When the Tennessee Volunteers fired Butch Jones as their head coach, then athletic director John Currie received 2,200 e-mails from passionate Rocky Toppers about who should be lead the orange-and-white into Neyland Stadium in 2018.
The Athletic’s Max Olson compiled the choices, which included the names of 67 known coaches and 10 fans who just nominated themselves.
The list included a whopping 160 requests for Lane Kiffin, the Florida Atlantic Owls head coach who led the Volunteers to an underwhelming 7-6 record in 2009 — and then promptly bolted for the head job with the USC Trojans.
Some Vols fans even advocated against a certain coach, such as the 77 people who Olson said wrote Currie to say unkind things about N.C. State Wolfpack coach Dave Doeren.
The list is both surprising for who it does include — the aforementioned Kiffin, former Los Angeles Rams head coach Jeff Fisher (whose last winning season was in 2008), and a Knoxville middle school coach, Brent Peel — as well as it who it does not: the Alabama Crimson Tide’s Nick Saban, the Ohio State Buckeyes’ Urban Meyer, and the Clemson Tigers’ Dabo Swinney to name three.
Basically, Tennessee fans are like Notre Dame Fighting Irish fans when it comes to discussing ideal coaching hires. Our brains can understand the logic of, “Even though Nick Saban is a winner, even a Brinks truck doesn’t convince him to come to Knoxville or South Bend” but still follow that up with, “Let’s hire Jon Gruden!”
Volunteers fans — at the least the ones who’d e-mail their favorite school’s athletic director — don’t seem to want Irish coach Brian Kelly. He got zero votes. Then again, so did 108 other Football Bowl Subdivision coaches.
Kelly has zero ties to Tennessee — the state or the university — and his 2-2 record against Southeastern Conference teams as Notre Dame head coach wouldn’t have Vols fans brimming with confidence.
But how, then, do you explain why 15 people advocated for Bobby Petrino, the Louisville Cardinals coach who is 34-18 in his last four years, 4-5 versus the SEC since 2014 and got fired from his second-to-last job for lying about an adulterous affair with a former student?
Petrino’s only connection to Tennessee, that I can see, is that he’s coached against them twice — once as coach of the Arkansas Razorbacks and the following year as coach of the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers.
The list also gave us some hints about the assumptions fans have about coaches. To wit:
- 17 Tenneesse fans wanted Washington Huskies coach Chris Petersen, who is 53 years old, sports a .816 winning percentage (.685 at the current school) and has won 2 of 4 big bowls (BCS, NY6 or CFP). Zero wanted Meyer, who is 53 years old, sports a .850 winning percentage (.900 at Ohio State) and has won 8 of 10 big bowls. If neither have ties to Tennessee, why is Petersen more “gettable” than Meyer?
- 19 Tennessee fans wanted Memphis Tigers’ Mike Norvell, who is 36 years old, 18-8 as a head coach and has no ties to the university. One asked for Toledo Rockets head coach Jason Candle, who is 38 years old and 21-7 as a head coach. He also has no obvious ties to Tennessee. Is it simply because Norvell happens to coach in the state of Tennessee?
- What makes Les Miles, the deposed LSU Tigers coach, the third most desirable candidate? He’s won a lot in the SEC (114-34 at LSU), certainly, but his best days seem long past him. He’s also 64, which makes him the fifth oldest candidate among those picked. Steve Spurrier, most recently head coach at South Carolina, is 72. Current AD — and former Tennessee coach — Phillip Fulmer is 67; FIU Panthers coach Butch Davis is 66; Youngstown State president Jim Tressel is 65. Perhaps the reason why Miles got 84 votes and former Oklahoma Sooners coach Bob Stoops got 2 is that Stoops has expressed an unwillingness to return.
In November, I asked the One Foot Down readership who would be the best coach for the Notre Dame job (and was a realistic get) if Brian Kelly were unavailable (fired, other job, health, etc.).
Here were the results:
- Urban Meyer, 736 votes (23 percent)
- Chris Petersen, 477 votes (15 percent)
- Stanford Cardinal’s David Shaw, 264 votes (8 percent)
- Dabo Swinney, 251 votes (8 percent)
- TCU Horned Frogs’ Gary Patterson, 235 votes (7 percent)
- Other, 239 votes (7 percent)
- Michigan State Spartans’ Mark Dantonio, 163 votes (5 percent)
- Wisconsin Badgers’ Paul Chryst, 160 votes (5 percent)
- Utah Utes’ Kyle Whittingham, 153 votes (5 percent)
- Boise State Broncos’ Bryan Harsin, 126 votes (4 percent)
In the Tennessee response, Petersen got 17 votes. Patterson got three votes. Shaw and Whittingham got one vote each. Meyer, Chryst, Swinney, Dantonio and Harsin did not receive a single vote.