University of Tennessee offensive coordinator Dave Clawson is probably out of a job. He could technically be retained by whomever the Vols ultimately hire to replace Phillip Fulmer, but given UT’s offensive struggles this season and the prevailing theory that athletic director Mike Hamilton will select an offensive-minded coach, it’s tough to see Clawson being retained.
But Clawson doesn’t have to remain at UT to remain in east Tennessee, which he said on Tuesday was, “A great place to raise a family.”
So in light of that statement, and the not-so-little fact that the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga is in need of a new coach, Clawson was asked if he would consider the UTC job.
The former University of Richmond coach’s reply: “That’s not appropriate.”
You can take “not appropriate” anyway you like. But it’s not quite the same as “not interested.”
And the very fact that it’s not is what has UTC athletic director Rick Hart feeling pretty good these days about the school’s coaching search, though he’ll make no comment about Clawson’s comment.
“I have been surprised in a few ways,” said Hart on Wednesday evening. “Surprised at the volume of feedback. Surprised at the wide range of folks associated with that feedback. We haven’t yet spoken with a single coach or anybody associated with a coach. But we expect to be ready to begin that process in a couple of weeks.”
Because Hart officially opened up Rodney Allison’s position a couple of weeks ago, he bought the university valuable time to, in his words, “Get this right.”
So while he remains mum on the identities of those interested in the job, it is almost certain that current Kentucky quarterbacks coach and former UT offensive coordinator Randy Sanders will garner some support, even if Sanders says, “There’s nothing to discuss.”
Appalachian State linebackers coach and former UT and Bradley Central great Dale Jones is also certain to have some booster backing.
In fact, Hart estimates he has a pool of roughly 50 names thus far, that number sure to expand as coaching staffs are hired and fired in the weeks to come.
And within that group, Clawson’s successful head coaching stints at Fordham and Richmond could make him very attractive if he becomes interested in the Mocs.
“We’ve talked about that,” said Hart, when asked if previous head coaching experience would become a strong factor. “It’s something I’ll be interested in. That might give you a little bit of an advantage over someone who doesn’t. But just being a head coach doesn’t get it done, either.
“We’re looking for the total package. We want someone who fully understands the state of the program. Someone who understands its unique assets and unique challenges.”
He also wants to make it clear that improving the next head coach’s compensation package isn’t the only financial change Hart intends to make.
“We’ve spent as much time, if not more, analyzing assistant coaches’ pay,” said Hart. “Like I said, we want to get this right.”
There is a solution that would guarantee they would get it right, even if it is almost certainly not going to happen. Instead of paying Phillip Fulmer roughly $6 million not to coach the Vols past this season, maybe UT could convince Fulmer to coach the Mocs as a goodwill gesture to the UT system.
No, that money doesn’t come out of the state budget. But Fulmer also doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who’ll be happy not coaching. Overhauling the Mocs might eliminate any guilt he could feel about receiving a check for $1.5 million a year over the next four seasons without breaking a sweat.
And if he could convince just a few of the current Vols to transfer to Mocsville, UTC’s long-suffering fans might finally have a reason to buy up those Football Championship Series tickets at Finley Stadium for a reason other than civic pride.
But whether Fulmer comes or not, it’s nice to know we’re getting close to the time it will become appropriate to discuss which names will compete for a chance to get UTC football right once and for all.
E-mail Mark Wiedmer@timesfreepress.com
Mark Wiedmer started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press on Valentine’s Day of 1983. At the time, he had to get an advance from his boss to buy a Valentine gift for his wife. Mark was hired as a graphic artist but quickly moved to sports, where he oversaw prep football for a time, won the “Pick’ em” box in 1985 and took over the UTC basketball beat the following year. By 1990, he was ...