The decision about the new University of Tennessee football coach is in the hands of the man most Volunteers fans seem to want.
The Chattanooga Times Free Press has learned from sources close to the process that Super Bowl-winning coach Jon Gruden has been extended an offer to succeed Derek Dooley.
Sources confirmed that while details are still being negotiated, the university's offer is very lucrative and there is no firm deadline on a decision.
Gruden's decision likely will hinge on the money the school is willing to pay for his potential staff, the sources say.
"Right now, the money is there for him [Gruden], but they aren't as close as he would like for his assistants," one source said. "It could happen as soon as this weekend or go into next week, but he's pretty firm where he is and has already spoken with the guys he wants to be on the staff with him."
According to a different source, "He's told them they aren't close enough on money for the staff. He's very interested, but if they don't come up with what they need for the assistants, he's told them he's out."
Rumors began to surface late Wednesday afternoon that talks had broken down and that Gruden was no longer a candidate for the job. However, according to Times Free Press sources, that is not the case. As of Thursday evening, Gruden had weighed an offer but countered that more money would be needed for the staff he is assembling.
In the meantime, university officials are continuing to consider other candidates. However, the job is Gruden's if he decides to say yes.
UT officially began its search for a new coach after Dooley was fired Nov. 18 after three unsuccessful seasons.
The Vols finished with a losing record in all three of Dooley's seasons and a 15-21 overall record during his tenure, including 4-19 in Southeastern Conference games.
Stephen has covered local sports in the tri-state area for more than 20 years, starting at the News-Free Press as a 19-year-old reporter. He has 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. He was named one of the top 10 sports writers in the nation ...