On Sunday, multiple reporters reported that Tennessee had agreed to a deal to make Greg Schiano the next head coach for Tennessee, but no one could have predicted what happened next.
After fan backlash that included protesters in front of Neyland Stadium, Tennessee decided to back off of the deal with Schiano.
“I deeply regret the events of yesterday for everyone involved,” Chancellor Davenport said. “The university remains steadfast in its commitment to excellence, and I look forward to John Currie continuing the search to bring the next head football coach to the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.”
Just seven months into his job, Tennessee athletic director John Currie is facing the challenging duty of finding the coach who could help Tennessee return to its glory days. Currie stated that he won’t be hiring a search firm; he will depend mainly on the people around him to help with his decision.
“We will begin an exhaustive search for a person of the highest integrity and character with the skills and vision to propel Tennessee to championships,” Currie said.
Currie thought Schiano was that guy, but fans, local businesses and state representatives did not agree.
Now Tennessee is back to square one with some of the best names swiped off the board. Scott Frost looks like he is headed to Nebraska while Chip Kelly and Dan Mullen have already agreed to deals at UCLA and Florida respectively.
There are still some interesting names available, but Tennessee needs to move quickly and carefully in order to get the guy that they want. Several power-five head coaches have been fired, creating many vacancies that will be filled fairly soon.
The next head coach at Tennessee should be known as a good recruiter, a guy who can develop talent and hire good assistants.
Here are some of the top candidates to keep an eye on.
Tier 1: Les Miles, Jon Gruden
These are the candidates who could change the program quickly.
Les Miles: Les Miles is currently unemployed and would be a nice hire to bring stability to the program. Miles, an offensive line coach by trade, would bring a physical mindset in the trenches that's been missing in recent seasons at Tennessee. Miles has also been an excellent recruiter and helped compile consistent top-10 classes. He also has a strong track record against the SEC East. In his last six full seasons at LSU, Miles went 12-2 against the SEC East. Mark Richt was fired from Georgia after a 10-3 season; Miles was having the same level of success at LSU, but he wasn’t getting over the hump in his later years. A change of scenery worked out well for Richt, and it could do the same for Miles.
Jon Gruden: The “Grumors” have been all over the place. Jon Gruden has been a broadcaster at ESPN since 2009 but has hinted at returning to coaching several times. Gruden was a former assistant at Tennessee in the 1980s and has been spotted at two games in Neyland Stadium this season. Gruden is known for his work with quarterbacks and his smash-mouth style of play—which would be welcomed with opened arms in the SEC. The Gruden rumors were at an all-time high a few weeks ago, but they have slowed down lately. However, 247Sports reported on Sunday that Jon Gruden is still a legitimate candidate.
Tier 2: Kacy Rodgers, Kevin Sumlin, Jeff Brohm
Kacy Rodgers: The New York Daily News reported two weeks ago that Tennessee had expressed interest in the Jets' defensive coordinator. Rodgers played at Tennessee 1988 through 1991 and was a part of two SEC Championship teams. Rodgers doesn’t have any head coaching experience, but he has been in the collegiate and professional coaching ranks since 1994. There hasn’t been much talk about Rodgers in the past two weeks, but he is still a candidate to keep tabs on.
Kevin Sumlin: Kevin Sumlin was fired from Texas A&M after a 7-5 regular season record. Before the season started, the Texas A&M athletic director stated that Sumlin was on the hot seat and needed to improve the win total to keep his job. Sumlin didn’t improve the total, but that doesn’t mean he’s not a good option for Tennessee. Sumlin has consistently been a great recruiter and has had high-powered offenses. He would immediately improve the Tennessee offense, and he has proven he can hire good defensive coordinators.
Jeff Brohm: Jeff Brohm can coach; he’s proven it at his last two stops, and it’s only a matter of time before one of the elite college programs inks him to a deal. In three seasons at Western Kentucky, Brohm led them to a 30-10 record with three bowl wins and a top-25 finish in 2015. Since 2013, Purdue hadn't won more than three games in a season until Brohm led them to a 6-6 record this year. Brohm has shown he can win in different ways. At Western Kentucky, he had one of the best scoring offenses in the nation that consistently finished in the top seven in scoring. At Purdue, the offense finished 97th in his first season, but the defense finished in the top 20 in scoring. Brohm has gotten the most out of talent at his previous stops and could lead the Tennessee program in the right direction.
Mike Norvell: In two seasons with the Memphis Tigers, Mike Norvell has compiled an 18-6 record. Currently, the Tigers are 10-1 and have a chance at a New Year’s Six bowl. Norvell has inherited most of former Memphis coach Justin Fuente’s talent, but he has kept the show going, guiding the Tigers to their first 10-win regular season since 1938. Lately, reports are linking Norvell to Arkansas due to his playing at Central Arkansas and his wife also being from Arkansas. There haven't been many links for Norvell to Tennessee, but his offense could lead Tennessee in the right direction. Norvell would have to hire a defensive coordinator who can limit opposing offenses in order to be the hire that gets the Vols where they want to be.
Wildcard: Tee Martin
Tee Martin is a very interesting candidate. Martin led Tennessee to their last National Championship and would be a hire that fans could certainly get behind. Plus, Martin is one of the best recruiters in the nation. While Butch Jones was known for his recruiting, Martin would even be a notch above him. As the offensive coordinator at USC, Martin and the Trojans currently have a top-15 offense featuring several future NFL draft picks. Bruce Feldman reported that Martin has a legitimate shot at becoming the next head coach. Like Rodgers, a fellow Tennessee alum, Martin doesn’t have head coaching experience and has only been a coordinator for two years.