KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee’s whirlwind search for a new coach ended Friday with the Volunteers hiring Derek Dooley of Louisiana Tech.
Like his predecessor — Lane Kiffin — he comes with a short head coaching resume.
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 major college football to also serve as his school’s athletic director. He holds a law degree and previously worked for several years under Nick Saban at LSU and with the Miami Dolphins, including as a recruiter for the Tigers.
“Derek is one of the bright young coaches in America. He understands our league and the competitive environment in which we compete,” Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton said. “He took a very difficult first head coaching job and has made significant strides there in a short period of time.
“He is incredibly bright, a tireless recruiter and excellent on-the-field coach.”
Tennessee planned a Friday evening news conference at Neyland Stadium’s Peyton Manning Locker Room to introduce Dooley, who has an 8-year-old son named Peyton.
“Louisiana Tech University and the Ruston community will always hold a special place in my heart,” Dooley said in a statement Friday. “The foundation for success has been established and a bright future lies ahead for the university and the athletics program.”
The Volunteers hired him just days after Kiffin abruptly quit, 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 Saban. Still, his limited head coaching experience makes him — like Kiffin, whose only head coaching stint prior to Tennessee was a brief, bad one with the Oakland Raiders — a somewhat risky pick.
Dooley’s 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,” 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, Vince, who coached at rival Georgia from 1964-88 and won the 1980 national title, did not return a call to his cell phone seeking comment.
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.