Derek Dooley's not fired yet — at least according to his comments during his Monday press conference.
Dooley, who is coming off a 51-48 four-overtime loss to Missouri, fielded multiple questions about his job status Monday and said there's nothing to the rumors that he's out as the Vols' head coach.
"Everybody said I was fired, and I didn't even know it and I'm sitting there working on Vandy, and I have already talked to [athletic director] Dave [Hart]," Dooley said.
Dooley and Hart speak weekly and Dooley said he felt Hart was honest about Dooley's future with two games remaining and the Vols needing two wins to reach bowl eligibility.
"We talked very frankly about it," Dooley said. "[Hart] told me he had not made a decision -- if we go 6-6 -- despite what all the reports are. Either the sources are wrong, or Dave wasn't being forthright with me, and I have no reason to believe Dave's not being forthright with me. He's an honest man. He's always been honest with me. I've appreciated how he's handled everything about this. I really have."
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While Hart might not be ready to pull the trigger on Dooley, it's clear the fans are in a state of anarchy. Several times this season, Tennessee's coveted "Rock" has been painted with anti-Dooley propaganda and fans have taken to YouTube to vent their frustrations.
But Hart might be forced into a decision after this weekend if Tennessee can't find a way to beat a Vanderbilt team that's still pretty upset after last year's game and Dooley's filmed celebration that followed it.
Following the Vols' controversial 27-21 win, Dooley stood up in the locker room and yelled: "The last thing that I'm going to remind you before we sing, is that the one thing Tennessee always does is kick the [expletive] out of Vandy."
The team went on to sing: "Don't give a damn for the whole school of Vanderbilt, the whole school of Vanderbilt, the whole school of Vanderbilt. Don't give a damn about the whole school of Vanderbilt, we're from Tennessee."
Unfortunately for Dooley — and Tennessee — the whole celebration was filmed and subsequently posted on YouTube. Afterward, Vanderbilt coach James Franklin saw the video; he had choice words for Vandy's rival school:
"We'll talk about it next year — a lot," Franklin said last year. "We'll talk about it as much as you guys want to talk about it next year. We'll watch it as many times as we've got to watch it next year. That's a wound that I'm going to leave open that's not going to heal. We'll leave it open for a year and we'll discuss it next year.
"I look at it as respect. Some people act like they won the Super Bowl and they beat a team that the two previous years had won four games total. Obviously, we are closing the gap and threatening some people and making some people uncomfortable. We'll see. We'll leave it at that. We'll move on. But we'll have a lot of discussion about this next year when the time is right."
Franklin has since backed off publicly saying his team is using the video as motivation, but it's clear Dooley dug a major hole last year and that unfortunate video might end up sealing his final game.
But Dooley said the Vanderbilt game is all he's concerned about these days, not his job status.
"I'm worried about Vanderbilt," Dooley said. "I can't make that decision. I can give you compelling arguments where I should, and there's plenty of compelling where I shouldn't. It's not going to be your decision. It's not going to be a bunch of these sources' decisions. It's Dave and the chancellor. It's their decision. I can't control what they think.
"We've had a lot of good dialogue. I think he's got a good handle on how I do things and where we are and why we're not getting the results we want. So you move on and live with it."
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