What Next After Strong Rejection?
After hours of suspense on Wednesday, Charlie Strong rejected a reported $3.5M/year offer from Tennessee to become its next head football coach. An SI report indicated that Louisville was finalizing a contract extension for Strong.
Throughout the day there was much speculation that Tennessee might have to get into a bidding war to secure Strong's services. Apparently, that never happened. As a matter of fact, according to Pete Thamel's SI report, Tennessee representatives, namely Chancellor Jimmy Cheek, only met with Strong in-person once.
An obvious question remains, how badly did Tennessee want Strong in the first place?
On top of that, Tennessee's other reported top candidate, Oklahoma State's Mike Gundy, was considered a longshot at best due to his lifelong ties to his alma mater. That assumption was made official on Wednesday as well when Gundy reportedly turned down the Vols offer.
If you're keeping score at home, that means that Tennessee has offered two men the head coaching job. One of those men, Strong, met with UT officials only once and that meeting was reportedly brief. The other man, Gundy, never had intentions of coming to Tennessee.
Neither of those reported attempts should be considered an all-out blitz to find UT's next head coach.
The next question becomes why. Why hasn't UT athletics director Dave Hart put the full court press on a candidate yet? Sure, the media reports throughout Wednesday sure made it seem as if that was going on with Strong, but Thamel's report dismissed that notion almost entirely.
Does Hart have an ace up his sleeve? Are the other names we've heard going to sneak in and get the job? Names like 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman, UNC head coach Larry Fedora, Cincinnati head man Butch Jones, and unemployed NCAA-whipping boy Butch Davis are all names we've heard in the past few weeks.
The name Jim Tressel has even popped up in recent hours. The same Jim Tressel that has the NCAA's dreaded show-cause penalty that would force Tennessee to endure the same penalties that Ohio State is currently experiencing, including a bowl ban next season, if he were hired.
A vocal minority have even begun calling for recently inducted college football Hall of Famer Phillip Fulmer to take his old job back. Honestly, a staff that includes Fulmer, John Chavis, and a few former players-turned position coaches, might actually work in the short term.
As unlikely as that last option may be, Tennessee may find itself grasping at straws sooner than later if it strikes out on many more of the aforementioned names. Fulmer still loves the university and with those who sought his demise within the administration long gone, there would likely be no need for an all-out blitz to retain his services.