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Virginia Football coach search update: How about Derek Dooley?

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Photo courtesy UVA Athletics.

I got a phone call today from an early 1990s Virginia Football alum who wanted to inject another name into the conversation for the open football coach job: Derek Dooley.

You might remember Dooley, a 1990 UVA alum, whose name had popped up in the coach search following the firing of Al Groh in 2009.

At that time, Dooley was a first-time head coach, finishing up a three-year run at Louisiana Tech, where he’d also served as athletics director.

Dooley went on to get the job at Tennessee, which was in the early stages of its long-running downfall after boosters had forced Phillip Fulmer out after a 5-7 season in 2008.

Lane Kiffin had a one-year tenure, going 7-6 in 2009 before jumping at the chance to take the USC job.

Which is to say, it wasn’t an ideal situation for our guy, Derek Dooley. Three coaches in three years translates to a lot of scholarship guys leaving because of the continuous staff turnover, and Dooley only got three years, all losing seasons, before he was fired in 2012.

Since, Dooley has been working jobs as a position coach and coordinator in college and the NFL, with stints with the Dallas Cowboys, the University of Missouri and the New York Giants, where he’s currently the tight ends coach.

The alum who contacted me emphasized, Don’t judge Dooley by the dumpster fire that he inherited, and couldn’t put out, at Tennessee, which is now into a fifth coach post-Fulmer, Josh Heupel, whose team was a middling 7-5 in 2021, after UT chewed up and spit out splash hires Butch Jones and Jeremy Pruitt.

Dooley’s connections from working at two SEC schools and three NFL jobs – he’d also worked under Nick Saban with the Miami Dolphins, after serving on Saban’s staff at LSU for five seasons – would seem to be an asset in terms of his ability to put together a top-notch staff.

He also has, like another prominent alum candidate, Penn State co-defensive coordinator Anthony Poindexter, insight into the culture at Virginia that would certainly be a benefit.

Dooley stands out to me as a former walk-on who has a degree in American government and a law degree, which he used to practice law for two years before going into coaching in 1996.

He’s a smart guy, he has Power 5 HC experience, ties across the football landscape, and he’s one of us.

And, according to my new football alum friend, he has interest in the job.

I could send this in the form of an email to Carla Williams, but it seems to the alums on the text chain who convinced my new friend to call that they think it makes more sense for me to go at this in the form of a story on AFP.

I’m not going to let on that there’s anything in terms of a groundswell of big-money donors afoot to install Dooley as their figurehead coach or anything.

This column wasn’t meant to be shocking, breaking news.

Just a quick profile on a guy who has a solid resume and would make a good hire if we were to go in that direction.

Story by Chris Graham

augusta free press
augusta free press