Dave Hart's press conference in Knoxville is done, and just so you know, he thinks there's still a chance for there to be two SEC teams in the BCS National Championship Game. (Yes, this came up. No, you don't know want to know.) In any case, here are a few bullet points from what he said, none of it extraordinarily surprising.
- The reason. The reasons for firing Derek Dooley have been clear for a while, but the reason to do it now seemed to be that the Vols are officially eliminated from bowl contention now. Losing by 23 points to the team you have long treated as the little brother in the state probably didn't help, but it might have been as much about Vanderbilt's place in the schedule as losing to them per se.
- Head coach. Head coach. Head coach. Hart basically laid down being a head coach as one of the key qualifications for the team going forward. Which only removes a few unlikely names from the pool, like Kirby Smart or Chad Morris. Tennessee is not a first job, and if anything, Dooley actually reinforced that even some head coaches might not be ready for it.
- Hart said the word "integrity." And it was one of the things he listed as a qualification for the head coaching position. So you can go ahead and take Bobby Petrino off your list.
- The timeline. The closest Hart came to setting a timeline was saying that most of these types of searches conclude sometime in December. That's not a hard and fast deadline, but there aren't a lot of college hires that are made in January for your top-notch jobs. He did not rule out a pre-bowl hire for a coach leading a team to the postseason.
- Tennessee's reserves sit at $1.9 million. And while that might be a lot for the bank accounts of folks like you and me, it's next to nothing for an SEC athletics department. Remember, the buyout for Derek Dooley and his staff could be between $5 million and $9 million (though it's probably not going to end up being quite that high), so this is more than a token issue here. There are rumblings of a bidding war out there among SEC teams.
- "We probably will not use a search firm." This could be because of those cash considerations, but it also could be an indication that Hart knows this is going to be as big a hire for him as anyone else. I can't imagine that Tennessee would make the mistake of staying too long with an athletics director two times in a row, so Hart absolutely has to get this one right.
- The decision not to coach the team against Kentucky was Derek Dooley's. He was afraid it would be too hard on the players. I'm not sure that I completely agree with or even follow that logic, but Dooley has always marched to the beat of his own drummer. Why would his departure be any different?