KNOXVILLE — Derek Dooley’s never-dull analogies to his first-year struggles with the Tennessee football team took another interesting turn Monday.
Dooley likened his inexperienced Volunteers (2-5, 0-4 Southeastern Conference) to unorganized German soldiers bunkered down on the beaches of Normandy, France, awaiting an organized invasion from the Allied Forces.
“Right now we’re like the Germans in World War II,” Dooley said. “Here come the boats. They’re coming.”
Dooley then pretended to peer through a set of binoculars.
“You have the binoculars, and it’s like, ‘Oh, my God, the invasion is coming,’” he said. “That’s what they did; they were in the bunkers. It’s coming. They call [German field marshal Erwin] Rommel — they can’t find Rommel.”
Dooley then pretended to make a call from field radio.
“What do we do? I’m not doing anything until I get orders,” he said, mimicking a German soldier.
Dooley then peered again through the imaginary binoculars.
“Have you gotten Rommel yet?” he said, again mimicking a German soldier.
And the coach was nowhere near done.
“The Americans were the exact opposite,” Dooley continued. “We hit the beach, and we were on the wrong spot. ‘What do we do? I don’t know, but these guys are firing, and we better hide over there and blow some stuff up to get up there.’ They weren’t looking for [help]. That’s where we’ve got to make that transition.
“I don’t want the German people to get upset at me. I’m not attacking them, but that’s what happened. You had one group, they weren’t worried about what the plan was and orders and all that. When the war hits, things change. You’ve got to go. You had the other group, and they go, ‘Wait a minute. They told us the invasion was way further north’ where we had the empty tanks and we were hiding [U.S. general George] Patton out. ‘We weren’t ready for this, now what do we do?’ ‘We better wait until Rommel tells us what to do.’
“I hope I got my names right, or they’ll say, ‘He doesn’t even know history.’”
Dooley often has made interesting metaphors during his 10-month tenure in Knoxville — he often compares the younger Vols to his adolescent children, and he compared the team’s schedule to being in a forest full of animals — but Monday’s news conference went viral faster than any to this point.
Quotes and ultimately videos of his meeting with the media were all over the Internet by Monday afternoon, drawing a polarizing blend of laughter and anger.
Most of the people contacting the Times Free Press on Monday seemed to find merely humor in Dooley’s discussion, but some were disappointed with him comparing a sport to one of history’s deadliest wars.
National media were just as varied in their opinions.
“Derek Dooley just compared his team to the D-Day invasion, when thousands of Americans died,” CBSSports.com’s Gregg Doyle wrote on his Twitter page. “[Lane] Kiffin’s gone, and the UT coach got dumber?”
Popular blog Deadspin.com wrote that Dooley “took a spin towards crazytown.”
“It takes a real man of a football coach to admit his team wasn’t playing its best; it takes a strange man to do so with Nazi comparisons,” Deadspin wrote. “Things didn’t go that well against Alabama, huh, Coach?”
“The coach of the Tennessee football team just likened himself to a Nazi field marshal. It makes one wonder: Who is Hitler in this metaphor? Pat Summitt?”
Bomani Jones, a North Carolina-based host of “The Morning Jones” on Sirius/XM satellite radio and a frequent contributor to ESPN’s website and television shows, had a more lighthearted take on the situation.
“That’s some funny stuff,” Jones said as he watched the tape of Dooley’s news conference. “People are bothered by this?”
Jones was then told that some fans and media members said they were offended by it.
“On top of being entertaining, it’s a pretty appropriate military analogy,” Jones replied. “Are we just not going to talk about anything in World War II?”
Dooley’s Vols play Saturday at 12:21 p.m. against 17th-ranked South Carolina (5-2, 3-2 SEC) in Columbia.