Is it Time to Push the Panic Button?
But that depends on what actually is going on.
Last time we spoke, Grudenmania died. Now, apparently so has the idea of hiring either Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy or Louisville’s Charlie Strong. The problem is that we really don’t know what is going on.
Former Vol head coach Phillip Fulmer was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame on Tuesday in New York City. That is a verifiable fact. But venturing into the land of the unknown, bordering on fiction, many believed that his induction would be followed on Wednesday with the announcement that Charlie Strong would be the next Tennessee head coach. Strong had hosted a press conference earlier where the main subject was his future, and the good coach completely bungled the opportunity to simply say “no comment.” He lashed out at the press for asking him questions about rumors of his relationship to the open Auburn position. And more importantly, he lashed out at his own school’s fans who haven’t sold out their stadium for big games.
‘As good as gone’ was a reasonable inference to make.
But Wednesday came and went. No announcement was made, other than Strong on Thursday morning would likely be meeting with his Louisville Cardinals football players and then with the press to announce he was staying on the banks of the Ohio River with a newly enhanced contract in hand.
Gundy was in the mix, too. But we don’t really know if the Oklahoma native had an offer in hand on Sunday, or on Monday, or on Tuesday, or on Wednesday, or not at all. But we do know that Gundy has been very successful at his alma mater. Stillwater is where his new 10-million-dollar home is, and more significantly is where his heart resides. So the rebuff by Gundy should be no surprise.
But the apparent rejection by Strong is a hard hit to the ego of the Volunteer fanbase. Strong is an SEC guy by his coaching curriculum vita. So not to come back to the best conference in the land, as a head coach of a school with some of the finest facilities in the country, is perceived as either (1) a punch in the stomach, or (2) and indictment of Dave Hart’s ability to carry the torch of Tennessee football.
More realistically, Hart went after two of the most successful coaches in the land that are not untouchable (such as Saban, Miles, Stoops, etc.), and missed on them because they are simply happy in their present circumstances.
Now, with the mythical Gruden out of the way, and the Gundy/Strong targets missed, the big questions revolve around the next tier on Dave Hart’s list.
Fedora? Golden? Fisher? Jones? Mora Jr? Pellino? Mullen? Davis? Leavitt?
It seems easy to go out and hire a coach. But it’s not, partly because it takes two to dance. BOTH have to want each other. It’s not like going to the shelves of a grocery store.
And all Vol fans should want their next head coach to want to be their next head coach. And it takes time to find out who really wants the opportunity. Gruden doesn’t want it. Strong doesn’t want it. Gundy doesn’t want it.
So, it’s simply time to move on. Quickly. But it is not time to panic.