Building relationships, getting to know the Tennessee fan base is very important to the new head football coach at the University of Tennessee.
Derek Dooley has spent the last month since spring football has concluded spending time getting to know the Volunteer fan base and the media members that cover the Volunteers on a daily basis.
Dooley took time out of his busy schedule on Friday to meet one on one with InsideTennessee.com's Randy Moore and me to allow our team an "Inside" look at the new commander in chief of the UT Football Program.
In a very relaxed manner, Dooley spent over 45 minutes getting familiar with our staff as we got a chance to ask him a few questions about his first months on the job here at Rocky Top.
We will bring this interview to our readers in a three-part series, getting some very upfront answers from the new man in charge.
Question 1: What has been your biggest challenge since your arrival in Knoxville?
Answer from Dooley: Getting a handle on the organization as a whole. This is a big, high-resource operation. A lot of employees with so many people who touch your student athletes. Getting all of those people on board, outlining a philosophy, outlining accountability lines is very difficult. Moving them in the direction I want to move in. Because everyone has these areas they do to support the student athletes. At the end of the day if we aren't on the same page the program can become fragmented.
Question 2: How difficult is it for a student athlete to have three different head coaches in three years?
Answer from Dooley: It's hard but kids are resilient. It is certainly not ideal. I think it's harder on the program than it is on the individual player. At the end of the day you can tell the player what to do and then coach him up and he goes and competes. The program suffers in several ways.
Question 3: What are some of the things you are trying to do to help these areas, the program and the players?
Answer from Dooley: From a program's standpoint it takes time and stability. I mentioned the two things we have suffered in are attrition and recruiting. We have had a lot of attrition because of it; we will probably go into fall camp with 75 scholarship players. We probably haven't had as good of recruiting classes as we could have had if we had the stability factor in the program over the last three years. So when you combine the two - attrition and the lack of stability with recruiting - it's going to affect your program in a negative way. We have some catching up in those areas to accomplish the things we want to do.
Question 4: If you were given a mulligan and you could have one situation to do over since your arrival in Knoxville what would it be and why?
Answer from Dooley: Probably a million things internally. The biggest thing was when I first got here I felt I had two interests: I had the team that I needed to put my arms around after recruiting. The other: I had the public and the media who didn't know who I was and wanted to know. I put all my attention on the team and not the other. I kind of got the image of hibernating and that of a guy that was shy and didn't want to give the media information. I felt like that wasn't the right assessment of who I am.
But it was my fault for not being a little more accessible early on. At the end of the day I probably would have a few more of these opportunities early on without suffering the team. Just so the image doesn't go the way it has. I feel now that I'm working uphill to correct it.
Editor's Note: In the next segment we will focus on Dooley's recruiting philosophies and his approach on offers and evaluations.