KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Why do coaches so rarely retain — or, as Butch Jones would say, ‘rehire’ — coaches from previous staffs?
The stunning news Monday morning that Jay Graham was leaving his alma mater for Florida State may be the best illustration.
Head coaches seek loyalty. Assistant coaches seek security and, at times, upward mobility. Those values sometimes clash. That can lead to breakups, particularly in marriages of convenience that occur in the frantic few months between the hiring of a new coach and National Signing Day.
KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Today will likely be a quiet day for Tennessee Athletic Director Dave Hart, and maybe he’ll get to watch some prospective coaches on television.
But it’s also the first day of December, which Hart already identified as the most important month of his search.
On Sunday or Monday, Hart will travel to New York for the National Football Foundation annual awards banquet. Hart is ostensibly there to see longtime Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer inducted into the Hall of Fame, but he’ll also be networking and interviewing with other coaches. We’ll have more on the NFF and its role as a de facto coaches’ convention in Sunday’s paper.
For the first time in two weeks, I’m significantly altering the list to focus only on the most logical and viable candidates. Some of this is still highly speculative, but I’m trying to use my best intuition.
For instance, I’m making a judgment call to move Miami (Fla.) coach Al Golden off the top tier of candidates. After talking to people in Miami and hearing the sincerity of some of his denials, it’s hard for me to believe he could make a move.
Perhaps he’s just a convincing liar. If he gets hired at UT, he’ll have to live with the guilt of messing up my list.
KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Tennessee Athletic Director Dave Hart has been ensconced in his office for most of this week, which means he hasn’t taken his coaching search to the road as quickly as expected.
That could mean he’s conducting only background and phone checks right now. It might mean he’ll do all or virtually all of his in-person interviews in New York at the National Football Foundation ceremony. Or it could mean he has other tricks up his sleeve we don’t know about, like late-night airport runs.
But we’ll stick to the concrete stuff for right now. With Jon Gruden possibly out of the picture — at least for now — much of the focus turns to two candidates in Florida who have been mentioned most prominently — Miami’s Al Golden and Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher.
We added another fairly strong denial to the catalogue of denials this morning. Miami’s AD doesn’t seem concerned about losing his coach.
As for Fisher, things might get interesting when FSU wraps up its expected ACC championship over Georgia Tech this weekend. Both Tennessee and Auburn are expected to pursue Fisher. Whether he ultimately wants to leave or is merely using this for leverage at his (really, really good) current job is unclear.
KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — The biggest update today concerns Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher.
If he were working from agent Jimmy Sexton’s playbook, Fisher would have offered some vague comment about his commitment to Florida State while keeping the door to other jobs wide open. Instead, he was relatively adamant
about staying at FSU. So maybe he just got off-script.
In any case, we’re not removing him from our list as we enter what is likely to be the first real week of actual “searching” by Tennessee Athletic Director Dave Hart. Regular seasons are wrapping up and contact can now begin.