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Okie State’s Gundy Almost Took UT’s Job… Over Scheduling

mike-gundy-mug-osuWhen Tennessee chased Mike Gundy for its then-vacant head coaching position in December, the word leaked from Stillwater than Oklahoma State’s coach was upset about how tough his non-conference schedules were becoming.  Most thought that an alum of OSU who’d had much success at OSU would not leave OSU over scheduling issues.

In the end, he did not.  But he almost did.  At least according to Gundy in an interview with  And indeed, it was tied in large part to the schedules his AD was lining up.

“At some point, that’s where we thought we were going to go,” Gundy said of Tennessee.  But eventually the Cowboys’ coach decided to stay put — despite a UT courtship that included governor of the Volunteer State.  He also worked things out with athletic director Mike Holder.

“What head coach and AD Agree on everything?  They might not say it, but Mike and I do,” Gundy said of Holder.

According to Gundy’s comments, he was closer to taking the Tennessee job than many had actually thought.  Good thing for new Vol coach Butch Jones that Gundy (and Louisville’s Charlie Strong) decided to pass on the opportunity to coach in the SEC East.

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Maisel: UT Administration Has Used Athletic Department “As An ATM”’s Ivan Maisel writes today that one reason Butch Jones was tabbed as Tennessee’s new football coach — in addition to Louisville’s Charlie Strong changing his mind at the last minute — was to help AD Dave Hart convince the academic side of UT to ease up on its practice of milking the athletic department dry.

Maisel writes:


“The university administration has used the athletic department as an ATM, saddling it with financial responsibilities that the Vols’ SEC competitors don’t have.  Hart wanted his new coach to be able — and willing — to explain how that financial burden translates onto the field.”


We’ve scoffed at the overblown notion emanating from Knoxville that Tennessee’s academics have become just too darn hard compared to its SEC neighbors.  One, the folks pushing that story are either fired ex-UT football coaches or friends of those coaches.  Two, even people who’ve pushed that stance like Phillip Fulmer and longtime defensive coordinator Keven Steele were willing to move back to the school if they could get enough booster support (in Fulmer’s case) or get a slick salary (in Steele’s case).  So things aren’t so bad that the folks moaning about academics wouldn’t jump at the opportunity to coach at the very school they say has become too tough.

Also, regardless of how true the academic issues are — and there’s a grain of truth there, not a silo full, but a grain — we haven’t heard James Franklin whine about academic issues hindering his recruitment of players to Vanderbilt.  In fact, he’s used Vandy’s academic standards as a plus, not a minus on the recruiting trail.

The same can be said for the coaches at Northwestern, Notre Dame and Stanford… all of which have just a tad tougher academic requirements than the Harvard of the Smokies, UT.

That said, Maisel is dead-on when it comes to his comments about Tennessee’s administration requiring the athletic department to give millions back to the school each year (as if being the advertising “front porch” for the university weren’t enough of a return).  There’s a reason UT’s athletic department currently has the smallest emergency cash fund in the Southeastern Conference and that’s the fact that the Vol athletic department returns an abnormally large portion of its revenue to the academic side of the school.

Jones has a reputation for running a sound ship academically.  That might make his words more impactful to a group of academicians who are dead set on “getting theirs.”

UT’s new coach might simply need to convince Tennessee’s top brass to pick up a copy of Aesop’s Fables.  “Killing The Goose That Laid The Golden Eggs” might make for an interesting read.

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Sources: UT Offers Cincinnati’s Jones

Multiple sources inside the University of Tennessee football program have told that the Volunteers have offered their head coaching position to Cincinnati’s Butch Jones Thursday night.  Jones has been pursued by Purdue and Colorado this offseason and the coach turned down the Buffaloes’ offer earlier today.

Tennessee was turned down by Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy and Louisville’s Charlie Strong on Wednesday.

(What will Jon Gruden think?)


UPDATE – UT athletic director Dave Hart is believed to have met with Jones in Kentucky on Thursday evening.  According to two sources in the UT football program — as noted above — an offer was extended.  The site also reported Thursday: “Sources tell us that Butch Jones has been offered the job.  No decision expected tonight.”

Meanwhile, in typical fashion for this Tennessee search, the site GoVols247 (behind a paywall) — a partner website of The Knoxville News Sentinel — reports that some UT boosters may be making a late push encouraging Vol brass to speak with Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart.

Perhaps the Volunteers will double-offer Jones and Smart as they double-offered Mike Gundy and Charlie Strong earlier this week.  If Tennessee is like every other school out there, Vol officials will still deny offering anyone but the person who finally accepts their job.

Remarkably, messageboard rumors continue to claim Gruden’s deal is done and he will be announced as UT’s new head coach soon.  (Which would make the Vols’ trek from Gundy to Strong to Jones to perhaps Smart the longest, widest screen of smoke since Chicago burned in 1871.)

Stay tuned…

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Report: Gundy Offered UT Job

Earlier this morning we reported that sources close to Tennessee’s search and inside the college athletics industry have told us that Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy is still very much in play for the Vols’ job.  Moments ago, CBS’ Bruce Feldman tweeted the following:






Does that mean Gundy will accept the offer to coach in Knoxville and leave his alma mater?  No.  But it certainly lends more credence to the belief that Gundy is still option 1A while Louisville’s Charlie Strong is option 1B for UT athletic director Dave Hart.

And if Gundy does not take the UT job and instead stays in Stillwater with a raise and more power, expect Tennessee officials to say no offer was ever made.


UPDATE – While Feldman is reporting that Gundy has an offer from Tennessee and that friction between he and his boss are to blame (more on the “friction” here), a reporter for The Oklahoman newspaper is reporting that OSU’s sideline reporter — ya following all this? — has said on the radio that “Mike Gundy is staying at Oklahoma State… He has made a decision.”

Round and round she goes.  Buckle in for another day of Twitter hype.  At least now there’s just one SEC search for folks to discuss.

UPDATE II: Sources telling ESPN that Gundy is staying at Oklahoma State. 

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