As Jon Gruden drama ends, focus shifts to other Tennessee candidates

Agent talked to UT the first time on Friday

Oakland Raiders head coach Jon Gruden shouts instructions during their 16-13 overtime loss to the New England Patriots in an AFC Divisional playoff game in Foxboro, Mass. Saturday, Jan. 19, 2002.  (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)

Photo by WINSLOW TOWNSON, 2002 AP

Oakland Raiders head coach Jon Gruden shouts instructions during their 16-13 overtime loss to the New England Patriots in an AFC Divisional playoff game in Foxboro, Mass. Saturday, Jan. 19, 2002. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)

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Tennessee fans expecting the Vols to lure former NFL coach Jon Gruden from his lucrative television gig had their hopes stamped out Friday.

Gruden's longtime agent called the idea of his client taking a job at Tennessee "fantasy." A source close to Tennessee's search said the Vols had moved on to other candidates.

The details of the flirtation between Gruden and Tennessee, and the extent of interest on either side, may never be fully known. One thing is clear after a zany Friday: The Super Bowl-winning coach who had captivated Tennessee fans for months won't be coming to Knoxville.

"I haven't said anything (about the ongoing rumors) because there's been nothing to say," said Bob LaMonte, the Reno, Nev.-based representative for Gruden. "This, to me, is just a fantasy world."

LaMonte said he spoke to Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart for the first time Friday morning.

"He just said there had been a lot of rumors and he just wanted to clear the air," LaMonte said. "I said, 'Thank you for the call. I appreciate it.' He said thank you and that was it."

According to LaMonte, Gruden has no plans to leave ESPN, where he is in his fourth season as a commentator for Monday Night Football.

"Jon has made it clear he's committed to ESPN," LaMonte said.

The chances of Gruden coming to Tennessee had dwindled until a report by the Chattanooga Times Free Press late Thursday revived the hopes of some fans that a deal could still be struck. Citing two unnamed sources, the newspaper said Gruden had been offered a generous contract and the decision was in his hands.

FILE - In this Sept. 14, 2009, file photo, ESPN broadcaster Jon Gruden is shown before an NFL football game between the New England Patriots and the Buffalo Bills in Foxborough, Mass. Gruden has agreed to a new contract with ESPN that would keep him in TV _ and out of coaching _ for the next five years.  (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)

FILE - In this Sept. 14, 2009, file photo, ESPN broadcaster Jon Gruden is shown before an NFL football game between the New England Patriots and the Buffalo Bills in Foxborough, Mass. Gruden has agreed to a new contract with ESPN that would keep him in TV _ and out of coaching _ for the next five years. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)

A source who spoke to the News Sentinel on the condition he not be identified strongly disputed the Chattanooga report. The source said Tennessee reached out to Gruden late last week, but after discussing matters with his family, Gruden declined to pursue the job. The source said no financial figures were discussed and no contract was offered.

LaMonte also said there had been no offers or discussions of money, and no discussions at all that involved him.

"I don't know Dave Hart," LaMonte said. "I'd never met him or talked to him. (Today) was the only time I talked to anyone from Tennessee."

LaMonte said Hart's phone call on Friday was apparently a formality.

"He said, 'I just wanted to do due diligence,'" LaMonte said. "I said, 'Thank you, but Jon has made it clear he's committed to ESPN.' He thanked me and said goodbye."

As Tennessee enters its 13th day of the coaching search, other candidates could start to come into focus.

Louisville coach Charlie Strong, whose team beat Rutgers on Thursday to improve to 10-2 and earn a BCS bowl berth, is being pursued by several schools.

GoVols247, a News Sentinel partner, reported that Strong was expected to interview with Hart on Friday.

"We're not going to comment on the search process of other schools," a Louisville spokesperson told the News Sentinel.

Earlier this week, AL.com reported that Strong had interviewed with Auburn before the Cardinals' final regular-season game, which Strong vehemently denied.

