If a coach’s public words can be taken at face value, you can apparently cross one rumored contender off Tennessee’s wide-ranging wish list.
With Derek Dooley officially out at Tennessee, the speculation has now shifted to just who will replace the deposed coach on Rocky Top. One of the names bandied about, even before Dooley’s official axing, was Duke’s David Cutcliffe.
On multiple levels, such a move or even interest on the school’s part would make sense.
Cutcliffe spent 16 seasons (1983-98) as an assistant at UT. He left the Vols to become the head coach at Ole Miss, with the prior head-coaching experience serving as a prerequisite in the Vols’ current search and having the added bonus of being in the SEC. Perhaps most importantly, Cutcliffe has taken a historically moribund football program and, in five years, has it headed to a bowl game for the first time since after the 1993 season.
Add it all up, it would be foolish for the Vols to not at least give Cutcliffe a call. If UT does come a courtin’, however, it appears a “thanks, but no thanks” would greet the overtures.
“I can tell you right now that I’m going to be coaching at Duke next year. I’m very happy here,” Cutcliffe said during a Sunday teleconference.
As Jayson Swain, current Knoxville radio dude and former Vols wide receiver, wrote on Twitter, “When Cutcliffe says something I take it to the bank. He always preached: ‘say what u mean and mean what u say'”
So, with Cutcliffe (apparently) out of the equation, there are still plenty of names being tossed around as potential replacements. From fan-favorite Jon Gruden — this is my personal favorite as well, if for nothing more than the sheer train-wreck possibilities — to Miami’s Al Golden to Bobby Petrino — literally no chance of happening — to TCU’s Gary Patterson, all of the expected big guns are being mentioned in connection to what is still one of the top jobs in the sport.
Realistically, and likely wisely, the search will probably turn in the direction of coaches such as Louisville’s Charlie Strong and Louisiana Tech’s Sonny Dykes. And, if the idea of previous experience as a head coach was to be shelved, Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart could fall under what’s expected to be an expansive search umbrella.
After pushing Phillip Fulmer out the door and the failed Lane Kiffin experiment that’s still reverberating and the Dooley debacle, there’s only one certainty when it comes to UT’s search: regardless of which direction UT goes and who is ultimately hired, they have to nail the hire. It’s literally as simple as that.