Derek Dooley: Coach Killer

Louisiana Tech's 2008 season has been framed thus far by its concluding triumph over Northern Illinois at the Independence Bowl in Shreveport.

Understandable, since it was the program's first postseason win since 1977. Getting there, however, was a tough proposition. You didn't want to face this Tech team.

Not if you wanted to keep your job as head coach. The transactions section on agate pages across the country recount the back story, one far more devastating than anything the ESPN nation witnessed on Dec. 28 against NIU.

Derek Dooley was Kryptonite to the coaching fraternity this season, having a hand in no fewer than four 2008 firings over a 12-game regular-season slate. In other words, 34 percent of the times that anyone played Louisiana Tech this season, their coach got the boot. Those are scary numbers. Sherman-marching-across-the-Deep South-type numbers. Most disturbingly, it didn't matter if you beat Derek Dooley or not. Ask Stan Brock.

Didn't matter.

Not this season.

Louisiana Tech opened the year, of course, with a signature SEC upset over Mississippi State and Sylvester Croom at home, winning 22-14 at The Joe on Sept. 30 "My feelings about us, potentially, haven't changed," Croom said that night. "But we have some work to do and some attitude corrections to do." (There followed, and this is not a typo, MSU's 3-2 loss to Auburn. Which might have, in any other year, helped push the opposing coach out, too, but more on that later.)

Croom resigned exactly two months after falling to Tech, and less than a day after getting blown out 45-0 against Ole Miss in the most lopsided Egg Bowl in 37 years – while posting a 21-38 overall mark over five seasons in Starkville. That 8-5 record for Mississippi State in 2007, part of a campaign that included a Liberty Bowl victory? Didn't matter.

Not this season.

MSU had a 2-1 historical advantage in openers against Tech, having last fallen in 1968 when the Ruston program boasted a young Terry Bradshaw under center. "We're not going to be held hostage to the past," Dooley said that week, as the MSU game loomed. "These are the kind of games that we need to play, and our program needs to embrace it and enjoy it. It shows where you are as a program." A coach-killing legend, the real story of Tech football in 2008, was born. Dooley mowed them down at Aillet with a frequency that would make the grounds crew blush.

Tech similarly beat Utah State in Ruston, 45-38 on Nov. 15. Two days later, the school's athletics director Scott Barnes announced that head coach Brent Guy – then 8-38 overall and 7-24 in WAC play over Utah State's four years in the league – would step down at the end of the season.

"We didn't win as many games on the field as I would have liked," Guy said that day, "but we started down a path that I believe will benefit the university and this program very soon." The next guy at Utah State apparently needs to keep Tech off his schedule. After all, they fell like cordwood away from The Joe, too.

Five days after Guy's loss, Tech beat New Mexico State in Las Cruces, 35-31. The school on Dec. 1 fired Hal Mumme, who had gone 11-38 in four years at NMSU. Dig deeper into the numbers, though: Mumme was 3-9 overall and just 1-7 in the WAC this season.

Including one loss against, yes, Dooley. Fans had been calling for his resignation, something Mumme addressed during the season: "Getting fired is part of the business and that's the way I look at it. You must win and we haven't done that yet, but at the same token, I don't think anyone should quit a job 2/3 of the way through." His team apparently didn't listen. The Aggies lost seven straight games to end this season, including a 49-0 debacle at home against Boise State and a season-ending 47-2 defeat at Utah State. History this year says you don't want to face Dooley on a downhill slide, though that's just what several of the Bulldogs' upcoming opponents in 2009 will be doing.

Now, it's unknown if the prospect of a non-conference contest against Tech played any role in the dismissal of Tommy Tuberville – who once helmed Auburn's 2004 undefeated season and had beaten rival Alabama in six consecutive tries through this year.

He's gone anyway.

Navy also motors into Ruston in '09 already on a skid, having lost to Wake Forest in the EagleBank Bowl. Nicholls State, whose first two games were canceled by hurricanes, slumped to a 3-6 mark in 2008.

Then there's LSU, which fell out of the Top 25 just one season after winning the BCS title.

Scarier still for all of these future opponents is this: It's not like you have to lose to Dooley. Heck, it got to the point in Tech's season of sideline destruction where even that didn't matter. The hot seat began to inevitably glow anyway. Army and Stan Brock beat Tech 14-7 on Oct. 25. By Dec. 19, Brock was out of a job, having lost 34-0 in his 2008 finale to archrival Navy.

Brock finished 6-18 in two years with the Black Knights, winning three times each season.

Including one game against, yes, Dooley. Didn't matter. Not this season.


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