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COMMENTARY BY JOE BIDDLE: UT AD's turn to put job on the line

Let’s assume Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart has/or will decide to cut ties with football coach Derek Dooley.

When and how it is done will be much less important than who Hart hires as Dooley’s replacement.

I thought Dooley had what it took to be successful at Tennessee. But he was dealt a bad hand and the cards kept getting worse.

It will be Hart’s turn to put his job on the line with Dooley’s successor.

If Tennessee intends to get back in the game, it needs to hire a proven head coach with a track record. In the SEC, you get what you pay for. This is no time to go cheap.

The field doesn’t look very appealing to me. There isn’t a Nick Saban out there.

I’ve heard Jon Gruden’s name until I want to scream. Jon Gruden hasn’t coached football since 2008. He is making a reported $4.3 million a year from ESPN for analyzing 17 Monday Night Football games.

Gruden is not a college coach. He hasn’t had to recruit high school players, hasn’t had to deal with them getting arrested, flunking out, wanting to go home to mama or breaking up with their girlfriends.

His name is appealing to some, appalling to others. I can’t see him suffering college fans and boosters very long.

On the other hand, he knows the game. He knows how to motivate and put together a staff that would work like him, which is around the clock.

Personally I don’t see him taking the Tennessee job, nor do I think he would be a good fit.

Here are some other names to consider.

Charlie Strong, Louisville. First head coaching job, just suffered his first loss this season to an average Syracuse team. Was defensive coordinator at Florida before getting Louisville job.

Sonny Dykes, Louisiana Tech. Stop right there. The fans would revolt if Hart walked in with another Louisiana Tech coach.

Tommy Tuberville, Texas Tech. They could do far worse than Tubs. He knows the SEC. Led Auburn to an undefeated season in 2004. He is an Arkansas native and also a candidate to land there.

Jim Mora Jr., UCLA. The school doesn’t pay what Tennessee could offer. He grew up in a football family and was Atlanta Falcons head coach. He would be a good recruiter and solid citizen. UCLA has lost two games and is ranked No. 17, ahead of Southern Cal.

Bob Stoops, Oklahoma. Call me crazy, but I would put the big bucks in front of him and make him tell me no. Stoops listens to Steve Spurrier and Spurrier left Florida because he believes 10 years is the most time a coach should stay at one school. Stoops is in his 14th season at Norman with one national championship in 2000. Maybe Stoops needs a change of address. OU fans are starting to complain.

Bobby Petrino. Has all the coaching credentials you could ask for. Also has all the baggage one man can carry. Not only was he cheating on his wife with a girl young enough to be his daughter, she was hired by Petrino over more qualified applicants. He lied all the way up to the Arkansas president and back about the affair. Can you trust someone who can’t tell the truth?

Don’t forget Petrino walked out on the Atlanta Falcons before the season ended. Didn’t tell anyone. You want a quitter running Tennessee’s football program?

No, you want a winner who makes you proud.


Sports Columnist Joe Biddle is a four-time sports writer of the year in Tennessee. He can be reached at

Posted on: 11/13/2012


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