Let’s get this out of the way: we have been led to believe by multiple individuals that in no way, shape or form will Jon Gruden actually pull the trigger on a job at the collegiate level, whether it be Tennessee, Arkansas or any other campus to which he’s been connected.
Instead, the greater likelihood is that Gruden will either step back onto the sidelines — after what would be a five-year absence — at the NFL level or remain in his cushy, multi-million dollar broadcasting gig.
Maddeningly, though, the will he/won’t he headline above is directly related to Gruden’s latest fingernails-on-a-chalkboard flirtation with an FBS job.
Even before Derek Dooley was dismissed as Tennessee’s coach last week, there was push by fans and even some in the media for Gruden to ride in on his blonde horse and save the storied Vols program. In a connect-the-dots way, Chucky makes perfect sense; his wife went to school at UT, Gruden was a Vols grad assistant in the mid-80s and he and his wife own property in the state.
Forget the fact that he hasn’t coached in the college ranks in over two decades, or at any level in half a one for that matter; he above anyone else is the elixir for all the ails Rocky Top, the common line of thinking in that area goes.
Earlier this month, there was speculation that an announcement on Gruden’s hiring was not a matter of if but when. That didn’t happen. A report then surfaced Tuesday night that new Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam, a well-heeled UT booster, had offered Gruden an ownership stake in the NFL franchise as part of his signing on as the Vols head coach. Both the Browns and Gruden denied the report of such a deal, which would’ve likely stepped across multiple NFL/NCAA lines if it had a shred of truth to it.
The latest development in the Race for Chucky is that a meeting between UT and the former coach scheduled for Wednesday was canceled, per a tweet from Knoxville radio host Jimmy Hyams. Mike Freeman of CBSSports.com followed that up a short time later with a tweet that read “Gruden may meet with Vols AD later this week, I’m told.”
The qualifier? “But Gruden’s main goal is heading back to pros,” Freeman succinctly wrote at the end of the tweet.
And thus the circus ends up right back where it began: Gruden is in like with a college job, but one a level up is what really makes his heart flutter and toes straighten.
In December of 2010, Gruden met with then-Miami athletic director Kirby Hocutt to discuss the Hurricanes’ vacancy. Nothing came of that meeting; in the end, it’s likely lather, rinse, repeat with this latest round of Gruden speculation as it relates to UT specifically and college football in particular.