Yesterday evening Auburn’s Gene Chizik and Tennessee’s Derek Dooley lost their jobs.
At least if you believe everything you see on Twitter. In reality, of course, neither man was officially jettisoned from his school on Sunday.
But that didn’t make Sunday evening any easier for a site that tries to cover 14 schools and 28 football and basketball teams. We had to chase the rumors with calls and texts. All to arrive right back where we’d begun.
My cell phone started ringing shortly after 5:00pm ET with word that Vol officials had just informed Dooley that he would not be back in 2013. I called around until I had two Tennessee sources who said they had heard that UT’s embattled coach got the news about 5 o’clock or 10 after.
Well, saying “I heard that,” isn’t confirmation. So on behalf of MrSEC.com, I chose to sit on it waiting for more confirmation. While I waited, Twitter exploded with news that Dooley was done. In addition, websites and papers across the country picked up and ran with a story posted by VolQuest.com – the Rivals’ site covering Tennessee.
At least one Knoxville television station pronounced Dooley was dunzo. But the VolQuest story was actually pretty darn generic:
“Tennessee is expected to seek its fourth head football coach since 2008 by season’s end, numerous sources have told VolQuest.com, and based on conversations with multiple people the final piece of the equation centers on when to formally signal the imminent end of the three-year Derek Dooley era.
The question at this point seems only to be when and not if Tennessee will make a change following a disturbing 51-48, four-overtime loss Saturday afternoon to Missouri inside Neyland Stadium…
There are two trains of thought, according to sources, that UT decision-makers are confronting: Announce a change Monday or in the near future; wait until the regular-season finale against Kentucky, since the Vols still can win their final two games and earn a bowl berth. That contest could potentially be the AutoZone Liberty Bowl, which had a high-ranking official at the Vols-Tigers contest, if the Vols can defeat Vanderbilt for a seventh-straight time and rebound in their finale against Kentucky following last season’s stunning loss to the Wildcats.”
Yep, that’s what started the ruckus on this here interweb. No offense to the folks at VolQuest… they simply confirmed in generic terms what everyone around the SEC already knew — that Dooley could not survive a sixth loss this season and he recorded a sixth loss at home to Missouri (51-48 in four overtimes) on Saturday. The VolQuest.com writers did not announce that Dooley had been fired as so many fans on Twitter/messageboards — and more shamefully — media members suggested.
When contacted by The Knoxville News Sentinel, a UT spokesperson said, “There’s nothing to report” and that athletic director Dave Hart had actually been watching a Lady Vols soccer match at the time that he was supposedly firing a final torpedo into the sinking SS Dooley.
The reality is that there’s really no way Tennessee can keep Dooley now. If the Vols do, it will likely mean one of the following:
1. Dooley has photos of some Vol administrators in compromising positions
2. The makeup of Dooley’s coaching staff was impacted by Hart and Hart feels guilty about it
3. The Vols simply don’t have the money to buy anyone out at this time
4. The UT administration is fully prepared for angry Vol fans to storm their campus castle in anger
Dooley has won four SEC games in three seasons. Lane Kiffin won four SEC games in his lone season in Knoxville. Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin — who UT could have had instead of Dooley back in 2010 when Kiffin exited — already has already recorded five wins and a takedown of top-ranked Alabama in his first SEC season.
So UT’s coach is a goner, but the stuff zig-zagging across the web yesterday was equal parts rumor, exaggeration of what Volquest.com had written, and fan hoping. Vol fans weren’t alone in tweet-chasing.
While all that Dooley stuff was going on in Knoxville, the Chizik Watch kicked into high gear on the Plains. Auburn’s coach — whose team fell to 2-8 on the season with a 38-0 Saturday loss to Georgia — was late for his Sunday press conference. Uh-Oh.
About 15 minutes after he was supposed to show, I got a text from a friendly reporter in the room to let me know that media members were beginning to wonder if Chizik would actually show or if another Auburn official would walk in and reveal that Chizik had been let go.
I zipped over to Twitter. As unreliable and nonsensical as that medium is, it’s where you must go to make sure you’re not missing something official somewhere else. Tweets like this from the AP’s John Zenor were already popping up:
More tweets from more people followed. Right up until Chizik finally showed up and did his normal Sunday thing, saying that he had a plan to turn around Auburn in 2013. When word emerged that Chizik had arrived, there was disappointment among many Tiger fans who are longing for his official ouster.
Last week, AuburnUndercover.com — the 24/7 site covering Auburn — reported that AU president Jay Gogue had informed some Auburn trustees that he was planning to keep AD Jay Jacobs but was preparing to blow up Chizik. As with VolQuest’s story yesterday, the AuburnUndercover story made the rounds nationally and was taken as gospel by many. Whether it was 100% correct or not remains to be seen.
What is obvious is that both Chizik and Dooley are facing slim, slim chances of survival. Sure they’ll both say they’re keeping on keeping on and they’ll definitely pass that word to as many recruits as possible, too. But the reality is that both men are in deep trouble.
Dooley will need a miracle after saying at SEC Media Days that the league wouldn’t have Tennessee to kick around anymore. As it turns out, the SEC still kicked UT from one end of the league to the other and it’ll likely be Dooley who won’t be around in 2013 to absorb any more kickings.
Chizik would have already been given the heave-ho had he not:
1. Won the BCS title just two short years ago
2. Signed a contract extension that will pay him a $7.5 million buyout upon dismissal ($10 million if booted before December 1st)
Bottom line: The watch is on in Auburn and Knoxville. Everyone is waiting for a puff of white smoke to go up and announce that the old coach is out and a new coach is coming. First school to call Bobby Petrino wins.
But as of 9:25am ET this morning, there’s still really nothing official to report on either man’s situation.
Regardless of what you’ve been reading on Twitter. Ah, life in a world of instant communication.