football Edit

Vols lose two defensive assistants

Make that three staff vacancies Derek Dooley must now replace, with the calendar ticking inside one month until National Signing Day.
At least three independent sources have confirmed to that defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox and linebackers coach Peter Sirmon have tentatively agreed to accept similar posts on Steve Sarkisian's University of Washington staff.
Multiple attempts to reach Wilcox and Sirmon on their UT-issued cell phones this morning were unsuccessful, but the sources indicated that both Wilcox and Sirmon informed Dooley late Sunday night of their decision to return to the West Coast.
Their departures are the third and fourth on Dooley's second staff since the 2011 season ended in a loss to Kentucky. Wide receivers coach Charlie Baggett was not retained by the school while special teams/tight ends coach Eric Russell accepted a similar post on Mike Leach's Washington State staff. Dooley hired former Vol standout tailback Jay Graham from South Carolina to initially replace Baggett and shifted quarterbacks coach Darin Hinshaw in charge of wide receivers.
But now there are three pressing vacancies with signing day four weeks from Wednesday.
Wilcox and Sirmon were teammates and roommates at the University of Oregon in the late-1990s. And this isn't the first time that Wilcox was courted for another high-profile position. A year ago during the Vols' preparations for the Music City Bowl, Wilcox emerged as the top target for the University of Texas' defensive coordinator position and ultimately was offered the job. Wilcox turned it down on New Year's Eve 2010 and elected to remain at Tennessee, but that's when he restructured his contract to include no buyout should he make the future decision, as he has now done, to leave for a similar position.
The Wilcox situation a year ago also prompted one of Dooley's more candid exchanges with media when he was pressed on the matter following a bowl practice, causing the coach to proclaim "thousands" want to coach at Tennessee.
"I'm never going to beg people to stay at Tennessee, because this is a great job and there's thousands of coaches that would kill to be here," Dooley said then, "and we're never going to have one coach that's going to be bigger than the program.
"I think we should expect this every year. So get used to it. Because when programs want your coaches, it means your coaches are doing a good job. So I don't view it as a negative that there's chatter about our coaches. And I hope there's chatter every year about our coaches. Because if there's not, we're probably not doing a very good job."
Whatever the job performance is seen, assistant coaches have expressed to concern over their ability to secure multi-year contracts moving forward on Dooley's staff. First-year athletics director Dave Hart was non-committal on that topic when questioned last month by
"I think marketplace dictates a lot of that. I think where you have to strike a balance is, I'm not going to reward mediocrity. Never have. Never going. I'm not going to start now," Hart said.
"So you have to find that balance. You know, coaches have an extraordinarily difficult job. Now they're very well-compensated, but the reality is that they have to be responsive to an inordinate number of stake-holders. I don't think you can find another profession, I know you can't, where that is the case.
"And you have to understand that, and I do, having grown up in a family where my father was a coach. So I understand that very well. You have to look at that marketplace and do the right things to help get the best people. But until those people perform at an expected level, you just don't throw rewards around. It's no different than coaching a team. If you drop three passes, should I be patting you on the back and telling you how great you are. I'm not going to do that. Because you haven't reached high enough to an acceptable level."
Wilcox's current Tennessee contract ran through 2013 and again he owes Tennessee no money for leaving. Sirmon was slated to make $175,000 in 2012, the final year of his contract. He will owe Tennessee $75,000 for making the move to Washington per his contract.