So much for evaluating the football program after the season was over. Not that there's much evaluating to do after your team gets leveled by an in-state rival that's long played second fiddle. Tennessee finally announced what everyone knew was going to happen on some level -- Derek Dooley "will not return" as head coach in 2013, which is a polite way of saying he's been fired.
Dooley will not coach the final game Saturday against Kentucky, a team that will also be playing out the string under lame-duck head coach Joker Phillips. The fact that Phillips' team beat Tennessee last year is not coincidental to the fact that Dooley won't return.
"I am sorry we could not generate enough wins to create hope for a brighter future," said Dooley. "Although progress was not reflected in our record, I am proud of the strides we made to strengthen the foundation for future success in all areas of the program.
"During the last 34 months, I've given my all for Tennessee, and our family appreciates all this University and the Knoxville community has given us."
Tennessee's first question is where they're going to come up with $9 million, though there will probably be some deep-pocketed boosters willing to chip in and it's probably not going to come to that if and when Dooley and his assistants get jobs. The second question, of course, is who will take Dooley's place.
Jon Gruden will be the first name that will occur to some people, but this guy will not be the only one mentioned. And let's not forget that, for reasons passing understanding, ESPN has tried everything it knows to try in order to keep Gruden locked up for Monday Night Football.
And Phil Fulmer's always available. Just saying.