Dave Hart's UT Coaching List
Dave Hart just finished speaking at Tennessee's press conference announcing the firing of Derek Dooley.
There were really only two interesting nuggets about who he might hire as a new coach: a. Hart said that having been a head coach was critically important which means that no coordinators are in play and b. Hart specifically referenced the moral and ethical nature of the job, clear and present signs that Bobby Petrino, Butch Davis and a guy like Jim Tressel, who many of y'all have Tweeted me about, will not be in the mix as the next hire.
Based on many conversations that I've had with UT people, here's my best guess as to Dave Hart's coaching flow chart. Again, this isn't my list -- I've given y'all that before -- this is what I believe Dave Hart's list will look like. Keep in mind that only Hart will know his actual list and the rank of the names on it, but I'm pretty confident in the names below.
I have been told that Tennessee will not let money be an object in making this hire. It appears that, at long last, the Clay Travis dump truck theory will finally be deployed.
(Note: I'm eliminating several college coaches that would be tremendous hires, but that I don't believe would be legitimately in play. Chris Petersen at Boise State and Mike Gundy at Oklahoma State in addition to the names listed above.)
When it comes to coaching hires, I think it's important to know the top-tier, aka the ceiling, and also the floor. I believe that Jon Gruden is the ceiling for Tennessee on its present coaching search and that Duke's David Cutcliffe is the floor.
With that in mind, here's Dave Hart's list:
1. Jon Gruden
I've been talking about this for months. NFL people are now starting to realize how real the possibility is that Gruden will be the next Vols coach. Dave Hart will make Gruden say no.
Gruden remains the top Vol target.
2. Jimbo Fisher
For whatever reason Jimbo Fisher is not happy at Florida State.
He's allowing his name to be shopped for potential openings at both Tennessee and Auburn.
Is Jimbo realizing that recruiting to Florida State and the ACC is just going to become too hard given the present and continuing rise of the SEC? Or is he just angling for a raise? Who knows? But he's in play.
3. Charlie Strong
Bona fide success as an SEC assistant coach and bona fide success as a head coach now.
4. Al Golden
With significant probation at Miami, continuing fan apathy, and a toughening ACC competitive advantage, could now be the time for Golden to jump?
He's truly in play.
5. Gary Patterson
Tennessee could have hired him over Lane Kiffin, but passed because Mike Hamilton considered him too similar to Phil Fulmer.
Since that time Patterson's teams have flourished at TCU.
Meanwhile, Phil Fulmer's era seems downright outstanding now.
Could the Vols pry him away from Texas?
I think so.
6. Dan Mullen
The only SEC coach on Dave Hart's list, Mullen is doing about as well as anyone can do in Starkville.
He's got experience and knows the league.
What could Dan Mullen do at a top-tier SEC job?
There's a belief that he could do very, very well.
I think one of these six men will be your next Tennessee football coach.
Hart's so-called tier two candidate:
7. David Cutcliffe
This is the floor. (And I don't mean that in a negative way).
Cutcliffe wouldn't be exciting, but he's a Tennessee guy and he'd win.
I don't think there's anyway the job falls to him, but lots of y'all have asked me what's the proverbial floor in the coaching search.
I would be downright stunned if your next Tennessee football coach isn't one of these seven.
And, no matter what, just be glad you're not an Arkansas fan.