Are Vol fans and boosters really desperate enough to consider Petrino. This is rediculous! It screams desperation. Hiring Petrino says UT has no sense of decency and that we are willing to go gutter shopping, if we could just find someone who might get a win. Nevermind the reputation! We are considering a guy who hired his mistress. Having a mistress is one thing, but being so consumed that he would get her a job-how did Petrino think that was going to play out?
Wondering which vacancies will come open on the SEC’s coaching carousel this offseason (or sooner)? Wondering who’ll fill those vacancies?
Here’s what we’re hearing from folks inside or close to each of the athletic departments listed below:
Current Coach: Interim John L. Smith
Chance of Survival: 0%
Razorback Fans Want: Jon Gruden, Chris Petersen, or another big name
UA’s Real Top Choice: TCU’s Gary Patterson
Our Take: Patterson was a pretty hot name while he was coaching in smaller conferences. But his entry into the Big 12 isn’t going so smoothly. The Horned Frogs have lost to Iowa State, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State. Those last two were back-to-backers. TCU finishes its season with West Virginia, Kansas State, Texas and Oklahoma. All four of those teams are ranked. It might not be fair to judge Patterson on a transition year, but he’s currently 5-3 and a mediocre record — at best — seems unavoidable. Can AD Jeff Long sell Patterson to the Hogs’ fanbase if he’s coming off a bad year? (Auburn and Tennessee have tried that in recent years and they’re right back on this list today.) Don’t sleep on Arkansas native Tommy Tuberville. The Hogs might not be as high on Tuberville as he is on getting out of Lubbock and back to the SEC, but we keep hearing his name tossed in as “a possibility” whenever we speak to someone tied to UA.
Current Coach: Gene Chizik
Chance of Survival: 1%
Tiger Fans Want: Jon Gruden, Chris Peterson, or another big name
AU’s Real Top Choice: Former Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino
Our Take: We were told weeks ago that Chizik would survive even if he won just four games. That statement was meant to convey to us that the coach had security. Now Chizik isn’t likely to even win four games. A 63-21 home loss to Texas A&M on Saturday likely sealed his fate. If Auburn makes changes (plural) — and the idea of firing AD Jay Jacobs has been floated by some Alabama-based columnists — who would make the call on the school’s next coach? Petrino is a proven winner, an ex-Tiger assistant, and AU pursued him behind Tuberville’s back several years ago. But Petrino also has a history of making those who hire him look bad. After so much bad publicity in recent years — Cam Newton, the HBO story, off-field arrests — would AU really be willing to hire a guy who lost his last job due to a scandal? The answer is likely no if a pointy-head makes the call. But if a Bama-hatin’ booster with big bucks makes the decision… then Petrino probably is #1 on Auburn’s list. Of course, Petrino was 0-4 against Nick Saban while at Arkansas and only once did he come within 24 points of the Tide. In the state of Alabama, everything comes back to Iron Bowl. Petrino would likely be the top choice, but if Jacobs is axed, too, all bets are off.
Current Coach: Joker Phillips
Chance of Survival: 1%
Wildcat Fans Want: Jon Gruden, Chris Peterson, or another big name
UK’s Real Top Choice: Phillip Fulmer, David Cutcliffe or Sonny Dykes.
Our Take: Phillips pried open his tomb with a good showing against Georgia a week ago… only to have the crypt slam back shut on him Saturday at Missouri. A return by freshman quarterback Patrick Towles was expected to provide a bit more hope for the future, but Towles and UK looked very poor in Saturday’s 33-10 rout in Columbia. We initially thought Fulmer would ixnay the idea of heading to Lexington and taking on a rebuilding project, but a source close to the coach recently gave us a “not so fast” on that one. It’s believed Fulmer — whose buyout money from Tennessee ends this year — wants desperately to end his career with more victories than former UT legend Robert Neyland. We still find it hard to believe the 62-year-old Fulmer would take the job, but Rich Brooks made it work at UK in his 60s. Ron Zook’s name was even thrown out to us as a possible D-coordinator and star recruiter for Fulmer’s hypothetical staff. Sorry, still not buying. Have to see it to believe it. Same with Cutcliffe. He’s already a hero at one basketball school. Unless he feels he’s got something to prove in the SEC, why make a lateral move? Dykes, on the other hand, is a former UK assistant and he’s taken many of Derek Dooley’s old players at Louisiana Tech and turned them into a BCS-ranked team. Young coach, exciting offense, ranked team. But would he jump at a Kentucky offer or wait for a better/easier job elsewhere? UK’s all over the board with potential hires, but we feel safe in saying Phillips is done.
Current Coach: Derek Dooley
Chance of Survival: 3%
Volunteer Fans Want: Jon Gruden, Chris Peterson, or another big game
UT’s Real Top Choice: Jon Gruden
Our Take: At least one UT assistant has stopped work on a house he and his wife were building in Knoxville. One worker inside the UT football office said before Saturday’s loss to South Carolina that it was “win out or else” for the Vol staff. Several prominent boosters believe Dooley’s already done, too. Heck, some members of UT’s support staff claim that Dooley’s style of management has created a horrible work environment. And, yes, Gruden really is Tennessee’s top choice as a replacement. Would he walk away from millions at ESPN to coach in the college ranks? And if he wanted to coach again, why wouldn’t he do so in the higher-paying, no-recruiting NFL? Still, rumors swirled on Tennessee radio and messageboards all weekend of a Sunday press conference that never came. We’ve been told that UT officials know a “sure thing” hire is needed this time around. Petrino’s name was floated to us by one insider. Following up on that, we kept hearing Petrino’s name (as the fallback option for Gruden). But if Gruden and Petrino both say no to Tennessee, would the Vols be better off just sticking with Dooley for another year if — and it’s a big if — he wins out, finishes 7-5 and takes UT to a bowl game? That’s why we’re not slamming the door completely shut on him just yet. If a “sure thing” won’t take the job, why push Dooley out in favor of another risky up-and-comer? Our gut feeling? Tennessee’s next coach will be Petrino.
(In case you’re wondering, check a messageboard for any school in the nation and you’ll find that most fans want Gruden, Boise State’s Petersen, or another big name. Every year, every school, same thing.)