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UT Search To Start All Over From Scratch? Looks That Way

Maybe Tennessee should have given Derek Dooley another year after all.  While the Volunteers’ search for a coach hasn’t had the ups and downs of Arkansas’ search (yet), things are looking pretty rocky right now on Rocky Top.  With Mike Gundy rebuffing Tennessee Wednesday morning and Charlie Strong turning down another Vol job offer on Wednesday night – UT will likely claim they never made an offer to either coach, of course — the Vols rolled a pair of snake eyes.

For Volunteer fans in need of some perspective, Alabama was ditched at the altar by West Virginia’s Rich Rodriguez in late 2006.  Then Wake Forest’s Jim Grobe pulled his name out of contention.  Yes, Wake Forest’s Jim Grobe.  But then on January 1st, 2007, Tide officials finally met with some guy named Nick Saban.  You know the rest.

Earlier this week, many Arkansas fans were screaming for AD Jeff Long’s noggin after the Hogs had apparently been rebuffed by Les Miles, Gary Patterson, Chris Petersen, and Mike Gundy.  Then Long landed Wisconsin’s Bret Bielema from out of the nowhere and the AD was once again a hero and the Razorbacks were once again relevant.

In other words, things can change pretty quickly.  But that won’t make things easier for Tennessee fans.  Their program has a 100,000-seat stadium, a new $45 million football complex, is second all-time to Alabama in terms of SEC titles, and ranks eighth in the nation in all-time football wins.  Yet today they were dissed by two coaches, one of which would rather stay at Louisville.

In January of 2010, when Lane Kiffin burned its program to cinders by leaving just a year into his “tenure,” the rushed nature of UT’s search made finding a proven coach almost impossible.  Then, there was a reason UT got the cold-shoulder from top candidates.  The Tennessee program was a mess.

But this search was supposed to be different.  Maybe it will be in the end.  But unless Vol AD Dave Hart can pull a Gruden — er, I’m sorry — a rabbit out of his hat a la Long with Bielema, Tennessee fans will be left scratching their heads over how a football program can go from losing four or more games just once between 1989 and 1999 to losing four or more games in each of the last eight seasons (including six or more losses in each of the last five).

They’ll also have to come to grips with why the Tennessee job has become so unattractive that a third-year coach at a school better known for basketball would rather go to the shaky ACC than return to his roots in the big, bad SEC.

So where will Hart turn next?  We were told by an industry source Tuesday that North Carolina’s Larry Fedora might be willing to pick up the phone if he thought he had a good shot at landing Tennessee’s job.  Wednesday, other outlets reported that Fedora has cooled on the Vol gig.

Today a Knoxville radio host floated the idea of bringing Phillip Fulmer back, but Fulmer actually presided over the Vols’ slide down the mountain.  UT didn’t when a league title in his last 10 seasons and he was just 29-21 over his last four years, including two losing seasons.

Gruden?  Yeah, that’s the rumor that won’t die.  A former colleague of Gruden’s stepped down after successful high school coaching career in Chattanooga last night and that will lead many to fire up the Gruden talk again.  But if Gruden were really in the fold and all the rest of this was just a very, very elaborate smokescreen, it’s odd that Tennessee would this week announce that some 2013 season tickets could be had for as little as $300 with no donation required.  If Chucky were already in the bag, here’s guessing the Vols would be raising ticket prices instead of dropping them.

That doesn’t mean some big Vol boosters upset with Hart’s handling of the search won’t decide now to make a real run at UT fans’ dream hire.

But if UT’s leaders are smart, they’ll not panic and they’ll instead take their time to criss-cross the country and find the right man for the job.  If they’re willing to throw a $4 million Hail Mary and give Georgia a pain in the rear to boot — as Arkansas did to LSU — UT could call up Mark Richt who didn’t get a raise last season, has an incentives-heavy contract, and worked under Hart at both East Carolina and Florida State.  Nebraska’s Bo Pelini might be tired of living in Tom Osborne’s shadow as was the case with Bielema and Barry Alvarez at Wisconsin.

Or, if Tennessee’s board of trustees would agree to it, the surest bet to win many SEC games is still sitting out there just dying for a contract… and his name is Bobby Petrino.

There are options a’plenty and UT could still turn what’s perceived to be mess into a win just as Alabama did in 2007.  Just as Arkansas did this week.

That or Vols could continue to spiral further and further from Rocky Top to rock bottom.

 


16 comments
HoustonVol
HoustonVol

I have a hunch that TN ends up with Butch Jones from Cincy. I don't think that will be a bad hire, just not the splash we wanted. There is something right about a Vol coach named Butch.

