@InsideCarolina @carolinamarch @tarheelblog @joeovies @willbrinson You should make anything that clears rumors free for anyone vistig IC
We’ll go about today’s catch-ya-up a little bit differently than we have our past coach-search updates. As so many coaches are on the lists for Arkansas, Auburn and Tennessee, we’ll actually give you some news on each coach rather than on each search. That might make things easier to follow.
Larry Fedora, North Carolina – An industry source tells MrSEC.com that Fedora feels he was misled by the UNC administration regarding the school’s NCAA issues and academic requirements. He or his agent began to float his name in connection to a couple of searches and it’s believed he would seriously consider ditching Chapel Hill after one season. Tennessee is expected to interview one candidate today and both industry and sources in Knoxville tell us Fedora will be that interview.
Jimbo Fisher, Florida State – Expected to be high on the lists of both Auburn and Tennessee, it now appears that Fisher will stay put in Tallahassee. He had an interview set up with the Volunteers yesterday, but that meeting never occurred. The reigning ACC champ might have earned himself a raise and a bit more power in Tallahassee simply by having his name tossed about in connection with the AU and UT jobs. This isn’t a huge surprise as it’s incredibly rare for a traditional national power to lose its coach to another school (unless that school is the coach’s alma mater). Speaking to an Auburn source this morning, we were told that Fisher was never as high on Auburn’s list as it was once suggested because the school didn’t expect Fisher to move. (Of course, another Tiger source told MrSEC.com that he was a top candidate, if he would listen.)
Jon Gruden, ESPN analyst, white whale – We continue to receive detailed “tips” on how Tennessee has masterfully fooled the Knoxville media into believing that Gruden-to-UT is dead, when really, it’s still a done deal behind the scenes. Vol athletic director Dave Hart is apparently just a showman at heart. We’ll believe it when we see it as every industry source and UT source we’ve spoken to says this one is dead.
Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State – Gundy met with Tennessee officials Sunday in Stillwater. He spent Tuesday meeting with Arkansas officials in Tulsa. There are reports that both schools have presented Gundy with offers, but you can be sure whoever doesn’t land him will state that they never made an offer. OSU’s coach has been at his alma mater for eight seasons. He makes more than $3 million per season. Last year he was one upset, overtime loss away from playing in the BCS title game. Remarkably, sources claim Gundy is talking to other schools because he wants greater power over his program, namely more say in who the Cowboys schedule in nonconference affairs. When push comes to shove, we don’t expect Gundy will pull up stakes and leave the school he once played for over scheduling issues. An industry source tells MrSEC.com that Gundy could be tiring of coaching what’s traditionally the #2 program in the state of Oklahoma. If he does move, Arkansas would seem to make more sense as the Razorbacks recruit much of the same ground the Cowboys do. (If Gundy does leave for UA, that would mean he’d have been both a Pig and a Poke. Rimshot!)
Gus Malzahn, Arkansas State – No one is saying much about it, but it’s believed the ex-Auburn offensive coordinator has already spoken with Tiger AD Jay Jacobs and/or members of his three-man search committee. Malzahn just led ASU to a 9-3 record in his first season as head coach. Whether the Tigers want to go back to the future with Malzahn or make a clean break from the Gene Chizik era is anyone’s guess, but our gut feeling is that Jacobs and crew would prefer to go in a different direction.
Chad Morris, Clemson offensive coordinator – Morris has been rumored to be a candidate at Auburn, but he is simply Malzahn without the season of head coaching experience.
Gary Patterson, TCU – Mutliple sources have told MrSEC.com that Patterson was Arkansas AD Jeff Long’s top choice to replace Bobby Petrino. We believe there has been contact between UA and Patterson’s agent for more than a month. Last week, Patterson said that coaches have to listen to every offer that comes in, but it’s believed at this point he will continue on as coach of the Horned Frogs. In addition to the Razorbacks’ job, Patterson has also been connected to the opening at Auburn, though we do not believe he has spoken to the AU search committee yet.
Chris Peterson, Boise State, white whale – The collegiate version of Gruden, Petersen’s name has been tied to both the Arkansas and Auburn searches. At Arkansas, online reports over the weekend suggested the Broncos’ coach might be hired and announced as the Razorbacks’ new coach as early as today. But with Arkansas officials meeting with Gundy yesterday, it doesn’t appear that a Petersen hire is imminent (unless UA’s Long is running a Gruden-style covert action a la UT’s Hart). It is believed that Cal will also make a run at Petersen, a coach who’s chosen to stay put in recent years rather than leave for bigger schools in tougher leagues. But his team will now face coast-to-coast travel as part of the Big East’ new expanded lineup. Might that be enough to make him jump? We suspect Petersen will remain in Idaho unless/until Chip Kelly up and leaves Oregon for the NFL. And even then he might not make a move to the Ducks if he feels Kelly is Pete Carroll-ing his way out of the range of the NCAA’s long guns. As with Gruden, we’ll believe Petersen to the SEC when we see it.
Bobby Petrino, ex-Arkansas coach – Petrino is believed to be a deep fallback option at Auburn, at best. At least for the moment. Any school hiring Petrino will have to put up with a few weeks of bad press (and this photo popping up again and again), but the man might be the surest “sure thing” out there in terms of building a winning program on the field. And with his lack of leverage — Idaho just hired his brother Paul, for gosh sakes — any contract can be stacked in the hiring school’s favor. While some online reports suggest Petrino has met with Auburn’s search committee, we have not been able to confirm that just yet. At least one high-profile Arkansas fan is openly campaigning for the return of Petrino to Fayetteville. Golfer John Daly tweeted early this morning: “For all our hog fans let’s get Petrino back.”
Kirby Smart, Alabama defensive coordinator – If you can’t beat ‘em, steal from ‘em. Smart, who’s been a top candidate for a head coaching job for the past two years, interviewed with Auburn’s search committee yesterday. Reports from Alabama claim he is the leader to become the next Tiger coach, as of this morning. With all of these situations being fluid, that could obviously change. It’s not unprecedented for Auburn to hire a former Alabama assistant as Pat Dye had once served on Paul Bryant’s staff in Tuscaloosa before taking over on the Plains. But Dye had gotten some head coaching experience in the interim, something that Smart lacks at this point. An Auburn source told MrSEC.com that Smart’s candidacy has been greatly aided by the success of another ex-Nick Saban assistant — Will Muschamp at Florida. The feeling is that if Muschamp can build a winner with defense, Smart can do the same. And snaking someone from inside a rival school is always a plus.
Charlie Strong, Louisville – The rumors of Strong landing at Tennessee are growing stronger by the day. A UT source told MrSEC.com late last night that Strong had impressed Tennessee during his interview — an interview that Strong has denied having. (He also said yesterday that he hadn’t met with Auburn, a claim that he denied last week as well.) During a Sugar Bowl press conference yesterday, the Big East champion coach was asked if he could guarantee his return to Louisville next season. “I will say that at the right time,” was his response. Is he simply angling for a raise? U of L’s AD has said previously he’ll match any offer made to his coach by another school. But Strong also took time during his press conference to make it clear to Cardinals fans that he wasn’t happy with the level of support his team got at times this season, daring to suggest Kentucky fans show more passion. That’s either a man with one foot out the door or a sizable ego. Maybe both. Tennessee’s Hart said when he fired Derek Dooley that he wanted a coach with head coaching experience and a knowledge of the SEC. Strong fits that bill as he was Florida’s defensive coordinator during its 2006 and 2008 BCS championship seasons. Strong was also the first candidate Hart met with, at least from what our sources tell us.