By Michael Bailey
Twenty four years ago pop icon Michael Jackson pleaded with his listeners to take a look at the "Man in the Mirror."
Though I'm sure he wasn't prophetically appealing to a recently dismissed Vols football coach, I believe Jackson's words should hit home with the departed Derek Dooley.
According to Jackson's hit single, 'If you wanna make the world a better place, take a look at the Man in the Mirror and then make a change.'
Earlier today Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Dave Hart announced that Dooley had been fired as head football coach of the University of Tennessee. This news didn't shock anyone. What followed the termination announcement did catch me by surprise however.
According to 247.com writer Wes Rucker, Dooley was offered the opportunity to lead his team onto Shields Watkins field one final time this Saturday versus the University of Kentucky.
Dooley declined this invitation. Really Derek? What gives?
Part of the logic- albeit unspoken- upon Dooley's hiring was that he represented the opposite of Lane Kiffin: class, character, commitment. Through his selfish decision to quit on the team, Dooley casts himself in a similar light as Kiffin.
If Tennessee had been able to close out two or more close losses this season (Georgia, Ms State, Missouri), it's likely that we would not be facing the prospects of a 4th head coach in 6 years. Unfortunately, the Vols could not close out any of these contests with a victory.
In a prior column, I lambasted junior quarterback Tyler Bray for his failure to come through in such clutch situations. Throughout the course of this season, it's apparent that a rift exists between Dooley and Bray as evidenced by the former HC's threats to bench his star signal caller and actual benching last evening during the 41-18 drubbing at Vanderbilt.
Currently, I'm of the opinion that Dooley should look in the mirror when feeling frustration toward Bray. We ridiculed Bray of being immature. Turns out, his leader displayed numerous signs of immaturity on the sidelines during his tenure on Rocky Top.
Consider his reaction after the 2010 loss to LSU. After Tigers running back Stevan Ridley crossed the goal line for the decisive score, Dooley tossed his headset to the turf in disgust and refused to meet the victorious Les Miles at midfield for the traditional handshake.
This is a small gesture, but a given. I've seen coaches trudge through 15,000 members of the student body to make it to midfield for the postgame handshake. Not in this case. It was the first sign that Dooley had a ways to go in controlling his emotions, but no one publicly scorned him for the behavoir to my knowledge.
Next, Canegate 2012. I included the picture a couple weeks ago in a column. The picture continues to make major waves on the net. It is a putrid sign of futility. Our hobbled coach, wandering the sideline with a cane, smashing it to the turf because his defense surrendured 700 yards and 47 points to Troy- who presently sits at 3-4 in the Sun Belt!
Last, Dooley refuses the opportunity to go out a winner and simultaneously right one of the biggest wrongs in Vol football history by avenging last year's loss to Kentucky.
What does it say to your team that you decline the opportunity to finish the season with them? When the going gets tough, clean out your locker and head home? When you're down, you're out?
My message to Dooley: heed Jackson's words should you get the opportunity to lead another program and focus on one thing- FINISHING.