 

I for one am not mad at Strong for turning us down. It is nice that he stayed with L'ville and the AD that gave him a chance. If you remember when he was the DC for Holtz at USCe and Meyer at Florida, both of those coaches could not figure out why Strong could not get a Head Coaching job that he deserved. Many people wrote back then that one of the major reasons that Strong was not getting serious offers was not because he was black, but because his wife is white.  L'Ville was the first school to look past that issue. Up to that point he kept hearing "you are not what we are looking for - AKA - I don't think you and your lovely wife will play in X city". It is nice to see him stand by the school that looked past this issue that should have stopped being an issue decades ago.

djrockytop
djrockytop

Let's think about this, assuming a candidate is interested and open to a change; the Vols offer a huge fan base, top 10 stadium, amazing facilities, deep pockets and a conference you don't even need to win or play for the conf. championship to play in the national championship.  Coaches at schools who don't offer all of this, are turning UT down.  Now, did they offer Gruden, most certainly.  I don't imagine any CFB job would've brought him in.  Gundy from Ok St, maybe they did offer him, but why on earth would the #4 paid coach in all of CFB leave his alma-mater?  T Boone Pickens probably bought him a helicopter or something.  Anyway, the biggest "sting" was Charlie Strong.  A great coach at school that doesn't offer what I listed out above.  So why?  I'm beginning to believe it has much less to do with any of those things and more to do with the people in the athletic department and the administration.  

djrockytop
djrockytop

Remaining list - Gary Patterson TCU, Butch Jones Cincy, Larry Fedora UNC, John Chavis DC at LSU.  All would be solid hires, that latter is a DC, not a HC but he's a great DC and a member of the family.

I4Bama
I4Bama

Tommy Tuberville.  Is there something about him I am missing by not being a Vol?

VolTN
VolTN

The reason Tennessee is getting turned down (besides Strong being loyal to Louisville) is because of recruiting base and the number of great teams in the SEC.  Tennessee doesn't have a lot of recruits in state that are Division I prospects.   The 100,000+ stadium, the new complex, the great fanbase means nothing if you can't get the players you need to compete year in and year out.  And with at least 6 teams (Bama, LSU, A&M, SC, Florida, Georgia) all being in the hunt for championships every year, it makes it difficult to win early and often.  Any coach that comes here will be asked to win 9 to 10 games a season.  And when you play Bama, SC, Florida, and Georgia every year (not to mention the chance of playing LSU and A&M every few years), winning 9 or more games is going to be a struggle.  Let's face it, this is not the Top 20 job we thought it was.  Hart might have to start looking at Petrino or assistants (Kirby Smart) or even Phil if this goes badly with the Golden, Fedora, and Pelini offers.

gatormoss
gatormoss

Strong gets a big program paycheck at a school where football is second to basketball.  Couldn't happen to a nicer person.

SevierVol
SevierVol

After typing this, I am going to fumigate my keyboard and sterilize my hands but I think the best thing for our football program at this point is for us to swallow our pride and dignity and hire Petrino. At least we would have a proven coach and he would not fit into our budget. He has no bargaining power so he would likely agree to any morals clause put in front of him. Make the base pay low and incentive laden with no buyout clause. Once we get over the initial stiench, it would probably be okay.

WNCVol
WNCVol

Is Butch Jones still in the picture, or has Colorado got him tied up?

AllTideUp
AllTideUp

Haven't heard a lot about Butch Jones recently.  He would be a good hire as well.  I know there were some rumors of him heading to Colorado, but I would think Tennessee would be more desirable if he was offered the job.

badbadhoggie
badbadhoggie

 @djrockytop

 The fans on the Vol board are saying the reason for the lack of interest in the previous 2 hires and the current one going on is because of Tennessee's outrages "Academic Standards" lol go figure?

I4Bama
I4Bama

He has never been great at getting along with administration-types, but hey, if Petrino is on your list...

AllTideUp
AllTideUp

Or bite the bullet and go after a coordinator.  Works out fine for a lot of top programs that are otherwise in a down period.

John at MrSEC
John at MrSEC moderator

 @badbadhoggie  @djrockytop 

 

Academic concerns didn't seem to hurt Vanderbilt as they thrashed Tennessee 41-18 this year did they?

 

Thanks for reading the site,

John

badbadhoggie
badbadhoggie

 @John at MrSEC  

 That is my point exactly, lawd knows my hog fans, myself included were a miserable and cranky bunch during our HC search, but for the Vols to now blame the coaching woes on being the Harvad of the South tickles me to no end!

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Earlier this week, many Arkansas fans were screaming for AD Jeff Long’s noggin after the Hogs had apparently been rebuffed by Les Miles, Gary Patterson, Chris Petersen, and Mike Gundy.  Then Long landed Wisconsin’s Bret Bielema from out of the nowhere and the AD was once again a hero and the Razorbacks were once again relevant.  read more: mrsec.com [...]



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