"It was a distraction for our program. It was a distraction for our fans. It was testing me," Strong said of the report. "I am trying to get a football team ready to go play, and I am chasing another job so I am not taking care of the job I have? Then I don't have the respect of the players. When they respect me and they do everything I ask them to do, and then all of a sudden I am going to turn my back on them and go interview for a job two days before a big game? Come on, seriously?"

When asked if he might be interested in pursuing other jobs, Strong was more evasive.

"Let's concentrate on this, let's worry about the game," he said. "Let's not worry about the job right now."

Evan Woodbery covers Tennessee football. Follow him at www.Twitter.com/TennesseeBeat.

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Comments » 485

Orangeblood64 writes:

All right boys and girl, time to turn our attention to Jim Mora jr. right now he's taking is hanging with a highly talented Stanford...show him the $$$$

AncientVolFan writes:

Getting Chucky would have been like bringing Lane Kiffen back.

dvols writes:

Tony Dungee

Hrockytop writes:

You know If Gruden wasn't interested he should've said early on. He politely said "thanks but no thanks to Arky. but we get a canceled meeting and "never interested" from him and then his agent say's "Fastasy"..Seem's kinda like a low class insult to me. Just saying!! Probably better off in the long run anyway..

GO VOLS

lomas98 writes:

in response to Orangeblood64:

All right boys and girl, time to turn our attention to Jim Mora jr. right now he's taking is hanging with a highly talented Stanford...show him the $$$$

Would you have said that last Saturday night or are you just living as the next game happens? If the focus shifts away from gruden, but there was never any conversations how can the focus be shifted. Just goes to show the focus on gruden was all on fans and message boards, not coming from people making the decisions. Don't believe what you hear unless a presser is scheduled and a real life coach starts speaking to media.

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to Orangeblood64:

All right boys and girl, time to turn our attention to Jim Mora jr. right now he's taking is hanging with a highly talented Stanford...show him the $$$$

How bout Stanford's coach?

YORVOL writes:

Strong is the right man for the job. All Tennessee has to do is make the right offer and he ours. He will enjoy eating fried gator tail for many years. Brings a rock solid defensive mind, all he needs is a good offensive coordinator and he can recruit Florida well. He's our man.

shorttail writes:

charlie strong is just another 3 and out, drop him from the list

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to MOUNTAINofOKEMO:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Why are they laughing? Arky was turned down by Gruden last week..As far as Jawja & bammer they are worried about playing in the SECCG. Only a real idiot would be fretting over UT coaching hires.

Supersayin1 writes:

What if we can't get any big name, and we are stuck with the options of an Assistant or a 2nd tier coach from the MAC or WAC or something? I will try not to worry, but hope for the best!!

I wanna win Championships, not just a few games and bowl games! GO VOLS!

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to YORVOL:

Strong is the right man for the job. All Tennessee has to do is make the right offer and he ours. He will enjoy eating fried gator tail for many years. Brings a rock solid defensive mind, all he needs is a good offensive coordinator and he can recruit Florida well. He's our man.

If I know UT's luck they'll go with Fisher and he'll bomb at UT..As far as Strong is concerned he'll probably go to Aubie and kick our arse next year..UT's luck has been rotten lately.

Nighthawk writes:

Hart cleverly used the Gruden frenzy as a decoy to keep the media and fans distracted while he went about the business of finding our next coach.
I think Gruden allowed the deception to play out with his silence.
Hart called the agent today to stop the media speculation about Gruden because he has found his man.

