"Don't believe Fulmer would take the job?" Are you serious? Fulmer lobbied HARD for interviews at the Louisville and Arkansas jobs the last 2 years. Truth is, no one wants Phat Phil at the SEC level and any whispers to the contrary are just his people trying to keep his name relevant.
The names we’re about to mention have all been mentioned to us by more than one source. At least one of those sources — for each name — has been inside or close to the SEC program in question. We’ve also spoken today with an industry source who’s provided a bit more information. At any rate, we feel strongly enough about these rumors to float them to you as rumors.
John L. Smith status: Done
Likely candidates: Gary Patterson. We wrote last month that we were hearing AD Jeff Long was strong on Patterson and now that story is only growing louder. Check the web and you’ll quickly find that Patterson is building a house in the Fort Worth area, but if he sees Arkansas as a better and better-paying situation than the one he’s got at TCU, you can forget the house thing. He can afford to build a bigger house in Fayetteville if need be. We’ve been told “this one is all but done.” Negotiations can always blow up and deals can always fall through. We know that. But if there’s no fire with the Patterson-to-Arkansas talk, then Long has put out one of the best smokescreens ever. Patterson said today of the Arkansas rumors: “I don’t think there’s anything to that.” How’s that for a non-denial denial? Tommy Tuberville — an Arkansas native — is also interested in the Razorback job. Very interested.
Gene Chizik’s status: All but done.
Likely candidates: Jimbo Fisher and Bobby Petrino. Make no mistake, Fisher is the first choice when president Jay Gogue and AD Jay Jacobs lower the boom on Chizik (and that’s expected to come post-Alabama game). Fisher isn’t scared to be in the same state with his old boss Nick Saban and he already knows how to recruit the Panhandle region of Florida as well as the southern halves of Georgia and Alabama. Quite frankly, we can’t see Fisher making this move, but rumors have swirled that he’s not happy with the current administration at Florida State. If Fisher can’t be had — or if he’s simply trying to gain more leverage in Tallahassee — expect a number of AU backers to scream for Petrino. Yes, many unforgiving souls would have stones in hand and be darn ready to cast them, but Petrino “can flat coach.” And he almost landed on the Plains once before. His name has been tossed out to us every time we’ve chatted with people at or close to Auburn’s athletic department.
Joker Phillips’ status: Already done.
Likely candidates: Sonny Dykes and Mike MacIntyre. Dykes makes sense thanks to his previous stint on Hal Mumme’s staff in Lexington. But would he feel he could eventually succeed enough at Louisiana Tech to land in a better situation than the one AD Mitch Barnhart could offer? If so, MacIntyre — son of former Vanderbilt coach George MacIntyre — is thought to be high on UK’s list. San Jose State’s head coach has served as an assistant at Georgia and Ole Miss in the SEC as well as with the Cowboys and Jets in the NFL. He was the defensive coordinator for David Cutcliffe at Duke (who might put in a good word with Barnhart, since the two worked together at Tennessee). There is still some thought that Barnhart might make a play for Phillip Fulmer, but we’ve been told the power brokers in Lexington don’t really believe Fulmer would take the job when push came to shove… so why deal with a likely turndown? On the other hand, if Fulmer simply sniffs around and says nice things about UK, that could possibly/maybe/sorta help Barnhart to convince someone else to take the job seriously.
Derek Dooley’s status: Depends on who you ask.
Likely candidates: Tommy Tuberville and Al Golden. New Vol AD Dave Hart is marking his territory in Knoxville. As we wrote about three weeks ago, UT’s athletic director has “bowed up” a bit when told by boosters what decision he needs to make with regards to Dooley. He wants everyone — UT’s chancellor, the big donors — to know that he and he alone will make the call on Dooley and that could explain why what everyone knows will happen hasn’t actually happened yet. But when Dooley gets nixed — and that will happen unless Hart wants to hit the bricks, too — expect Tuberville and Golden to get be on the Vols’ short list. Tuberville wants out of Texas Tech and back into the SEC. He built up Ole Miss and then rebuilt Auburn. In terms of safe, proven hires, he makes some sense (though many would ask, “Why not just bring back Phillip Fulmer?”). Surprisingly to us, there’s been some “traction” on the Tuberville front in the past few days. Slapping a Tech grad assistant on television over the weekend probably won’t help his cause. Golden built up Temple before moving to Miami. Once there he inherited a serious NCAA mess and he may take the first train outta town if given the chance. One other name we keep hearing: former Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio. We assumed that Del Rio’s agent was simply floating his name because the man has no college coaching experience and he has no obvious ties to Tennessee… aside from one very rich one. Del Rio is the current defensive coordinator for the Broncos and Denver’s starting quarterback is Vol alum and booster Peyton Manning.