As the 2012 season begins to wind down, many head coaches in college football are fighting for their jobs more than ever. The last month of the regular season is the final push that will either save or send several coaches packing for that next coaching gig.
Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley has been on the hot seat since as early as last season but has found ways to remain on the sidelines for the Volunteers. A win this weekend over the Troy Trojans has improved his club's record to 4-5, which means that the team is only two wins away from locking up a bowl game for the first time since 2010.
But what did the 55-48 victory over a Sun Belt team actually do for his job status?
Well, if we are being honest, it did help keep him for at least another week. If Tennessee had lost to a team in the Sun Belt, a team that recently lost to Florida Atlantic, I wouldn't have been surprised if he was kicked out of town as early as Monday morning. Despite the victory being a close one, the point is that the coach got the job done and beat a squad this Volunteers club is supposed to beat.
The problem with Dooley is that he has not been good against some of the top competition, which is what Volunteer fans are desperately craving, as the program hasn't won a bowl game since the 2007 season.
Since arriving on campus back in 2010, the head coach is a combined 0-15 against ranked teams, which is completely unacceptable for a program that has won six national championships and 16 conference titles in its history.
Tennessee wants this program to get back in the national spotlight, and you are not going to be able to do that unless you are able to knock off some of the nation’s top teams.
However, on the bright side, Dooley has made this a competitive football team that has shown progress this season as the weeks go by. Sure, the team still has a losing record, but it did compete against Florida for nearly three quarters, it lost by one possession to a highly-ranked Georgia team and was one break away from upsetting South Carolina a week ago.
As long as the team is showing progress and the players haven't given up on the head coach, you have to think positively as a Tennessee fan. This isn't a program like Auburn, where it appears the players have given up and are getting progressively worse as the games go by. Tennessee is still losing, but you can see this team is starting to turn the corner toward becoming a unit that very few in the SEC want to play.
So what does Dooley have to do to remain in Tennessee for another year?
I would say he has to win out the rest of the season, which includes games against Missouri, Vanderbilt and Kentucky. That would make for a 7-5 regular season, which would be the most wins since the Lane Kiffin year and would earn a decent bowl game for a program looking to snatch back its reputation. It would also show that Tennessee can win the games it is supposed to win and is no longer the doormat of this conference.
The win over Troy isn't going to earn a parade, but it does show progress is being made and that Dooley will stick around for a least seven more days.