AlexAndersonAAradio writes:

Who cares who the next coach is. The top 7 teams in the league have big time coaches who get paid a lot of money while we are too cheap to pay a great coach and staff. I'd just give up and hire Fulmer back. We won't do any better than he was doing with the cheap hires we make. We should have had Gruden coaching yesterday but Hart dropped the ball. Even boosters were ready to pay for it. We need a UT guy as our AD. We should hire either Priest or Charles Davis.

jplemons80 writes:

I don't think Strong would make a good fit her. While he has done a decent job at Louisville, he got his job by playing the race card. That does not fit in with integrity Hart has stated he wants. And realistically, the longer the wait the better coach we may get. Most of the better coaches will not want to leave their team till after the bowl games. So settle in for a long wait

ashvol7 writes:

Thanks Fulmer for all of this mess.

dvols writes:

in response to MOUNTAINofOKEMO:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Only school laughed at on a consistent basis is Alabama.....the Honey Boo Boo of college sports!

ashvol7 writes:

in response to AncientVolFan:

Getting Chucky would have been like bringing Lane Kiffen back.

I think you just might be right,I haven't been living in a fantasy world, I didn't care wheather he came or not. Very little college coaching experience.

Wauconda_Vol writes:

in response to Orangeblood64:

All right boys and girl, time to turn our attention to Jim Mora jr. right now he's taking is hanging with a highly talented Stanford...show him the $$$$

++1

I still say Petrino is the best out there, but if the donors are squeamish, Mora Jr. is very solid.

spvol writes:

Never thought much of the idea of Gruden. I like Dan Mullen. He's proved he can win as a head coach in the SEC. Isn't that what we want?

BigOrangeRock writes:

Fulmer is a gthe answer.

BigOrangeRock writes:

Fulmer is the answer.

BigVolFaninSC writes:

Everybody can say what they want about how this was handled or whatever...But, I've always been leery of ANY reporting that includes "unnamed sources say"...REAL journalism should not report this kind of garbage!...Is ANYONE in this world accountable for what they say or print anymore?

govolsdid writes:

in response to AlexAndersonAAradio:

Who cares who the next coach is. The top 7 teams in the league have big time coaches who get paid a lot of money while we are too cheap to pay a great coach and staff. I'd just give up and hire Fulmer back. We won't do any better than he was doing with the cheap hires we make. We should have had Gruden coaching yesterday but Hart dropped the ball. Even boosters were ready to pay for it. We need a UT guy as our AD. We should hire either Priest or Charles Davis.

Not so fast my young man - Fulmer is in the past and had not been for Al Wilson and Tee leading the team we would not have a NC. So lets get a quality coach and go forward not backwards and for Gruden he is not going to leave a job with NO responsibility all he has to do is TALK not WALK!!

jaydubuc writes:

in response to spvol:

Never thought much of the idea of Gruden. I like Dan Mullen. He's proved he can win as a head coach in the SEC. Isn't that what we want?

I agree Dan Mullen would be a great fit. But I have my doubts they can lure him to Rocky Top.

orange_eVOLution writes:

"Fantasy?" LaMonte can kiss it right in the middle. He should use a better choice of words.

orange_eVOLution writes:

in response to BigOrangeRock:

Fulmer is the answer.

Fired once already. Next!

orange_eVOLution writes:

in response to AncientVolFan:

Getting Chucky would have been like bringing Lane Kiffen back.

You're wrong on so many fronts.

ashvol7 writes:

in response to BigOrangeRock:

Fulmer is the answer.

Answer to what? He is the reason we are in this mess. All of this happened because Fulmer got lazy.

eduardo writes:

Not so fast my friends!

TaylorJH writes:

Strong is the man. The Vols will win 8 games or more per season with him at the helm. I don't have any facts or sound logic to back up my statement. It is simply a gut feeling. However, I'll support whoever is hired for a couple of seasons. After that, it will depend on the team's winning percentage and competitiveness in the big games. No matter what, I'm a Vol fan for life!

