COMING SUNDAY IN SPORTS: Get a look at some of the candidates being mentioned as possible choices for the University of Tennessee's next head football coach.
After a source close to Jon Gruden said Thursday that the Super Bowl-winning coach still was considering the vacant University of Tennessee football coaching job, the reported courtship apparently ended quickly.
Several unnamed sources within the UT athletic department told outlets other than the Chattanooga Times Free Press that Gruden has pulled his name out of the running.
"I haven't said anything [about the ongoing rumors] because there's been nothing to say," Bob LaMonte, a Gruden representative, told the Knoxville News Sentinel. "This, to me, is just a fantasy world."
The Times Free Press reported Friday that Gruden had been in discussions with UT representatives and sources said his interest was serious enough that he had started contacting potential assistants and had let it be known that the biggest sticking point was the salary for that staff.
"Anyone who says there were no talks between the two sides or that Jon was not putting together a staff and believing that he would be the next UT coach is misinformed," one source told the Times Free Press on Friday evening. "It can be spun a lot of different ways, but the bottom line is there were discussions going on and he seriously believed this thing would get done."
When reached Friday afternoon, Jimmy Stanton, UT's associate athletic director for communication, told the Times Free Press the university would not discuss any details of the search.
"We're not going to talk about any dynamics of the search until it is finalized," Stanton said.
With Gruden apparently out as a possibility, UT's search for a replacement for Derek Dooley, who was fired on Nov. 18 after posting a 15-21 overall record and a 4-19 Southeastern Conference record in nearly three full seasons, now will focus on other possible candidates. Those include Florida State's Jimbo Fisher, Louisville's Charlie Strong, Miami's Al Golden and North Carolina's Larry Fedora.
It's expected that UT athletic director Dave Hart will travel early next week to the National Football Foundation's annual awards dinner in New York City, where he could interview potential coaching candidates.
Stephen has covered local sports in the tri-state area for more than 24 years, having been with the Times Free Press since its inception, and has been an assistant sports editor since 2005. Stephen is among the most decorated writers in the TFP’s newsroom, winning numerous state, regional and national writing awards, including seven in 2013 and a combined 12 in the last two years. He was named one of the top 10 sports writers ...