published Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

Wiedmer: Shouldn't Jon Gruden say something?

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    ESPN NFL analyst and former Super Bowl-winning coach Jon Gruden is the favorite of many University of Tennessee fans to become the Volunteers' new coach.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

You can't say Jon Gruden's going to be the next University of Tennessee head coach until he says it.

Even then there needs to be a news conference, a meet-and-greet with boosters, a get-acquainted session with players.

There must be something more concrete than a potential tweet into cyberspace that all this might really happen for it to be believable.

But with each day that comes and goes without a Gruden statement of denial, the improbable becomes more and more possible, if not downright likely.

For if there's no chance of this happening, why hasn't Gruden issued a statement to address the situation? Just something simple and complimentary along the lines of ... "While there will always be an especially warm spot in my heart for the Tennessee football program, I am not interested in coaching at the collegiate level at this time."

Nothing more. Nothing less. But succinct, bullet-proof and final.

Yet none of that is happening. We expect silence from UT athletic director Dave Hart. Silence is somewhat necessary on Hart's end. To do otherwise is to provide unwittingly a list of favorites, which means the third guy on your list would know he was third, which might make him not want to become first.

For instance, imagine how angry Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops might become if he learned Hart was talking to him only because both Gruden and Jimbo Fisher had turned the Volunteers down.

Maybe $5 million a year would soothe his hurt feelings. Or maybe he'd just keep his $4.5 millioni at OU and say thanks but no thanks.

Beyond that, if the UT fan base decides that Gruden really wanted the job but Hart decided to go in another direction, the Big Orange Nation might run him out of town by Christmas, so set are the majority of Volniacs on landing Coach Chucky.

So the silence from Hart says nothing. There'd be silence from Hart if he were in serious negotiations with Alabama coach Nick Saban.

But Gruden's silence is deafening. It all but screams that something's still going on.

Not necessarily a done deal. It may never become more than Gruden's Plan D, a safety net should neither the Philadelphia Eagles nor Dallas Cowboys come calling, or if ESPN convinces Peyton Manning that he can still play on Sunday and provide color on Monday night.

You can see the commercials now: "Welcome to 'Monday Night Football,' sponsored by Buick."

Still, if Gruden had no interest, he'd surely come out and say it, if only to spare his wife and mother-in-law a lot of needless texts and Facebook fallout.

The funniest part of all of this for those who don't bleed orange is that Philadelphia Eagles fans are apparently becoming as convinced as Volniacs that they're going to land Gruden.

They may or may not be as excited about it as Tennesseans -- one Internet poll has consistently ranked Gruden the favorite of 53 percent of the UT fan base with Stoops a distant second at 11 percent. Those rates have held fast for more than a week, whether the total votes were 3,000 or close to 30,000.

So to be Hart is to clearly know your fans' collective choice, despite the fact that Gruden has never been a college head coach.

Yet to be Hart is also to know that winning the news conference is not necessarily winning the war. Slimy though he may be, Bobby Petrino has a far better collegiate pedigree than Gruden. Bob Stoops is a no-brainer if available. And Cincinnati's Butch Jones may be the best of the bunch -- Notre Dame's Brian Kelly in training pants.

Point is, it doesn't have to be Gruden to become an impressive hire. But it seems to need to be Gruden to tame a savage fan base.

And each day that passes without some statement from Gruden is a day closer that Hart comes to delivering heartbreaking news to the Big Orange Nation if Chucky's in love with anybody but the Vols.

In that sense, the UT AD is in a very dangerous spot, about to become as popular as Santa Claus ... or as unpopular as the football coach he's replacing.

Contact Mark Wiedmer at mwiedmer@timesfreepress.com

about Mark Wiedmer...

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 ...

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Livn4life said...