JBruce writes:

Butch Davis. He is as much a sure thing as there is in college football. He is a proven recruiter. He has won at the highest level. He knows how to build a program. He was fired by North Carolina, but was later cleared of any wrong doing by the NCAA... And the man wants the TENNESSEE job. He is a perfect fit for us.

civilianvol_formerly_marinevol writes:

in response to jplemons80:

I don't think Strong would make a good fit her. While he has done a decent job at Louisville, he got his job by playing the race card. That does not fit in with integrity Hart has stated he wants. And realistically, the longer the wait the better coach we may get. Most of the better coaches will not want to leave their team till after the bowl games. So settle in for a long wait

Aren't you supposed to be at a KKK meeting? Idiot.

HallowedHill writes:

I'm losing hope with our football future. None of the names on the list sound like an insta fix to me.

My 3 year old was recapping a recent Charlie Brown episode to me. After failing to spell the word 'beagle' correctly, "Charlie Brown lost, his team lost and they headed back to Tennessee." Sums it up for me.

RoyaltyVol writes:

How much would it take to get Gary Patterson here? Whatever it is we should pay it. I still think Jimbo Fisher is target #1, then Charlie Strong but I heard that Mike Gundy also might be interviewed, who knows its just a circus right now

HallowedHill writes:

in response to JBruce:

Butch Davis. He is as much a sure thing as there is in college football. He is a proven recruiter. He has won at the highest level. He knows how to build a program. He was fired by North Carolina, but was later cleared of any wrong doing by the NCAA... And the man wants the TENNESSEE job. He is a perfect fit for us.

I think we've only seen the tip of the iceburg with his cheating scandal at UNC. He was fired because of this - IMO, not the kind of guy we want while on probation.

DonK37920 writes:

Nothing makes sense. You have a Chattanooga reporter willing to put his reputation and job on the line saying the opposite. You have Knoxville media members who have flip flopped more times than a politician. One day its dead, the next the same reporters are saying we offered, then dead again.
If you want to tell me now that we were never in the running, I say BS! Too much out there to think this was all made up and we were never negotiating. And there are a lot classier ways to turn down a job to a place that you deem special. Having your agent say it was a fantasy seems more like a negotiating tactic.
My gut says we are still negotiating.

Glentenn writes:

in response to YORVOL:

Strong is the right man for the job. All Tennessee has to do is make the right offer and he ours. He will enjoy eating fried gator tail for many years. Brings a rock solid defensive mind, all he needs is a good offensive coordinator and he can recruit Florida well. He's our man.

1. Charlie Strong (Agree we need a "strong" Florida recruiting presence)
2. Butch Jones - solid on both sides of the ball
3. Dave Doeren - not totally proven but may have the most upside.

GloryDays writes:

If we don't get Gruden, Fisher, Golden, Strong, Petrino, then who? Hopefully Hart has the answer? This is the trap that Hamilton fell into, His top choices said "no" and he just hoped for luck but got a real loser with Dooley. I hope it is not da ja vue all over again.

vol68 writes:

in response to BigOrangeRock:

Fulmer is the answer.

"At the annual National Football Foundation awards dinner, to be held Dec. 4 at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City this year, former Tennessee head coach Phillip Fulmer will be honored as a member of the 2012 College Football Hall of Fame Class."

Dateline December 5:

As Phillip Fulmer was inducted into the Hall of Fame it became apparent to UT AD Dave Hart, who was in attendance, not pass on an opportunity to have the legendry National Champion coach and Hall of Famer as the new head coach of the Volunteers. Hart offered Fulmer the job immediately after the former coach made his induction speech.

imw8n4u writes:

in response to Orangeblood64:

All right boys and girl, time to turn our attention to Jim Mora jr. right now he's taking is hanging with a highly talented Stanford...show him the $$$$

I wanted Mora 4 years ago and posted it twice on this board. Of course I was immediately branded a complete fool, who's right now???

JBruce writes:

in response to HallowedHill:

I think we've only seen the tip of the iceburg with his cheating scandal at UNC. He was fired because of this - IMO, not the kind of guy we want while on probation.

