Following the University of Tennessee coaching search has officially become insane. Reports are everywhere and they are mostly conflicting, but they still almost all are directly related to one man: Jon Gruden.
Gruden has been ruled out by several outlets over the course of this week, most recently, this morning. Knoxville radio host Jimmy Hyams reported on twitter that “Jon Gruden is out as UT candidate. Informed UT recently after phone talks last week. UT never offered contract, source said.” He also reported the same on Knoxville radio.
This report came on the heels of Tennessee beat writer Wes Rucker reporting last night that he would be very surprised if Gruden is the man in the end. Rucker didn’t completely rule him out, but said he’d be very surprised and stuck to his source throughout the night and into this morning.
Once Hyams reported that the offer had been denied, the flood gates opened. NBC, Saturday Down South, and CBS have all picked up on the story and reported the same.
However, here’s where it gets very tricky and very interesting. Last night the Chattanooga Times Free Press reported that Gruden had a contract in hand and was mulling the offer, but there was a hang up with his assistant coaches’ salaries. The writer, Stephen Hargis, has stuck to his story and says nothing is done. He went toe to toe with former UT Quarterback Erik Ainge on his radio show and let his voice be heard saying “IF Hyams is right, then it happened after midnight last night.” Hargis says he has two sources and is very confident in one of them, and the other, is a coach who would be on Gruden’s staff if he were to come to Tennessee. Hargis has not wavered a bit, and neither has Gary Haskew of Chattanooga radio, who has been claiming Gruden to Tennessee has been done for a while now. Haskew took to Facebook this morning and said numerous things, with the final one being “People, I beg you…. Just relax… do not panic…. Good things are gonna happen…. Is gonna come from the Vols and Gruden when it comes down…. All the rest of are just waiting.”
Now the big news with Haskew is, he is claiming his source is Jimmy Haslam. Yes, that Jimmy Haslam, the biggest donor to the University of Tennessee, and owner of the NFL’s Cleveland Browns. If it is true that Haslam thinks this thing is done, then it is probably done, the question is, who do you believe?
Clay Travis of 3HL on 104.5 radio in Nashville and writer for Outkick the Coverage has a very interesting take that a lot of people have started to agree with. Travis believes that this search has been a battle between the big time boosters at Tennessee, and Tennessee athletic director, Dave Hart. Travis believes that the reports of it being done in a bad way for Tennessee are just the AD’s way of silencing down the fans and all the noise, in other words, a smoke screen. He believes that the positive reports are being put out there from the boosters, in order to force Hart’s hand in making a decision. They both know that if it is found that Gruden wants the Tennessee job, and Tennessee Athletic Director Dave Hart messed it up, his career in Knoxville will be over. The fans would call for his firing immediately, no matter who else he hired as Head Coach. Many believe that Hart does not want Jon Gruden in Knoxville due to his control demands, and will thus, not offer the money that Gruden wants, even though he is able to. Gruden’s rumored control demands are high, but they are worth it, and you have to accept them if he is willing to come. The demands include full decision making of hiring and firing all assistant coaches, as well as full decision making over Tennessee’s schedule. These are duties that usually the AD would help with, especially the schedule. Apparently Gruden would like to schedule one major out of conference game per year (Notre Dame, USC, Texas, Ohio State, Oregon, etc.) as well as just one paid game in order to prepare his team for the brutal SEC schedule. According to reports, Dave Hart won’t go for this.
There are several ways this could play out. First, the Knoxville media could be right, and the deal could be dead. Thus a new coach will be named, and the fans will be furious. Secondly, the boosters could force Dave Hart’s hand, make him sign Jon Gruden and give him what he wants, and then see Dave Hart resign as Athletic Director, or lastly, the boosters could force Dave Hart’s hand but give him credit for the hiring, and make him look like a hero to all of Knoxville. It is really tough to think Dave Hart would resign after hiring Jon Gruden, no matter what that meant for his own job duties, but the rumors are there.
I think option one is most likely, followed by option three, but if one thing is for certain in this search, I think it is that only a VERY select few actually know what is going on. Now if its’ worth noting the rest of this, then its’ worth nothing this as well, some posters on VolQuest and VolNation have their hopes up about a 3 p/m. press conference today, regarding Jon Gruden. However, Brent Hubbs has denied the reports and says that a press conference will not happen today and is telling people to move on. If a press conference happens today, everyone will know around noon eastern time, in order to give the media time to prepare.
Insanity. Pure insanity, its’ the only way to describe this coaching search. At this point I will not be surprised either way regarding Jon Gruden, and while I hope he is the man, my hopes aren’t high. I’m just ready for this whole thing to be over. For me, it’s time to just sit back, enjoy my weekend, and see what happens, and all of you should do the same.