As the only head football coach in the country who also serves as the university's athletics director, Derek Dooley entered his third season at Louisiana Tech leading both the football program and the athletic department into a new era of unprecedented change.
Since he stepped on campus Dec. 17, 2006 when he was named the 31st head coach in Bulldog football history, Dooley has rebranded not only the reputation but the perception of Louisiana Tech Athletics on a regional and national level.
His work ethic and incredible vision during his first year as the Bulldog head coach was so impressive that Louisiana Tech President Dr. Dan Reneau added a line to Dooley's business cards March 6, 2008 when he named him athletics director.
Dooley's hiring and immediate success at Louisiana Tech have drawn rave reviews from some of the university's top alumni.
"Derek is exactly what I hoped he would be," said NFL Hall of Famer Terry Bradshaw. "As far as I am concerned, he has exceeded everyone's expectations, including the 65,000 alumni. He is making people stand up and take notice of Louisiana Tech.
"What we have is a man who has a vision for this program and this university; he wants to make it something special. He has a plan. It is an energetic, aggressive plan, and I could not be more proud to have him as our AD and our football coach."
As a football coach, the son of former Georgia coaching legend Vince Dooley comes by his talent honestly.
Dooley entered his third year on the job in 2009 with high expectations as 16 starters returned from an 8-5 Independence Bowl Champion team. However, the Bulldogs had over 22 student athletes from the season's original two deep depth chart miss significant time due to injuries in route to a 4-8 record.
The injured Bulldogs suffered their fair share of close losses as well. Tech lost five games on the season by a total of just 23 points (4.6 points per game). One of those losses being to top 25 LSU in Baton Rouge where LA Tech held a 13-10 halftime lead over the Tigers, the school's first since 1904.
Since Dooley arrived on campus he made it clear that he wanted his team to excel on special teams, running the football and stopping the run which is what this year's team has shown he is accomplishing.
Louisiana Tech return specialist Philip Livas received All-WAC honors as a returner for the second straight year as he returned both one punt and one kick for a touchdown in 2009, making it three punt returns and three kick returns for touchdowns in his career, both school records.
Dooley's focus on a successful ground game also helped running back Daniel Porter to a career mark as he set a new school career rushing record at Louisiana Tech with 3,352 yards over four years.
Defensive tackle D'Anthony Smith helped in Dooley's philosophy of stopping the run as well. The potential NFL draft pick earned first team All-WAC honors for the second straight year in 2009 while being in the top five in tackles on the team for the second straight year from his DT position. Smith was also valuable as a pass rusher as he led the nation in career assisted sacks.
When the Bulldogs weren't grounding it out under Dooley in 2009, more often than not the team was throwing the ball to tight end Dennis Morris. The Shreveport, La. native was named the top tight end in the nation by the College Football Performance Awards as well as being named an All-American. Morris finished his senior year at LA Tech with 38 catches for 623 yards and he had a national-leading 12 receiving touchdowns among tight ends this season.
In just his second year as head football coach, Dooley led the Bulldogs to their first bowl victory in more than 30 years as LA Tech defeated Northern Illinois in the 2008 Independence Bowl.
The bowl appearance was only their third since Louisiana Tech joined the FBS ranks 20 years ago.
After posting a 3-10 mark in 2006 the year before Dooley was hired, Tech recorded an 8-5 mark in 2008, which included wins over SEC foe Mississippi State and bowl-bound Fresno State, and a second-place finish in the Western Athletic Conference standings -- a conference that boasted six bowl eligible teams out of the nine members in 2008.
Dooley's work over the years hasn't gone unnoticed as he was named the Coach of the Year in the state of Louisiana by the Louisiana Sports Writer's Association in 2008, the first time a LA Tech coach earned the honor in a decade.
Dooley's influence has been seen in all phases of the Bulldog program, and the four year comparisons show the differences that Dooley has made during his first three years at the helm.
Not only has Tech seen improvements over the four-year span, but some of the Bulldogs numbers are also the best since the program joined the FBS in 1989.
Tech's defense ranked 13th in the country against the run allowing only 103.8 yards per game in 2008, the best mark by a Bulldog team since the program joined the FBS in 1989.
Tech's defense allowed 23.7 points per game in the 2008 season, the fewest by a Bulldog program since 1992.
Tech's defense recorded a 21-0 road shutout over San Jose State in 2008, the first shutout by a Bulldog team since 1996 (148 games). It was the first road shutout since 1988 (225 games) and the first time San Jose State had been shutout at home since 1968.
Tech's defense allowed only 376.5 yards per game, the best by a Bulldog team since 1999.