Like I said, the NCAA cleared him of all of it. How can he be held responsible for players taking money from sports agents? These agents had nothing to do with the program. North Carolina fired him as a proactive step; hoping the NCAA would have mercy. Bottom line; he shouldn't have been fired.

tdvol1989 writes:

in response to Orangeblood64:

All right boys and girl, time to turn our attention to Jim Mora jr. right now he's taking is hanging with a highly talented Stanford...show him the $$$$

At least you are looking to a legitimate 2nd choice. If we hire Strong, I have no malice toward him personally, but it will be another hire of a coach on "potential". Not at all what we need right now.

So, if we don't win, and fans complain, we will be labeled as unreasonable again. I get it! Hart didn't want to hire someone more powerful than him. He didn't want to give in to the boosters. But, we didn't want a guy hired to be good. We wanted a guy that everyone else wanted.

But, lets just accept the irrelevance of the folks that thought we weren't worthy of a Big Time Coach. Put on the training wheels. But you know, Gruden isn't the ONLY option. But, if Hart is afraid of a coach of that caliber, then we are following the script of GA after Dooley and Bama after Bryant.

fearthehound writes:

Is there anything more sleazy than a sports agent? I like Gruden ok, and if he came to UT, I would support him 100%, because I love my Alma Mater. Otherwise, he can kiss our Big Orange arses. I'm not interested in getting him a raise from ESPN or more face time in the media. If his idiot agent thinks we're fantasizing, then guess what...we're fine with fantasizing about the next one. Bring on Mora or Strong or Petrino. Personally, I'd just as soon have any of these guys, plus a couple others, as Gruden. So agent, kiss our collective arses.

BankerVol writes:

in response to ashvol7:

Thanks Fulmer for all of this mess.

Really? IDIOT!

ACWLY writes:

in response to Hrockytop:

You know If Gruden wasn't interested he should've said early on. He politely said "thanks but no thanks to Arky. but we get a canceled meeting and "never interested" from him and then his agent say's "Fastasy"..Seem's kinda like a low class insult to me. Just saying!! Probably better off in the long run anyway..

GO VOLS

I sorta feel the same way you do, it does seem like an insult, almost makes you think "there's more to the story", I guess we'll find out soon...VFL

civilianvol_formerly_marinevol writes:

in response to fearthehound:

Is there anything more sleazy than a sports agent? I like Gruden ok, and if he came to UT, I would support him 100%, because I love my Alma Mater. Otherwise, he can kiss our Big Orange arses. I'm not interested in getting him a raise from ESPN or more face time in the media. If his idiot agent thinks we're fantasizing, then guess what...we're fine with fantasizing about the next one. Bring on Mora or Strong or Petrino. Personally, I'd just as soon have any of these guys, plus a couple others, as Gruden. So agent, kiss our collective arses.

Well said, and I suspect that Gruden did get a raise from ESPN right before he expressed that he was not interested in UT.

Theo writes:

in response to GlennFordsFoible:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Quit responding to yourself - that is just weird and really pathetic.

fearthehound writes:

in response to GlennFordsFoible:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

That's some pretty, um, creative reasoning. I have some fairly reasonable Roswell theories to share with you. When can we talk?

orange_eVOLution writes:

in response to Hrockytop:

You know If Gruden wasn't interested he should've said early on. He politely said "thanks but no thanks to Arky. but we get a canceled meeting and "never interested" from him and then his agent say's "Fastasy"..Seem's kinda like a low class insult to me. Just saying!! Probably better off in the long run anyway..

GO VOLS

I agree big time. His agent, LaMonte, can kiss it.

GerryOP writes:

in response to MOUNTAINofOKEMO:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Why? This whole Gruden deal was a fantasy of the press and the fans. Hart handled it exactly right. Reportedly he has been calling LaMonte all week. He finally returned Hart's call and everything is settled. People may be laughing at the fans and press, but no reason to laugh at UT.

Move along folks, there's nothing to see here.

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