Tennessee’s search for a head coach to replace Butch Jones is almost two weeks old. But if reports are correct about the search, it won’t be lasting much longer.
According to a report from Gridiron Now that was relayed by former 247Sports reporter John Brice, Tennessee athletic director John Currie is expected to announce a new head coach by the end of this weekend or by Monday at the latest.
“Multiple sources on the UT campus, as well as people close to members of UT’s Board of Trustees, indicate that first-year athletics director John Currie could potentially wrap up his search by the close of the weekend or first of next week.,” the article states.
One of the pieces of evidence stated in the article from “multiple sources on the UT campus and connected to the school’s board of trustees” is an instruction to Tennessee’s event management and facilities staff to not waste any time in cleaning up and “turnaround efforts” after the Vols’ game with Vanderbilt. It’s believed this is because a new head coach will be introduced either Sunday or Monday, and Tennessee typically introduces new head football coaches inside Neyland Stadium and typically hosts private meet-and-greet events for new coaches with boosters there as well.
The last time Tennessee hired a new head football coach, however, the Ray and Lucy Hand Digital Studio hadn’t been constructed yet. That’s where all of Butch Jones’ weekly press conferences took place, and it’s not inside Neyland Stadium. The only time he spoke to the media inside Neyland was for post-game press conferences.
The article goes on to state that Currie “has yet to speak with Dan Mullen” as of Friday, but Currie is expected to to do so this weekend, though the situation “remained fluid late into Friday afternoon.” Mullen’s Mississippi State team played on Thursday against Ole Miss, so he is now free to speak to other teams whenever he pleases since the regular season is now over for him and his team.
If it’s not Dan Mullen or one of the other perceived front runners who is eventually named the Vols’ head coach, who will it be? The Gridiron Now article gives two alternate possibilities. And both are big names that Vol fans have been talking about for weeks.
According to the article, Jon Gruden still remains a possibility. “Gruden also has discussed the job with UT officials and potential staff members, according to UT athletics employees, agents, an NFL executive and former Vols’ players including SEC champions and NFL veterans,” the article states. All the “Grumors” had quieted down ever since he was proven to have not been in Knoxville last weekend despite early reports claiming he was.
But Gruden wasn’t the only big name mentioned in the article.
“Multiples sources, in UT athletics as well as boosters, executives and former players, said that Currie flew to the West Coast earlier this week to ‘gauge (Chris Petersen’s) interest’ in the Volunteers’ opening before Currie flew to the Bahamas to join Rick Barnes’ basketball team at the Battle for Atlantis tournament,” the article reports.
Chris Petersen is the head coach for Washington and has had a great deal of success both there and at Boise State. Petersen was 92-12 in eight seasons with Boise State and took over at Washington prior to the 2014 season. He helped lead Washington to an 8-6 record in his first year and a 7-6 record in his second season before breaking out in 2016 and helping lead the Huskies to the College Football Playoff. Washington currently has a 9-2 record this season and is ranked inside the top 20.
As the article states, Petersen signed an extension with Washington earlier this year that raised his annual salary to just over $4.8 million. But his buyout to leave the Huskies is listed as only $1.5 million. Tennessee just had to pay Butch Jones $8 million in buyout money for comparison.
The article also claims that Petersen’s $4.8 million salary at Washington would equate to a $6.86 million salary in Knoxville because of the drastic difference in cost of living. The University of Washington is in Seattle, and according the article, the cost of living in Knoxville is, on average, 43 percent cheaper than in Seattle.
John Currie has kept information about this coaching search nearly airtight. Very few leaks have come out during his search for a new head coach, and there are very few indications as to who he’s been targeting or interviewing.
But if the sources in this article are true, everyone will know who Tennessee’s next head coach will be in the next couple days.