KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Derek Dooley has the Southern accent, the coaching pedigree and is doing his best to reassure Tennessee fans their new coach appreciates where he’s now working.
“How can you ask for anything more than the University of Tennessee?” Dooley said Friday.
The son of Georgia legend Vince Dooley was introduced as the Vols’ second new head coach in 14 months, replacing Lane Kiffin days after he bolted for Southern California. Among his first challenges will be reassuring fans and players that he wants to be at Tennessee.
“The times of worrying about what happened is over,” Dooley said.
Dooley talked about how he learned early that Tennessee represented the essence of college football, and remembers watching the weekly television shows of former coaches Johnny Majors and Phillip Fulmer. He also promised he will not try to sell Tennessee in a sound bite, perhaps taking a shot at Kiffin, who was reprimanded by the Southeastern Conference for brash comments.
“Everything we’re going to do is going to be done with a foundation of integrity with every aspect of the program,” Dooley said. “We’re going to represent this institution with class on and off the field.”
Dooley was offered the job late Friday afternoon, resigned as coach and athletic director of Louisiana Tech, and flew into Knoxville for the late news conference. He brings along a son with a name popular in Tennessee — Peyton — just like Kiffin, who named his young son Knox after taking the Vols’ job in December 2008.
“I am finally happy to be in a state where Peyton will be well received,” Dooley said of his 8-year-old son, whose name conjures memories of Vols’ star four-time NFL MVP Peyton Manning.
Like his predecessor, Dooley comes with a short head coaching resume.
He went 17-20 in three seasons at Louisiana Tech and was the only coach in major college football to also serve as the athletic director. He holds a law degree and previously worked for several years under Nick Saban at LSU and with the Miami Dolphins.
Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton said Dooley agreed that coaching the Vols is a destination job. He praised him for a five-year tutelage under Saban and for helping the current Alabama coach land two No. 1 recruiting classes at LSU.
“I’ve talked to a number of folks over the past 24 hours,” Hamilton said. “He’s been described as very intelligent, intense, disciplined, hard-nosed, a tenacious recruiter, a family guy and extremely well-organized.”
The Volunteers introduced him three nights after Kiffin abruptly quit, bolting to USC only 14 months into his tenure with the Vols. Dooley was hired from a list of candidates believed to include Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp, Air Force coach Troy Calhoun, Duke coach David Cutcliffe and Utah coach Kyle Whittingham.
Dooley’s limited head coaching experience — like Kiffin, whose only head coaching stint had been a brief, bad one with the Oakland Raiders — makes him a risky pick. But the new coach’s uncle, former North Carolina and Virginia Tech coach Bill Dooley, voiced his support.
“He’ll do well anywhere he goes, and at Tennessee, he would do very well,” Bill Dooley said in a phone interview from his home in Wilmington, N.C. “When you get a law degree, it gives you a little notch up. He’s got his feet on the ground. He’s levelheaded.
Dooley’s father coached at rival Georgia from 1964-88 and won the 1980 national title. He did not return a call to his cell phone seeking comment, but his son said his father is excited.
Derek Dooley worked as LSU’s recruiting coordinator and tight ends coach from 2000 through 2003’s signing day, landing classes rated No. 1 in 2001 and ’03. He coached LSU’s running backs and special teams in 2003-04.
He followed Saban to the Dolphins as tight ends coach in 2005 before leaving for Louisiana Tech in December 2006.
Dooley was a receiver in college at Virginia. After earning his law degree from Georgia, he worked as an attorney for two years before starting his coaching career at Georgia in 1996 as a graduate assistant. He also worked as assistant recruiting coordinator at SMU from 1997-99 until being hired by Saban.
He went to Louisiana Tech in December 2006 as one of the youngest coaches in the Football Bowl Subdivision and added the athletic director title in March 2008.
Dooley led the Bulldogs to their first bowl victory in more than three decades, beating Northern Illinois in the 2008 Independence Bowl.
“We are grateful for the contributions that Derek made to Louisiana Tech Athletics and we wish him luck in his new position,” Louisiana Tech President Dan Reneau said.
AP Sports Writer Joedy McCreary in Durham, N.C., contributed to this story.