One of Dooley’s biggest supporters did not dismiss the idea.
“I don’t think I should comment on that,” said Vince Dooley, the former Georgia coach and chairman of the Kennesaw State football exploratory committee, on Thursday. “You should probably ask the other Dooley about that.”
Efforts to contact Derek Dooley were unsuccessful, but the non-denial from his father holds weight.
Vince Dooley, who is still a Kennesaw State consultant, said he would be there to help in any way once the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia gives the final approval for the Owls to go ahead with their football program. KSU will be on the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting, and sources close to the Board of Regents say the final approval is a mere formality.
Following Tuesday’s meeting, KSU athletic director Vaughn Williams will begin the process of hiring the first head coach that will lead the team on the field. If Williams expects the program to kick off in the fall of 2015, he will have to hire a coach soon, and it only makes sense that Derek Dooley would be a prime candidate.
Rumors around the university say that the powers that be — Williams and university president Dan Papp — will be trying to make a splash with a big-name hire, much like Georgia State did when it hired Bill Curry to build its program from the ground up.
Dooley, aside from being related to arguably the biggest football name in the state of Georgia, fits that bill. A former SEC coach at Tennessee, and before that at Louisiana Tech, he would bring instant notoriety to KSU. He also knows what it takes to recruit the Southeast.
However, Dooley may have nearly 5 million reasons to decide against taking the job.
Tennessee bought out his contract, which was to last until 2016. That means Dooley will receive approximately $100,000 a month for the next 48 months — rounding out at about $4.8 million. Or, to put it in better perspective, it’s half of the $200,000-a-year salary range the exploratory committee suggested for the new coach.
If Dooley isn’t the guy, then here are a few names that other people close to the program have batted around:
* Current San Francisco 49ers linebackers coach Jim Leavitt.
Leavitt was the head coach at South Florida from its beginning in 1997 as a Division I-AA program. He built the Bulls into a nationally respected program, compiling a 95-57 record and, in the process, taking it from I-AA to I-A in Conference USA and the Big East.
At one time, Leavitt was considered a leading candidate to take the Alabama job, but he actually turned it down twice.
He was fired from South Florida in 2009 for allegedly grabbing a player by the throat and striking him twice. A year later, Leavitt settled a wrongful termination suit for $2 million and an additional $750,000 for what USF called contributions to building the Bulls’ football program.
* The well-traveled Brian VanGorder.
Once a successful defensive coordinator at Georgia — in 2003, he won the Frank Broyles Award as the nation’s top assistant — he has a career record of 19-25 as a head coach, but most of those wins came in the early 1990s at Wayne State, his Division II alma mater in Detroit. In his single season as the head coach at Georgia Southern in 2006, he led the Eagles to the worst record of their program’s history (3-8).
Van Gorder resigned from Georgia Southern after one year to become the linebackers coach for Bobby Petrino with the Atlanta Falcons in 2007, and the following year — after spending one month as South Carolina’s defensive coordinator — he returned to the Falcons to begin a four-year tenure as Mike Smith’s top defensive assistant.
VanGorder left the Falcons after the 2011 season for Auburn, before becoming a casualty of Gene Chizik’s firing last month.
Like Dooley and Leavitt, VanGorder would definitely know the metro-Atlanta recruiting base — maybe even better than the other two — but in 30 years of coaching, four years is the longest he has spent in any one job.
* Maybe more for comic relief than anything else, one notable name that has popped up is former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel.
Supposedly, Papp and Tressel grew up in the same Ohio neighborhood, and Papp does have a Tressel-signed football in his office.
Tressel is currently the vice president of strategic engagement at the University of Akron, and while he would definitely make a big splash and bring KSU plenty of notoriety, Tressel is the longest of long shots because he is currently serving a five-year “show cause” penalty by the NCAA.
The NCAA accused Tressel of withholding information and lying to keep ineligible players on the field during Ohio State’s cover-up of players trading autographs and memorabilia for tattoos.
If KSU wanted to hire Tressel, they would have to “show cause” as to why its program should not be put on sanctions for hiring him, and the university could then face severe penalties if Tressel were to commit any further violations during his penalty. The “show cause” runs until 2016 and would probably be a serious deterrent for the Owls.
All those candidates would make a big splash, but if those rumors are true, there is one obvious candidate that they are overlooking.
How about current Georgia Tech defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator Andy McCollum?
McCollum knows every back road in Georgia from recruiting for the Yellow Jackets, and he knows the ones in Cobb County even better after playing his high school football at Marietta, where he is part of the school’s athletic hall of fame.
His son, Drew, will graduate this spring from Marietta and will likely become the fourth-generation McCollum to compete in college. What
better place could he do that than for his father at KSU?
McCollum also knows how to transition a team from I-AA to I-A, as he did in his seven years at Middle Tennessee State. While McCollum didn’t have a winning record (33-44) with the Blue Raiders, he won a Sun Belt Conference championship in 2001 and had a history of beating programs like Vanderbilt, Troy, Louisiana-Monroe and Louisiana Tech.
Now, we will all get to see where Williams, Papp and the Owls turn next.
John Bednarowski is sports editor of the Marietta Daily Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.twitter.com/jbednarowski.