JOE BIDDLE: Vols AD needs to land his man

JOE BIDDLE: Sunday Notes: July 7, 2013 (Image 1)

I will say this for Tennessee Athletics Director Dave Hart.

The man can keep a secret better than our former CIA director.

Hart has kept his cards closer to his vest than Bat Masterson, Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp in a high stakes Old West poker game.

But rest assured Hart has a list of possible replacements for Derek Dooley, should he need to use it in the coming hours, days or weeks.

Hart probably started forming the list soon after he was hired as Tennessee's athletics director. When you inherit a coach such as Dooley, one that hasn't earned his spurs on college football's biggest stage, you better make a list.

When an athletics director is pretty much on his own to decide the hire, you can often trace it back to some point in the AD's past, to some coach he first knew as a graduate assistant, or a coordinator whose brother knew Hart in high school. You get the picture.

When James Franklin was hired at Vanderbilt, Vice-Chancellor David Williams had previously met Franklin when Franklin was an assistant coach at Kansas State. They kept in touch and Williams targeted him for the Vandy job.

Hart made football hires at East Carolina where he was AD from 1987-95. He first hired Bill Lewis, who had an 11-1 season his third year and was hired by Georgia Tech. Hart then hired Steve Logan, who stayed there from 1992-2002. Then Hart went with John Thompson, who lasted two seasons.

Hart then moved to Florida State, where he worked as AD from 1995-2007. Bobby Bowden was entrenched there as a legend and Hart later moved to Alabama, his alma mater, as Executive Director of Athletics under Hootie Ingram.

When Mike Hamilton was let go at Tennessee, the school hired Hart to take his place.

So there's really no obvious candidate from Hart's past, at least one that sticks out.

If Hart dismisses Dooley, he competes with Arkansas, Auburn and Kentucky in the SEC to land Dooley's successor. While a lot of Tennessee fans would look the other way should Hart hire the currently unemployed Bobby Petrino, does Tennessee really want to get in bed with this guy?

If so, it sends a strong message that winning at all costs is above integrity and telling the truth, two areas which led to Petrino's ouster at Arkansas.

I would hope they are above that. Let some other school hire Petrino. I don't think Petrino will get a recommendation from Arthur Blank, the Atlanta Falcons owner who hired Petrino to coach his NFL team.

Although Blank treated Petrino like a son, Petrino returned the thanks by walking out on Blank and the Falcons before the regular season ended. Just the day before, Petrino had given his word to Blank he would stick it out.

You trust Tennessee's stature in college football to this louse?

I don't detect anything in Hart's resume that would suggest he would hire Petrino.

Hart doesn't need to push the panic button if he is turned down by a number of candidates. Tennessee is not the nationally recognized program it used to be. Dooley got the job because a hand full of other candidates turned it down.

Hart needs to take his time, make sure he hires a good fit for Tennessee.

The last thing Tennessee needs to do is get in one of those cycles like Alabama did when it kept making a string of mistakes.

Mike Dubose, Dennis Franchione, Mike Price, Mike Shula. They all whiffed until the timing was right to pursue Nick Saban.

Ask any Alabama fan what those seasons were like before Saban arrived. Believe me, Vols fans, you don't want that.   

Contact Sports Columnist Joe Biddle at

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