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Big buyouts for Dooley, Tennessee

Tennessee is still paying former coach Phillip Fulmer his "parting" gift. He was owed a $6 million buyout after being fired in 2008, and his contract called for it to be paid over 48 months.

Do the math, and that's a pretty sweet check Fulmer is still receiving every month.

When Fulmer's successor, Lane Kiffin, bolted for Southern California in January, Tennessee had not protected itself against an early exit, and Kiffin was able to get away for $800,000.

Obviously, new Tennessee coach Derek Dooley is paying the price, but it's not all bad for Dooley, either.

After some haggling over his buyout, Dooley signed a memorandum of understanding last month, which stipulates that he would owe the university $4 million if he were to resign over the next two seasons. It's still $3 million if Dooley were to resign following his third season at Tennessee to go elsewhere.

That buyout decreases to $1 million or less during the last three years of his six-year deal, which takes him through the 2015 season.

The good news for Dooley is that he's protected, too, in case Tennessee wanted to cut ties with him prematurely. It's no secret that he faces a daunting rebuilding job with the Vols.

At least one of the coaches Tennessee went after before hiring Dooley called it a two- or three-year rebuilding job minimum.

That said, Dooley would be owed a $5 million buyout if he were to be fired over the next three seasons. That buyout doesn't go down much in the fourth and fifth seasons. He would still be owed $4 million if the university fired him following season No. 5.

In other words, if the road is as rocky as many in, and around, the program expect it to be over the next few years, it's going to cost Tennessee a lot of money if somebody gets antsy and wants to go coach-shopping again.

That's only fair, because Dooley deserves at least five years to right a once-proud program.