KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee’s frantic search to find a new coach is over, and the Volunteers are turning to Louisiana Tech’s Derek Dooley.
Louisiana Tech spokesman Malcolm Butler told The Associated Press that Dooley has resigned from his positions as coach and athletic director to join the Volunteers. A statement by the university was expected later Friday.
The son of former Georgia coach Vince Dooley, Derek Dooley went 17-20 in three seasons at Louisiana Tech and was the only coach in Division I to also serve as his school’s athletic director.
The Volunteers hired him just days after Lane Kiffin abruptly quit the Tennessee job, bolting to Southern California only 14 months into his tenure with the Vols. Dooley was hired from a list of candidates that was believed to include Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp, Air Force coach Troy Calhoun, Duke coach David Cutcliffe and Utah coach Kyle Whittingham.
Aside from his pedigree, Tennessee’s attraction to the 41-year-old Dooley includes the time he spent working as an assistant and recruiter for Nick Saban at LSU and in the NFL with the Miami Dolphins. Still, his limited head coaching experience makes him about as much of a gamble as the one the Vols took on Kiffin.
Dooley, who earned a law degree from Georgia, did not immediately return a message left on his cell phone by the AP for comment.
His uncle, former North Carolina and Virginia Tech coach Bill Dooley, voiced support for his nephew. “I think he’ll do well anywhere he goes, and at Tennessee, he would do very well,” he said in a phone interview from his home in Wilmington, N.C., before the deal was finalized. “When you get a law degree, it gives you a little notch up. He’s got his feet on the ground. He’s levelheaded.
“He didn’t take after me, because I was never lawyer material,” he added with a laugh. “He’s a smart young man.”
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 2003. He coached LSU’s running backs and special teams in 2003 and 2004.
He followed Saban to the Dolphins as tight ends coach in 2005 and 2006 before leaving for Louisiana Tech in December 2006.
Dooley was a receiver in college at Virginia. After earning his law degree, 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 FBS and added the athletic director title in March 2008. He led the Bulldogs to their first bowl victory in more than three decades, beating Northern Illinois at the 2008 Independence Bowl.