Members of Vol Nation were awakened by buzzing phones full of twitter alerts and text messages Tuesday evening.
The commotion caused by Memphis’ WREG News Channel 3 sports team – which announced that everyone’s favorite candidate, Jon Gruden, had an offer in hand to become head coach of the Tennessee Volunteers that also included a partial stake in the ownership of the Cleveland Browns – was welcome to a fan base plagued by bad news and terrible circumstances over the past five years.
However, the announcement was met quickly with Gruden himself denying the report on “ESPN’s Mike and Mike in the Morning” show on Wednesday. Which was followed up a few hours later with this report.
We all know coaches lie. A few short years ago, 72 hours before he took the job, Nick Saban said he would not be the next head coach at the University of Alabama.
But that is beside the point, which is that even if Gruden is not going to be the next head coach for Tennessee, Vol fans want – and it could be argued need – to hear big names for the sake of their sanity, the program and for the University of Tennessee.
The program needs the hire because more instability will lead to further decline in season ticket sales, fan base passion and donations from private donors. That in turn affects the University which until a few days ago received money from the athletic department to help fund efforts like scholarships and fellowships.
But lets focus on the commoners of the world instead of the donors, such as Pilot/Flying J Travel Center owner Jim Haslam, son and Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam and the other big dollar donation families.
Tennessee fans have taken to the message boards, social media, YouTube and any other forum that allows them to share their voice demanding that Gruden be hired.
But why him is the question that a lot of outsiders may be asking. The reasons are there – thin ties to the program and a plot of land 45 minutes outside of Knoxville – but it is more than just a few simple reasons. It’s more than just a single man.
The Volunteer faithful want to believe that their program is the best in the entire world. With all of their hearts, the fans who don the Orange and the White want to know that they are on top of the college world.
Forget the other UT, the forsaken school down south with 14 national titles, Urban Meyer’s new team or his old one.
To the people who pledge their allegiance to the program located on Rocky Top, there is nothing better.
In order to justify this, the nation’s top football coaches must be sought after because, to them, no one wants to turn the job down.
With some of the fanatical fan base finally beginning to move on from the lure of the ESPN Monday Night Football commentator, two names have emerged as potential big hires – Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher and Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops.
At 47 years of age, Fisher is finishing up his third year as head coach of the Seminoles and boasts a 29-10 overall, 18-6 in ACC record headed into Saturday’s ACC Championship game.
Boasting experience in Baton Rouge under Nick Saban and time spent on the Plains under Terry Bowden, Fisher’s familiarity with the SEC and nationally recognized recruiting prowess are things that Vol fans can get behind.
The West Virginia native is rumored to be unhappy that his 10-1 Seminoles were ranked behind two 9-2 teams from the SEC heading into the final weekend of the season. Fisher wants a national title and, according to reports, does not know if the ACC gives him the best opportunity to get said title.
But with a top-level job and a good thing going in the Sunshine State, the actuality of Fisher’s willingness to listen still remains to be seen.
The same could be said for Stoops, who is currently sitting on a 148-36 overall record for the Sooners.
The Ohio native is attractive to Tennessee fans with a national title under his belt, seven conference championships and only five home losses since he took over the Big 12 program in 1999.
Stoops record speaks for itself, so why would he leave the program he built you may ask.
Like his mentor, Spurrier, sometimes a coach comes to the realization that he has built the fans’ expectations too high – some in Norman are not happy with 10 win seasons and BCS bowls anymore.
Having reportedly spoken with the Head Ball Coach, Stoops may be looking to restart his coaching clock somewhere else – which could also bring a renewed passion that could help to improve his already excellent stats.
Both Stoops and Fisher bring name recognition and success, and with the $ 18 million recently freed up by UT Chancellor Jimmy Cheek, Vol fans want name recognition and success.
Tennessee fans do not want to spend sub $ 2 million and get a coach from a non BCS conference school with a sub .500 record.
So the only question that remains is this: What does Dave Hart want?