Will Derek Dooley have to take his stool and go home?

Remember back on Aug. 31, when Tennessee whipped North Carolina State 35-21 in the Georgia Dome, sparking declarations that the Vols were back?

Turns out that was just a Big Orange mirage. UT isn’t back, and head coach Derek Dooley might not be back as the Volunteers’ coach after this season, the way things are going on Rocky Top.

Saturday night’s 44-13 drubbing at the hands of Alabama was Tennessee’s third straight loss of the season and dropped the Vols to 3-4 overall and 0-4 in the SEC. In league play, Tennessee has lost at home 37-20 to Florida, on the road 51-44 at Georgia, 41-31 at Mississippi State, then the 31-point blowout against the top-ranked Crimson Tide on Saturday.

You would have thought that Bama’s Nick Saban would have taken it easier on his old assistant. Yeah, right.

“There’s no shame in losing to No. 1 Alabama,” writes John Adams of the Knoxville News-Sentinel. “It was the manner in which they lost, lowering their level of performance with almost each passing play (no pun intended).”

Adams also writes, “If this team loses six or seven games, the coaching staff deserves to be fired. The defensive staff should be the first to go.”

Dooley, who coached most of the game from a stool after undergoing hip surgery, is now 14-18 as the Tennessee coach. In three seasons, he is 4-16 in the SEC, including a 1-11 record over the past season and a half. The Vols are 0-14 against Top 25 teams.

This season, Tennessee has allowed 43.3 points a game in four league games.

And Dooley is working for an AD in Dave Hart who did not pick him to be the head coach. Mike Hamilton hired Dooley before Hamilton himself was forced out. So far, Hart has shown that he doesn’t mind making big moves in Knoxville.

“What I don’t want is their morale to get down,” Dooley said. “It’s hard when you lose. It is. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not like we’re going to have a lot of pep in our step, but that’s our job as coaches, to get them ready to play.”

The Vols are at South Carolina this Saturday. The Gamecocks alsoare hurting after Saturday’s 44-11 beatdown in The Swamp over the weekend.

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