©2012 NPT FILE PHOTO BY SETH BUTLER
Former University of Tennessee football coach Derek Dooley, pictured here after a four overtime loss to Missouri on November 10, 2012, was fired from his coaching job on Sunday morning.
|Published: 2:01 PM, 11/20/2012
||Last updated: 2:15 PM, 11/20/2012
Author: Seth Butler
Source: The Newport Plain Talk
KNOXVILLE-With the firing of Derek Dooley on Sunday, the University of Tennessee football program better get ready to be in business.
That is the Big Boy Football Business.
With a football program that has been in only two bowl games since last winning a division championship in 2007, dwindling attendance and looking for their fourth coach in six years the University has to insure that the next coach of the Vols can make an impact on the field and on the bottom line.
While the university's athletic department, which is a separate entity from the University itself, is in financial peril, athletic director Dave Hart says that will not be an issue.
Tennessee has a $1.9 million dollar reserve in it's athletic department's fund balance, which is unheard of in SEC. Hart said that most other schools have reserves of around $50-100 million dollars.
"We are in a tough position financially," Hart said. "We are in a tenuous position, at a crossroads with our athletics program, but we have people who understand that and are committed to helping us overcome those obstacles.
"We are not going to let that be a detriment to securing the best coach we can," Hart said.
The financial issue will be a large one for Tennessee to overcome during this coaching search, mainly from having to issue large payoffs to Dooley and his coaching staff, provided they are not retained or do not find similar employment.
Tennessee will pay Dooley a $5 million buyout and the potential cost to terminate the rest of the coaching staff will run between an additional $2 to $4 million dollars.
While those figures seem extraordinary to pay people not to coach, and an eye-popping salary to a new coach and his staff will be large numbers it is something Tennessee must do, even in the face of financial challenges.
"I think the financial piece is what I am referencing more than anything when I say we are at a crossroads," Hart said. "We have to solve that, we can't have a $1.5 million dollar reserve moving forward and do the things we want to do."
Hart spoke candidly about the issues facing the athletic department, which returns some portion of it's revenue over to the University. Last year, the athletic department gave $7 million to the university of which mostly chancellor Jimmy Cheek was able to spend as he pleased. Hart has asked for some of their donations to the University to be suspended while the financial crunch is fixed.
"The Chancellor is committed to taking some of that investment of athletic generated revenues and investing some of it back in athletics to help us stabilize financially because that is what we need short-term," Hart said.
The financial crunch is also why the athletic department can not miss on the football coaching hire.
When Tennessee hosted Troy earlier this month, there were reports that only 60,000 entered the stadium turnstiles. With almost 40,000 empty seats, and the associated revenue streams with game attendance, the athletic department incurred an almost seven-figure loss in assumed income.
When the flagship program of an athletic department leaks that much money, it can't do enough to right the ship. Alabama went through a number of coaches, until they decided to invest in Nick
Saban. Like a keen Wall Street deal, the rewards of that investment have come back 100-fold for the
Capstone when they hired Nick Saban and rose to prominence almost immediately.
That's why the Vols must have a sure fire, big name candidate in line to become the next captain.
It can't afford not to.
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