After Will Muschamp turned down the chance to be the head football coach at the University of Tennessee, the Volunteers have been left standing at the altar without a bride. Lane Kiffin’s departure has caught Tennessee’s athletic department completely surprised and unprepared for what to do with the future of the program. Frankly, a backup plan should always be in place but it’s understandable that athletic director Mike Hamilton was blindsided by this development.
So who is going to be next in Knoxville?
Earlier today it looked as if Air Force coach Troy Calhoun was going to be the next to don a creamsicle polo, he even called a team meeting for tonight presumably to announce his departure. About an hour later Air Force’s athletic department issued a statement stating that Calhoun would be staying in Colorado Springs.
The Vols reached out to former Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach and current Monday Night Football analyst Jon Gruden but were rebuffed. Gruden got his start as a Tennessee graduate assistant and his wife is a former Vols cheerleader. Seemed like a nice fit, but it isn’t happening.
Ole Miss’s Houston Nutt seems to change jobs every other year, but he’s reportedly out of the running.
Right now speculation seems to be centering on Duke head coach David Cutcliffe. Cutcliffe was Peyton Manning’s mentor and has been Tennessee’s offensive coordinator twice. His representatives claim he has not yet been contacted by the Vols but we’d have to assume he’s the front runner right now. Despite what his representatives have said, Cutcliffe has reportedly talked to Hamilton.
That is, assuming TCU coach Gary Patterson has no interest and hasn’t already met with Tennessee officials. Patterson denied meeting with the Vols brass despite what has been reported.
Here are the other names we’ve been hearing:
- It’s hard to believe UConn’s Randy Edsall would be in the mix, but his name comes up with every new position and frankly I think Tennessee would be a nice fit for him. Edsall is noted for his ability to build a program something Tennessee may need after Kiffin’s exit.
- Clemson defensive coordinator Kevin Steele is a Tennessee alum and has been an assistant with the Vols twice. He spent two years at Alabama, so he knows the SEC intimately well and has been a head coach before. Sure, he was the head coach at Baylor and went 9-36, but he’s a former Tennessee linebacker and a homecoming with the promise of a long stay could forgive the lack of head coaching success.
- Boise State head coach Chris Petersen’s name will get tossed in with every job opening but he has given no indication he wants to move away from the blue turf. The Broncos should be loaded next year and could enter the season expected to run the table once again.
- North Carolina head coach Butch Davis could be an option as he was linked to the opening before Kiffin won the job last year. I think Davis is liking where things are going in Chapel Hill and has an easier path to winning in the ACC than he’d find in the SEC. But he has always seemed like a guy who is constantly looking to move up and Tennessee could be that chance.