Derek Dooley: What Tennessee Coach's Uncertain Future Means for Recruiting

Andrew KulhaSenior Analyst IIINovember 13, 2012

KNOXVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 15:  Head coach Derek Dooley of the Tennessee Volunteers walks the sidelines during the game against the LSU Tigers at Neyland Stadium on October 15, 2011 in Knoxville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Tennessee Volunteers head football coach Derek Dooley's future with the program is uncertain, and that's going to really impact the recruiting process for the program.

It's never a good thing when a coach's status with the program is up in the air. It leads to confusion, division and an overall lack of direction—and if there's anything that turns away major recruits, it's all three of those things.

But the fact of the matter remains that Dooley's future as head coach of Tennessee is in jeopardy, and even he knows it, according to John Brice of

No timetable had been established of when a change could be made, but multiple people extremely close to the Tennessee program on Monday indicated that Dooley made clear to his team in an emotional, teary meeting that he did not know his future as head coach of the Vols or if he would even get the opportunity to finish out this season. Dooley has compiled a 15-20 schedule across two-plus seasons in Knoxville since he was hired to replace Lane Kiffin on Jan. 15, 2010.

What does this mean for Tennessee recruiting?

Let's take a look at the pros and cons of firing Dooley:

Like I said, the confusion and uncertainty of the situation is certainly not going to help Tennessee, so the sooner they can come to a decision, the better. But that's only part of it.

Tennessee will also have to factor in the possibility of losing 2013 commits who may feel loyal to Dooley. The Volunteer's 2013 class is ranked No. 21 by and has six four-star recruits committed, so they're going to have to risk losing some of those commitments if indeed they fire Dooley.

That said, the positives may actually outweigh those negatives.

How many elite recruits may have dismissed Tennessee because they couldn't get it done on the field in a very competitive SEC?

No matter how you look at it, Dooley is directly responsible for the win and loss column. A great example of that would be five-star running back Derrick Henry, who committed to Alabama over Tennessee (and Georgia).

We'll never know for sure, but could the Volunteers have had a better shot at landing Henry if their record was better on the field?

There's also the excitement and buzz a new coach and new direction would cause for Tennessee, which can be used to not only keep the recruits they have, but perhaps draw in a few more.

Being part of a new movement can be a huge selling point for a high school football player, and Tennessee could pitch the future of their program as being much brighter. With Dooley at the helm, they don't necessarily have a leg to stand on, with regards to that statement.

Bringing in a new face for the program could really impact Tennessee recruiting in a far more positive way than losing Dooley would impact it negatively, especially if that coach is a big name.

There have been rumors stating that former NFL coach and current Monday Night Football commentator Jon Gruden could be a potential replacement; can you imagine how big of a recruiting boost that would bring the Volunteers?

Gruden has a Super Bowl under his belt and is one of the more recognized and well-liked coaches in America, so he'd undoubtedly be a huge selling point with Tennessee.

This is, of course, just some of the speculation with regards to Gruden (and there's a ton of it right now), but the premise remains plausible that a new coach would do wonders for Tennessee recruiting.

Either way you look at it, recruiting is going to be affected.

If Dooley isn't fired, the Volunteers will have consistency for their current commitments, and consistency is a huge thing. If he does get fired, the Volunteers can start over fresh with a new face, a new attitude and a ton of hype, which could lead to a massive recruiting boost.

One thing is for sure, though: in the here and now, Tennessee needs to figure this out soon.

The uncertainty will only serve to hurt the Volunteers, from a recruiting standpoint.

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