Kiffin, Dooley, Jones: Which Tennessee coach was the worst?

Tennessee coach

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — For more than three decades, Tennessee had Johnny Majors and Phillip Fulmer in charge of the football program. The Vols won five conference titles and one national championship in that span.

The decade that followed has not seen the Vols anywhere near where they want to be … unless you think the Music City Bowl is a must-get-to destination.

Lane Kiffin, Derek Dooley and Butch Jones will not be remembered fondly by Vols fans. But among those three, who was the worst hire for Tennessee?

The answer may surprise you. Or, hey, it might not. We’ve got a 33.3 percent chance of being on the same page here.

Wins and losses

* Lane Kiffin: 7-6 (4-4 in SEC play)
* Derek Dooley: 15-21 (4-19 in SEC play)
* Butch Jones: 34-27 (14-24 in SEC play)

None of these guys is heading to the Hall of Fame with numbers like those, but Dooley was at another level when it came to wins and losses in Tennessee history. Dooley forever will be the guy who lost a game because he had 13 players on the field and lost a bowl game because his opponent had 18 guys on the field. And that happened in the same season.


Lane Kiffin’s one class was filled with problem personalities and overrated players. Bryce Brown, David Oku, Nu’keese Richardson … the list is lengthy. He also told future college standout quarterbacks Tajh Boyd and Bryce Petty, who were committed to Tennessee under Phillip Fulmer for the class of 2009, that he didn’t want them.

Butch Jones landed UT legends Derek Barnett and Josh Dobbs, and convinced Alvin Kamara to transfer to Tennessee from junior college. Those are three of six recruits brought in by Jones who were taken in the 2017 NFL draft.

That said, the annual top-15 classes produced by Jones don’t look like top 15 classes in the years to come. John Brice reported earlier this week that about 40 players have transferred during Jones’ tenure.

Derek Dooley didn’t like recruiting – period. He didn’t have a staff that liked recruiting, either.

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