KNOXVILLE — Tennessee's tumultuous football coaching search zeroed today on a new candidate who actually was an old candidate.
He gave Tennessee the same answer as last time: no thanks.
Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy and Tennessee athletic director John Currie met in Dallas today, according to ESPN, after Gundy and legendary former Tennessee quarterback Peyton Manning talked about the position last week.
Tonight Gundy tweeted "Cowboy for life! #GoPokes #okstate" as reports surfaced that he rejected an offer from Tennessee worth $7 million per year.
Gundy, who is 113-53 in 13 years at Oklahoma State, met with Tennessee officials almost exactly five years ago and turned the Volunteers down during a coaching search that ultimately led to Butch Jones.
"At some point that's where we thought we were going to go," Gundy told CBS Sports in 2013. A subsequent article on cbssports.com detailed Tennessee's "three-day courtship" of Gundy that involved Governor Bill Haslam and his brother, Cleveland Browns owner and prominent UT booster Jimmy Haslam.
This time around, ESPN reported that Tennessee was prepared to make Gundy "one of the SEC's highest paid coaches." Tennessee's $7 million per year offer to Gundy, which was first reported by Brett McMurphy, would have made him one of the top five paid coaches in college football.
Landing Gundy would have constituted a favorable end to a coaching search that turned ugly for Tennessee and Currie over the weekend when Currie's attempt to hire Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano was met with intense backlash from fans and others associated with the University of Tennessee.
Now Tennessee's coaching search will take yet another turn with Purdue coach Jeff Brohm, Southern California offensive coordinator Tee Martin, Southern Methodist coach Chad Morris and North Carolina State Dave Doeren among the possible targets.
Gundy is regarded as a premier offensive mind in college football and has reached 10 or more wins in five of his last eight years with Oklahoma State, where he played quarterback in the 1980s.
Aside from coaching stops elsewhere from 1996 to 2000, Gundy has spent his entire adult life at Oklahoma State, and his departure from there would have sent shock waves throughout college football. Oklahoma State just this past summer signed Gundy to a five-year extension with a salary of roughly $4.2 million, and the Cowboys rose to a No. 6 national ranking early this season. They are ranked No. 18 now after a 9-3 regular season.
"I'm rooted here," Gundy said this past weekend, according to the Tulsa World. "Knock on wood, if you're doing good, you get calls. I get calls every year. But my stability here is more than it ever has been."
The 10-year anniversary of Gundy's most famous moment passed this year. Gundy, now 50, famously chided a reporter while defending a player in a 2007 postgame news conference by using the phrase, "Come after me. I'm a man, I'm 40."
Though Gundy has taken Oklahoma State to previously unparalleled heights, the Cowboys have struggled against in-state rival Oklahoma during his tenure, and Gundy's relationship with prominent 89-year-old Oklahoma State booster Boone Pickens reportedly has been rocky at times over the years.
Contact David Cobb at email@example.com.
This story was updated Nov. 28 at 9:45 p.m. with more information.