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November 18, 2012Dave Hart dispelled any rumors Sunday of what he has and hasn't done in an effort to find Tennessee's next head football coach.
In a candid, half-hour press conference to announce the firing of Derek Dooley, Tennessee's Vice Chancellor of Athletics and Athletics Director said the search begins "in earnest now" to find a new name to head the Tennessee football program, but those discussions haven't started yet.
"I think there is a right and wrong way to do everything in life ― and this is the way I've always done it," Hart told the assembled media. "I've contacted no one, I've back-channeled no one. I don't think that's fair to the current head coach.
"Now, do I have a plan? I do. But those conversations have not begun."
Hart said he met with Dooley early Sunday morning to tell him he was moving in a different direction. Both Hart and Dooley met with the team later in the morning to address the decision.
Hart didn't name candidates, but he said every athletic administrator has a list prepared.
"I think every athletics director in America, everyone that I know, you have a list of people," Hart said. "That list changes annually because you don't know what will put you in a coaching search. Heaven forbid it could be a tragedy or something. You don't know what can have you in a coaching search.
"Now, how many of those names at the end of the day will get traction? That remains to be seen. And I have not begun that. I will begin that in earnest now."
Hart, too, outlined what he'll be looking for in the search.
"Obviously, we want a coach who knows how to be successful," Hart said, "who has had success and knows the difficulty of climbing the ladder in the SEC and can appreciate and identify what that takes.
"We want somebody with integrity. That is important."
Possible candidates at other schools that could be on Hart's list still have the final week of the regular season to finish before bowl season begins. Hart addressed those issues while discussing a timetable for the hire.
"There are a lot of variables, and no searches are ever identical in nature," Hart said. "Coaches won't want to engage until their seasons are over you may have others that are in a different scenario that may be able to talk to you."
As for who he'll turn to in his search, if anyone, Hart said he has peers that he trusts.
"I have friends in this profession in my 29 years in athletic administration who I trust implicitly," he said. "Who I think share a level of expertise on the type of people that we will want to explore and that I will talk to and I trust those people. I will reach out to a few people of that nature."
In terms of a candidate, Hart said he'll sell both the program and the overly-competitive landscape of the SEC.
"My pitch to them is that this is a great place," Hart said, "an attractive place to come and be the head football coach at the University of Tennessee and be the person responsible for providing the leadership that takes us back up the hillside."
Hart went on to mention December as the decisive month in any college football vacancy.
"I think a lot of in the past, a lot of hires of this nature occur sometime in the month of December," Hart said. "Very candidly, a lot of those coaches will be in New York City for the National Football Foundation Hall of Fame. Some will continue to play into deep into the postseason. December is a critical month."
HART HAS MIND ON RECRUITING AS WELL
Immediately after speaking to Derek Dooley Sunday morning to let him know he won't be returning as the head coach of the Tennessee football team, vice chancellor and directors of athletics Dave Hart visited with the nine assistant coaches remaining on the Vols staff about not only the Kentucky game, but also keeping together Tennessee's recruiting class of 18 commitments over the next several weeks.
Hart said moving forward recruiting coordinator Darin Hinshaw and running backs coach Jay Graham, two of Tennessee's most proven recruiters, will be taking the helm of the Vols' recruiting efforts moving forward in an effort to stabilize the class of 2013 for time being.
"We talked at length about that today with the coaching staff. We talked about managing the recruiting and this is relatively typical in these types of transitions. Those coaches are going to continue to work as you would expect. Darin Hinshaw is our recruiting coordinator, he will work with Jay Graham and some others to spearhead," Hart said. "Those two will spearhead that effort. I talked to the team at length about their academic responsibilities because we are not in the bowl. We had an issue a year ago and we don't want a repeat of that . We talked about things that are very important as we close out academic semester, as we get into recruiting. We can go on the road Sunday. We talked about all of those things. I will have a chance as the week progresses to meet with our coaches one-on-one to continue those conversations in more depth."
When asked if all current commitments will have their scholarships honored, Hart said that is most likely the case but wouldn't rule out the new coaching reevaluating all the current commitments.
"That is usually the case. The new coach will have to do that assessment. We are in on some very good players," Hart said. "That is pretty typical, coaches are used to that transition and even prospects are used to how that will unfold."
Hart said it's a delicate balance of finding a coach quickly to help maintain a recruiting class, but also taking time to make sure it's the best candidate.
"I think both of those are important. I think it is important to not let the recruiting class come apart, and I don't think it will, but I think we also need to get the right person," Hart said.