I get your article Mark and all the trimmings but underneath it all seems to be a little frustration from the media that the do not know for sure. Maybe that brings Chucky a lot of satisfaction. The truth is, we don't know. One thing is for sure, the adamant fan base will not be the basis for hiring whomever Hart chooses. We may never know the full deciding factors. In the end, it's all the same, someone will be hired and must be ready to do all in his power to help Rocky Top rise back toward the top of the SEC. If that occurs, Chucky or not, the fans will come around and Hart will be seen as the hero. If not, then he may be like the two strangers who once "climbed on Rocky Top" and were never seen again in these parts. It'll all come out soon and we can hopefully go on with life just as you Mark W. and co. have to go on with stories.

November 28, 2012 at 6:28 a.m.
jeffy01 said...

Why should gruden say anything. He isn't interested...never has been. If he goes anywhere its to philly or Dallas. Articles like this one are so silly and irresponsible. You have no info what so ever about this. Gruden is a candidate for this job only in Vol fans dreams. You would do all Vol fans a credit by focusing on the actual search that might include actual, interested candidates.

November 28, 2012 at 7:04 a.m.
jeffy01 said...

Gruden heard you Mark...he just said on ESPN he wasn't interested. Is that good enough for you?

November 28, 2012 at 7:20 a.m.
Holic said...

The media is here to entertain as well as inform. Mark has an opinion which most of us like to read or he would be doing something else for a living. The only silliness I here so far is the first response from Jeffy....

November 28, 2012 at 8:21 a.m.
Livn4life said...

Holic...good on your last response to jeffy. I did not hear Gruden say he was not interested, maybe I came in late as Mike and Mike broached the subject. I did hear him apologize about the whole hype and say it should not interrupt the greatness of the usual Mike and Mike experience. He even used the term he is trying to keep his job there. So I don't know what all that means. All the while, Orangers and Whiters, we wait.

November 28, 2012 at 9:50 a.m.
jeffy01 said...

Hey I want the best coach possible. My point is that it isn't going to be gruden. " Gruden was pretty clear when asked if it was true, saying, ""No there it isn't. No truth to that."

November 28, 2012 at 1:55 p.m.
Zax said...

Mark Wiedmer doesn't write silly or irresponsible articles, and this one is not an exception. I don't think jeffy reads the paper much, or he'd know better. This Gruden thing is the topic that won't die, so don't be angry that he addressed it. UT fans are dying to know who our coach is going to be, and to say that Gruden will absolutely not be the guy is silly and irresponsible. You have absolutely no info whatsoever about this, "jeffy", if that sadly is your real name. Thanks for whetting our appetites, Mark. You're the best sports journalist we've had in Chattanooga for many years.

November 28, 2012 at 2:10 p.m.
Zax said...

And let's not forget this:

The Associated Press Thursday, December 21, 2006; 7:41 PM

...on Thursday, Saban _ who has tried to denounce the story about him potentially going to Alabama numerous times in recent weeks _ again, and adamantly, denied that he's headed back to the college ranks.

"I guess I have to say it," Saban said. "I'm not going to be the Alabama coach."

November 28, 2012 at 2:14 p.m.
jeffy01 said...

Zac...if that is actually a grown adults name......I read the paper plenty. I also just read espn report on this story which is exactly in line w my point. Why does Gruden have to respond to a fan based rumor stoked by a columnist. that was my simple point. There is no truth to the story, we are not getting gruden as our coach.

November 28, 2012 at 3:53 p.m.
jeffy01 said...
<p>Espn.com..... Jon Gruden: No offer from Vols

November 28, 2012 at 4:03 p.m.
jeffy01 said...

Zax...if that's your name...I'm still reading papers are you? http://www.govolsxtra.com/news/2012/nov/28/jon-gruden-no-offer-to-coach-tennessee/

November 28, 2012 at 11:55 p.m.
Zax said...

You have no evidence to support your statement, little jeffy. You're making assumptions. The lack of an offer does not mean Gruden is not a possibility, which is an obvious fact to intelligent readers. Your inability to use logical thought was what I mistook for your lack of reading. My mistake. You're not failing to read the paper, you're just unable to discuss it intelligently. I should know better than to try to debate an issue with someone of your mental caliber.

November 29, 2012 at 10:13 a.m.
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