictions hindering the coaching search)
"I hope not. It is not ideal because we are out to 2015 now. We have a great staff, we have a culture of compliance that is real and is a priority. I don't think it will scare people off. There will be questions that will have to be answered and there should be. There are programs who have been on probation and have won national titles. That is in the rearview mirror, what we have to worry about it what is in front of us now. We can't be looking back, we have to move forward. We have to handle all of this with enthusiasm and positive energy and we will."
(On how late is too late for a head coach hire)
"I think a lot of in the past, a lot of hires of this nature occur sometime in the month of December. Very candidly, a lot of those coaches will be in New York City for the National Football Foundation Hall of Fame. Some will continue to play into deep into the postseason. December critical month."
(On handing other opinions in hiring a head coach)
"Respectfully. That is part of the passion. People should have an opinion. I know I have a job to do. I have a level of expertise and level of information that no one else has."