Former University of Tennessee quarterback and now North Carolina congressman Heath Shuler joined the list Wednesday of people who won't be the next UT athletic director.
If he ever was on the list of possible replacements for Mike Hamilton, that is.
His name was certainly floated out as someone who might be interested a few weeks ago, notably by a Knoxville radio personality. Shuler and his aides didn't immediately dismiss the idea and, given tough re-election prospects in 2012 for the Blue Dog Democrat in Republican-leaning western North Carolina, Washington political bloggers and reporters fanned the suggestion into a hot story of speculation.
On Wednesday, however, a top aide to Shuler told the POLITICO website that the incumbent congressman won't be the next UT athletic director (yes, you can quit holding your breath now); he's running for re-election.
"Heath Shuler is running for re-election in 2012. He is not going to be the next athletic director at the University of Tennessee. He has not sought it. He has not interviewed for it. If offered, he will not accept it. He will not be the next AD at UT. He is running for re-election," Shuler spokesman Andrew Whalen told POLITICO.
POLITICO asked if Shuler might be considering retirement from congressional life. "Heath Shuler is running for re-election to the United States House of Representatives in 2012. Period. Definitively. Other descriptive adjectives that mean the same thing. He will be re-elected to Congress in 2012," Whalen replied.
Some political handicappers give Shuler about as much chance of being re-elected as close observers of Tennessee's athletic program had given him of becoming AD.