John Currie's communications reveal insight into tumultuous Tennessee coaching search

John Currie's communications reveal insight into tumultuous Tennessee coaching search

March 22nd, 2018 by David Cobb in Sports - College

University of Tennessee Athletic Director, John Currie speaks during a press conference announcing the firing of head football coach, Butch Jones, Sunday, Nov. 12, 2017, in Knoxville, Tenn. (Wade Payne/Knoxville News Sentinel via AP)

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

This story was updated March 22, 2018, at 11:59 p.m.

KNOXVILLE — Speculation over Jon Gruden's interest in Tennessee's head football coaching position went so rampant in November that even Joshua Dobbs started probing then-athletic director John Currie for information.

"Good evening Mr. Currie, Sooo are the rumors true?" Dobbs texted Currie on Nov. 16.

 "Which rumors?" Currie texted back.

Dobbs responded by saying, "A lot of buzz around Coach Gruden. Wasn't sure if it is legit or heresay."

"Geez even you?" Currie responded back.

The exchange is one glimpse into the interworkings of a tumultuous time in Tennessee athletics history.

Currie fired Butch Jones on Nov. 12 with two games remaining in the Vols' 2018 season. Before he could hire Jones' replacement, Currie was placed on administrative leave and replaced with Phillip Fulmer.

Fulmer hired Jeremy Pruitt on Dec. 7.

Tennessee reached a $2.5 million settlement with Currie that was announced Thursday.

The university released communications through the Freedom of Information Act on Thursday that shed light on the saga that engulfed the university for nearly a month between Jones' firing and Fulmer's hiring of Pruitt.

Currie's search for Jones' replacement got so dire that even interim head coach Brady Hoke sent a text to Currie on Nov. 29 making sure Currie knew Hoke would be interested in the full-time job.

"JOHN I HOPE YOU DO KNOW I WOULD LIKE TO BE YOUR HEAD FOOTBALL COACH I DO KNOW THE ENVIRONMENT WE LIVE IN AND WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE AT TENNESSEE!" Hoke wrote, using all capital letters.

Currie's cell phone was abuzz with text message and phone calls from athletic department staff members during a week that began with the near-hiring of Greg Schiano and ended when chancellor Beverly Davenport placed Currie on paid leave after Currie went to visit Washington State coach Mike Leach.

"JOHN VERY SORRY TO HEAR WHAT HAS HAPPENED THIS IS THE BULL CRAP THAT COLLEGE FOOTBALL HAS BECOME. IF I CAN BE OF ANY HELP PLEASE LET ME KNOW." Hoke wrote to Currie after Currie was relieved of his duties.

Currie was contacted with several suggestions for who he should pursue. Even an Atlanta attorney claiming to represent Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson reached out to Currie suggesting Johnson had interest in the job.

But eventually, it was no longer Currie's search. University officials expressed concern the evening of Nov. 30 when they were unable to contact Currie as he continued with the search.

That morning, Currie sent a text message to an unidentified recipient saying, "Today will be epic one way or another"

The next day, Fulmer was introduced as athletic director.

Contact David Cobb at dcobb@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @DavidWCobb and on Facebook at facebook.com/volsupdate.

This is a developing story.