Tennessee's search for a football coach will gain momentum this week. More momentum, less fun.
My only hope is that some persistent talk-show host or media personality will rise above the facts and spout bravely: "This Gruden thing ain't dead yet."
The search was so much more entertaining with Jon Gruden involved. As someone told me early last week, "I just have a feeling we're going to get Gruden."
But both Gruden and his agent informed us a few days later that he's quite happily employed by "Monday Night Football," and seemingly disinterested in an opportunity to overtake Vanderbilt as the most successful SEC football program in the state of Tennessee. Even the most fervent Gruden believers are struggling to take that as a positive sign he will be the next football coach at Tennessee.
So what's left?
How about: Bob Stoops leaving his national powerhouse at Oklahoma for the challenge of lifting the Vols above Missouri in the SEC East?
Despite the denials, Gruden still seemed a more plausible candidate than Stoops. Now, Florida State's Jimbo Fisher seemingly has swerved off the rumor mill as well.
It's worth noting that at no point did a UT fan tell me, "I just have a feeling we're going to get Jimbo," perhaps because he didn't care if the Vols got Jimbo. Many Florida State fans might not care, either.
The Seminoles just won the ACC championship and are headed to a third consecutive bowl under Fisher. Similar success at UT would warrant a street being named after you. But at a program as stout as Florida State's and in a conference as infirm as the ACC, that constitutes underachieving.
Don't get the wrong idea. Fisher would be an upgrade for UT. But he wouldn't be Gruden.
Neither would Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy, whose name keeps popping up as a candidate. He has done a nice job at his alma mater, but he doesn't have a Super Bowl ring and a weekly prime-time forum on national television.
So how will UT fans get past Gruden?
Answer: Easier than you might think.
Sure, fans will initially lament the news that someone not named Jon Gruden has been hired to coach their football team. But they will adjust. After all, what choice do they have? It's not as though athletic director Dave Hart can fire the new guy — then hire Gruden — if the Vols struggle through spring practice.
Everything will change once Tennessee introduces its new coach at a media conference. He could show up in pajamas, slur his words and drool, and the majority of fans would find something redeeming about him. The only alternative is utter despair about the fate of UT's football program.
It's so much easier to win a media conference than it is an SEC game. Recently hired Mark Stoops just told Kentucky fans that you could win an SEC championship there. Never mind if there is a greater chance of the SEC moving the game from Atlanta to Mars than it is Kentucky even playing in it. Optimism plays well at such gatherings, and hope soars heaven-bound.
When former UT coach Derek Dooley was hired three years ago, fans raved about his southern roots and accent. Some were impressed with more than that.
A colleague overheard one fan saying at the media conference, "He reminds me of a young Nick Saban."