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Jon Gruden to Tennessee? What Are the Vols Message Boards Saying?

Those in the college football business who have dealt with Jon Gruden over the last few years – when he’s been linked* to college football job openings at UCLA, Michigan, Miami, Florida and Notre Dame, to name a few – say his MO is always the same: Initially shows interest, listens intently to a school’s spiel, and then, when the talk turns to money, asks to be one of the three highest-paid coaches in college football. At that point, schools realize they can’t afford him.

Which school will finally acquiesce to Gruden and meet his demands? It might just be desperate Tennessee.

According to an email from a reader, here’s what one of the Tennessee message boards was saying over the weekend about Gruden and the Vols. College football message boards are often full of lunacy, sometimes a mixed bag, but occasionally (as with the Penn State/Sandusky mess) they are ahead of the curve. This was sent to us before Tennessee made Tuesday’s $18 million announcement:

- Big money boosters have been working hard to make Gruden to Tennessee a possibility
– Gruden has talked with and met with several current and former college coaches to ask them about things like the 20-hour rule, recruiting, etc.
– Two of the coaches he met with have previously coached at Tennessee, so he was able to ask them specific questions about UT and Knoxville – not just the college game in general. We were asked not to mention the names, but they have been cropping up other places recently.
– If Gruden were to come to Tennessee he would demand a lot of $ and a lot of control over the program. In terms of “control” it means things like reporting to one person only – anybody else is simply there to facilitate the needs of the coach. They aren’t there to tell him “no.” They’re there to get it done and to make the football program as successful as it can be. If the staff needs new video equipment, it’s ordered – there is no “permission” that needs to be given, etc.
– Gruden is rumored to be asking for $4 to $5 million for staff salaries. What does that mean, exactly? It means he spends that money how he pleases. It means he hires as many strength coaches as he wants. He can hire as many GA’s, operations people, recruiting assistants, video assistants, academic advisors, trainers, class monitors, etc. as he wants. He doesn’t want to be told, “we’ve never done that here before.”

Coaching situations are fluid and what might seem like a lock one week falls apart in a matter of hours (see Michigan and Jim Harbaugh in Jan. 2011). Three weeks ago, when the Gruden chatter started to gain steam as Derek Dooley’s players quit on him, I thought leaving MNF for Rocky Top would never happen. Right now? I’d say it’s close to 50-50 that he takes the job (maybe 40/60).

* Linked is always used very loosely in the college football coaching search game. In college football, any connection to a college at all – no matter how minimal – usually warrants a mainstream media reference, unfortunately. To the best of my knowledge, Gruden has never gotten very close to taking any of the jobs listed above.

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