Long odds don't scare Dooley

Like that guy who spends every spare dollar on lottery tickets, Derek Dooley isn't intimidated by long odds. If anything, he seems drawn to them.

That's why he accepted the head coaching position at lowly Louisiana Tech three years ago. And that's why he accepted the reins at Tennessee three weeks ago, even though the situation was far from ideal.

When he assumed control of the Big Orange program on Jan. 15, Dooley's major obstacles included the following:

- He had no recruiting coordinator.

- He had no staff except for three holdovers from the previous regime ... and one of those eventually left.

- He had no idea who the Vols were recruiting, even though National Signing Day was 19 days away.

- He had no time to prepare for his first recruiting weekend, having accepted the job mere hours before a host of prospects showed up for official visits.

- He had no luck with the weather, as snowed-in flights and icy roads complicated his second, and final, recruiting weekend.

Basically, all Dooley had was a plan and a willingness to face long odds without flinching. That proved to be enough as he managed to assemble a quality coaching staff AND a signing class generally ranked among the top 10 nationally.

In retrospect, he says the odds really weren't all that long. Even the task of pursuing new prospects - while fighting to hold on to those who committed to a previous coach - was far from insurmountable.

"It's challenging," Dooley conceded, "but that's what you're dealt. You can't whine and you can't complain. When I took the job I didn't go, 'Well, that's no fair.' You know what you're getting into.

"There's going to be challenges in everything. We're going to have challenges in a game. You're going to say, 'How difficult was it that it started raining right when you all kicked off?'

"Welcome to life. You have challenges. Things don't always work out the way you want. You just figure out a solution and (move on to) the next thing. That's what we tried to do."

Several prospects who had committed to predecessor Lane Kiffin reneged without even meeting Dooley. That aspect of the coaching change was a negative but the new head man believes there was a positive element to the transition, too.

"There were challenges but there were some advantages," Dooley said. "Let's don't lose sight that we got some guys who weren't interested in this place for other reasons. James Stone (who didn't click with Kiffin) is a classic example.

"For every time you complain 'Well, we lost this guy,' we got rewarded, too. It all evens out. It really does."

Dooley even managed to be philosophical about the blustery weather that disrupted his final pre-Signing Day recruiting weekend.

"You all (media) made a bigger issue out of it than me," he said. "I didn't think it was that big of a deal. It snowed. Guys came in late. It wasn't because our program stinks. It happened all over the South.

"If a guy doesn't come here because I-75 was closed by a snowstorm, then I probably don't want him anyway because he's not choosing a college for the right reason."

Clearly, Derek Dooley is not intimidated by long odds. People who persevere never are, and Dooley is long on perseverance. Dogged determination enabled him to salvage his final recruiting weekend and, ultimately, salvage his recruiting class.

"We had bad weather but I still saw the players that came in. They still had a good experience here," he said, grinning smugly as he added: "And it gave you (media) something to talk about."

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