Tennessee has become the joke of college football.
A proud SEC program finished the season winless in-conference, and that’s only the second most embarrassing thing to happen to the school.
The search to replace fired head coach Butch Jones has become a circus, and it’s only going to get more ridiculous.
The Volunteers are in disarray. The school probably waited a year too long to fire embattled coach Butch Jones, and paid for it with a miserable season.
But the search to replace Jones has been an unmitigated disaster. The search began with everyone’s favorite pie-in-the-sky candidate, Jon Gruden.
It’s only gotten worse from there.
From the New York Post:
Tennessee continues to author one of the wackiest coaching searches in all of sports. It now appears to have turned into a coup.
Athletic director John Currie, who has been mercilessly criticized for his handling of the search for a Butch Jones replacement, was fired Friday morning, according to ESPN.
Several hours later, former Volunteers coach Philip Fulmer, a consultant during Currie’s tenure, was announced as the university’s new AD. Fulmer reportedly had been undermining Currie during the coaching search with the intention of taking his job.
Just before his ouster, Currie was prepared to hire Washington State coach Mike Leach, but university officials blocked the move, according to freelance writer Brett McMurphy.
Currie has only been the AD at Tennessee for eight months, returning to his alma mater from Kansas State. His predecessor Dave Hart was removed after the school settled a Title IX lawsuit that included several accusations of sexual misconduct by football players.
Just when it seemed like this wild few weeks in Knoxville was about to end with a fascinating but potentially impressive conclusion, the football program looks to have found new depths of madness.
There have now been more than 10 coaches linked to the Tennessee job without a replacement. Former Rutgers coach Greg Schiano had an agreement with Currie, but a tremendous amount of backlash from students, boosters, politicians and anyone with a Twitter account in the state led to the Vols’ AD backing out of the deal in less than 24 hours.
Currie seemed to get more conservative after the Schiano fiasco. The next group of candidates, which included David Cutcliffe, Mike Gundy, Dave Doeren and Kevin Sumlin, were all pretty safe choices. Leach is not that. Not at all, and apparently a second curious finalist was enough for Currie to lose his job.
[Leach] now joins a list that involved the coaches above plus Jon Gruden, Scott Frost, Dan Mullen, Matt Campbell, Jeff Brohm and Jim Bob Cooter who have been linked in some fashion to the job. Chad Morris was reportedly on Currie’s radar, but then Leach moved into the pole position.
Trying to predict who might be next on the list seems pretty foolish, though Fulmer doesn’t have much time to settle in. With Fulmer in charge, maybe that pushes former Tennessee quarterback Tee Martin, who is the offensive coordinator at USC, into the mix. Those two won a national title together in 1998.
Tennessee seems a long way from that terrain at this point. Competence, on and off the field, would be progress at this point.
There are reports that the Volunteers are circling back to Gruden, but that will likely be as fruitless as the initial push.
Fulmer, who was also accused of usurping the head coaching job from Volunteer legend Johnny Majors back in the early 1990s, may turn to fired LSU head coach Les Miles to fill the vacancy.
Miles is one of the few available head coaches who has won a national championship in the last 10 years, but he comes with big concerns.
While he is a great recruiter and steward for a program, Miles’s offenses were archaic, and he became known for some of the biggest gameday coaching blunders in recent memory.