KNOXVILLE - It's been two weeks since Tennessee's football head coaching position came open.
The month to which athletic director Dave Hart pointed for making a hire has arrived.
A bizarre search filled with rumors, speculation and conflicting media reports now might be hitting its home stretch. With Hart heading to the National Football Foundation's annual awards dinner in New York City, where he's expected to interview some potential candidates early this week, the Volunteers may have their new coach by next Sunday.
"Some of the people we'll approach, they won't want to engage until their seasons are over," Hart said two weeks ago. "Some people have this false sense that, 'Oh my gosh, we're late.' We're not.
"I've done this many times, and I can tell you we're not. We're fine, and people need to take a deep breath. The door's not closing on our opportunities to find the right person."
When he outlined his criteria for Derek Dooley's replacement, Hart included previous head-coaching experience and integrity. The coach likely will need to have also a mindset geared toward relentless recruiting.
"I think in the past, a lot of hires of this nature occur sometime in the month of December," Hart said. "Very candidly, a lot of those coaches will be in New York City. December's a critical, critical month."