Tech's punt return unit averaged 12.33 yards per return in 2009 (25th nationally), the third straight year a Dooley led team was ranked in the top 25 in this category. In 2008 the team averaged 13.0 yards per return (14th nationally) and 14.5 yard per return in 2007 (8th nationally), the best two averages since the program joined the FBS in 1989.
Tech's kickoff return units averaged 23.8 yards per return in 2008 (17th nationally) and 23.1 yards per return in 2007 (26th nationally), two of the top three averages since the program joined the FBS in 1989.
Tech has returned six kicks (3 kickoffs, 3 punts) for touchdowns in the last two years (two other returns for TDs were called back due to penalty). In the previous 18 years (1989-2006) Tech returned a total of five kicks for touchdowns.
Tech's special teams have blocked 11 kicks (5 FGs, 6 punts) in the last three years. The previous two years Tech only blocked three kicks.
These improvements have not gone unnoticed by Dooley's peers in the Western Athletic Conference as the Bulldogs landed 19 players on the All-WAC team in Dooley's three years, including a program record four first teamers in 2008. Tech also had a program record eight WAC Player of the Week honorees in 2008.
Tech's football program has also been recognized nationally for the student-athletes work off the playing field.
Bulldog senior linebacker Quin Harris was named a 2008 National Scholar-Athlete, one of only 15 in the country and Louisiana Tech's first ever. Harris was awarded an $18,000 postgraduate scholarship for this honor and was a finalist for the coveted National Football Foundation's Draddy Award, known as the "academic Heisman Trophy."
Harris was also one of 13 finalists for the coveted Wuerffel Trophy, which is presented to the college football player who best combines exemplary community service with outstanding academic and athletic achievement.
The Bulldog program was also recognized by the American Football Coaches Association as one of only 32 schools to graduate 70 percent of its football student-athletes. Tech was the lone member of the WAC and the only school from the state of Louisiana to receive this honor.
It didn't take long for Dooley to show his ability to energize the Bulldog faithful. In his first few months on campus, Dooley also was instrumental in raising $500,000 to completely renovate the Bulldogs' dressing room, turning it into a first class home for the Tech players.
He didn't stop there. Dooley has spearheaded a number of changes in the Tech football program, all geared towards his student-athletes. These changes include negotiating a new football apparel agreement with NIKE, overseeing athletic field improvements, adding staff members to the academic and strength and conditioning departments, updating the coaches, players and team meeting rooms, upgrading team travel, student-athlete housing and departmental video equipment used for film sessions, and instituting both a Winning with Character Program as well as an annual media interview seminar in the fall.
In just his first year as athletics director, Dooley has overseen a complete overhaul in the infrastructure of the athletic department from staffing to facilities to external operations.
Some of the external highlights include:
Restructuring the athletic foundation by creating LTAC, Team Tech 100 and the new LA Tech Kids Club (private giving increased by more than 150 percent in the first year).
Increasing net corporate sponsorship revenue by 123 percent in his first year.
Contracting with Learfield Sports as the exclusive multi-media rights holder, thereby creating LA Tech Sports Properties starting in the 2009-10 fiscal year.
Restructuring ticket operations and implementing an on-line ticketing system, the first in LA Tech history. Ticket sales revenue increased 51 percent in one year and a new record for football season tickets was set.
Contracting with Ticketmaster (effective this year) to modernize the LA Tech Ticket Office in order to better serve the fan base.
Contracting with Rickabaugh Graphics in the rebranding of the Louisiana Tech athletic logos.
Plenty of facility improvements have also taken place in the past season or are scheduled for the upcoming year including:
Joe Aillet Stadium
o Received a chemical wash and new paint job on the interior and exterior of the stadium.
o Louisiana Tech legends banners were installed on both the east and west sides of the stadium honoring Joe Aillet, Terry Bradshaw, Fred Dean and Willie Roaf.
o A new FieldTurf was installed in the summer of 2008 which included the new LA Tech logo
o New box seats are being installed and will be ready for 2009.
A Daktronics state-of-the-art high definition video display scoreboard is being installed at Joe Aillet Stadium and will be operational starting with the home opener Sept. 19. The video display area is almost 1,500 square feet, making it the largest in the Western Athletic Conference.
Thomas Assembly Center
o Received a chemical wash and new paint job on the exterior
Women's Soccer Field
o A new women's soccer field is being constructed and will be ready for the opening of the 2009 season.
o Louisiana Tech's student-athletes are now being housed in student apartments on campus that include 2- and 4-bedroom designs, private bedroom phones and television, kitchens equipped with ranges and refrigerators, high-speed internet, and easy access to the heart of campus.
Dooley also has made his mark as athletics director with personnel, promoting former Lady Techster legend and two-time Kodak All-American Teresa Weatherspoon as the head of the women's basketball program in early February. With the Techsters in fifth place in the WAC standings at the time of the move, Weatherspoon led the team to a perfect 7-0 mark down the stretch and a regular season conference championship title.
