We are here in a part of the world where everybody has a stake and an opinion in the University of Tennessee Volunteer football team, a team that has underachieved since I moved up here in 2008, and a team that has not won anything since the departure of Maryville resident Phillip Fulmer. Fulmer left in 2008 with a career record of 152-52,three BCS Bowl bids and a National Championship from 1998. Now fast forward to the current day with head coach Derek Dooley.
Dooley might have been the only coach hired to the SEC with a losing record. Dooley finished at UT with a 4-19 Southeastern Conference record and was out of the door after three years and a bad loss to cross-state Vanderbilt. We get that Dooley inherited a shaky situation when Lane Kiffen bolted Knoxville after one season to coach his Alma Mater, the University of Southern California.
Dooley also got a team that lost a lot of high profile recruits, such as current Philadelphia Eagles running back Brice Brown. Dooley got a team that was lost in direction after a semi-successful season with Kiffen, but this is UT — failure is not acceptable. With a stadium that seats 102,455, the best conference in the nation and the best facilities in the state of Tennessee, there is no reason for the Volunteers to struggle under any coaches’ guidance. So how can we fix this problem at Ole University of Tennessee?
Well, the rumors have already began to circulate about the next possible head coach. UT has enormous boosters that fund a coach’s budget which will no doubt be able to bring in a big name coach. The possible head coaches list has been rumored to include Duke head coach and former UT offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe, University of Louisville head coach Charlie Strong, Temple head coach Al Golden and, of course, Monday Night Football’s own Jon Gruden.
Now, let me offer my input on which one of these gents the Volunteers should hire. Cutcliffe would be a great hire because the Volunteers had great success under the direction of Cutcliffe’s offense, and the Duke Blue Devils have actually became relevant under his direction as a first-year head coach.
However, Cutcliffe has stated that he will not entertain offers and will remain with Duke, which is predictable. Strong and Golden are also great candidates with great resumes, but the Vols do not need another college coach who has experienced success; they do not need another coach who is trying to become a big name coach at the Vols expense.
The growing pains are over. What the Vols need is a coach who has done it. I do not care if he has never been a head coach at the college level before. The Vols need a coach who has experienced success at the highest level possible and has a Super Bowl ring on his finger.
That man is Jon Gruden, and I know that all the denial has begun between Gruden and talk shows already. The man has been out of coaching since 2008, and I know he is dying to become a head coach again after analyzing football for three years. Gruden was a graduate assistant with UT and his wife is alum of the school.
There is no doubt that UT will do whatever they can to lure Gruden to Knoxville and they should; but I am afraid that the Volunteers will once again do what they have done for the past four years — settle.