Dooley is no stranger to collegiate athletics, growing up as the son of legendary Georgia head coach Vince Dooley, who also served in the dual role of athletic director during his time in Athens.
He's seen first-hand what it takes to succeed. He has brought that knowledge and the roll-up-your-sleeves-and-get-to-work mentality with him to Ruston. It's not going unnoticed.
"All the programs I have been a part of from college to the pros have been well structured," Bradshaw said. "Derek understands college football and college athletics. He knows you have to get the fans base excited. That has been a tough sell in the past but he thinks he can do that at Louisiana Tech. I know I'm on board, and there are a lot of people who agree."
Dooley came to Louisiana Tech following a two-year stint as the tight ends coach for the Miami Dolphins, and at age 41, he is one of the youngest head coaches in the FBS ranks.
"Derek is a very articulate, bright guy," said Alabama head coach Nick Saban, who Dooley worked with for seven years at LSU and the Dolphins. "He's a great coach and a hard-working guy. He was always a very good recruiter in college, which I think is paramount if you're going to have success as a college coach. I think he has all the right ingredients to be successful as a head coach."
During his two years with the Dolphins, Dooley oversaw the 2006 continued development of tight end Randy McMichael, who ended his Dolphins career as the all-time leader in receptions by a tight end.
"Coach Dooley is such a bright person," McMichael said. "He's made me a better person on and off the field. He's made me focus every day on every aspect of the game. As a coach, he makes you the best player you can possibly be. He'll coach you like you've never been coached, and he'll push you to your maximum potential. He is a phenomenal teacher."
Prior to joining the Dolphins, Dooley spent the previous five years at LSU, including the 2004 season when he served as assistant head coach/special teams coordinator/running backs coach.
In 2003, running back Justin Vincent set an LSU freshman record by rushing for 1,001 yards, as he went on to be named MVP of both the SEC championship game as well as the Sugar Bowl, in which LSU claimed the BCS national title.
In 2004, the Tigers finished first in the SEC in rushing (193.8 yards per game), led by Alley Broussard (867 yards, 6.1 avg.) and Joseph Addai (680 yards, 6.7 avg.), a first-round draft choice of Indianapolis in 2006.
"He's the kind of coach that's got a lot of energy, and he's somebody that you can relate to on a personal level," Addai said. "He's great at giving advice while being upbeat at the same time. There aren't many coaches that will let you have fun while getting the job done at the same time. He has the ability to get that out of you."
Dooley's special teams unit ranked among the best in the conference during his tenure at LSU, as they finished first in the SEC in net punting (2003), punt returns (2003) and kickoff coverage (2003 and 2004).
In addition, Skyler Green, a fourth-round draft choice of Dallas in 2006, led the nation in punt return average in 2003, with an 18.5-yard average, with two of his returns going for touchdowns. That year, he was a first-team All-America selection as a return specialist.
Dooley first went to Baton Rouge in 2000 as the Tigers' recruiting coordinator/tight ends coach, a position in which he served three years (2000-02). During this time, Robert Royal set an LSU single-season record for touchdowns by a tight end (5 in 2000) and was named first-team All-Southeastern Conference in both 2000 and 2001.
"I really admire and look up to him," Royal said. "Not only is he a great coach, but he is a great man. He comes from a background of tradition of winning, and he represents what you expect from in a coach. You can believe and fully trust him. He is a high-character man and a player's coach."
As a recruiting coordinator, Dooley's 2003 recruiting class ranked No. 1 in the country by every major recruiting publication, while his 2001 class was ranked in the top three nationally.
Prior to joining LSU, Dooley spent the 1997-99 seasons as wide receivers coach at SMU, while also holding the duties of assistant recruiting coordinator for his final two years. That followed a one-year stint (1996) as a graduate assistant at the University of Georgia.
A walk-on wide receiver at the University of Virginia, Dooley earned a scholarship with the Cavaliers following his second season and helped the school to three bowl appearances, including an ACC championship in 1989.
In 1990, he was named first-team Academic all-ACC and participated in the Senior Bowl. He graduated from the Charlottesville, Va., school in 1990 with a bachelor's degree in government and foreign affairs, and went on to earn his law degree from Georgia in 1994.
Before embarking on his coaching career, Dooley practiced law at a private firm in Atlanta for almost two years.
Derek is married to Dr. Allison Jeffers Dooley, a practicing OBGYN at the Woman's Clinic of Ruston. The couple has two sons, John Taylor (10) and Peyton (7), and a daughter, Julianna (5). Allison organized and spearheads "Bulldogs Tackling Breast Cancer," an annual fundraiser for the Susan G. Komen Foundation.