Vols may have favorite among top three
By Grant Ramey | (email@example.com)
News surrounding Tennessee’s coaching search was officially quiet Tuesday, while two other Southeastern Conference job openings made plenty of noise.
While the Vols spent day No. 16 of the search looking for a coach, multiple reports surfaced, and were later confirmed by the Associated Press, that Arkansas had hired Bret Bielema away from Wisconsin while Auburn had hired its former offensive coordinator, Guz Malzahn, away from Arkansas State.
Earlier in the day, it was reported that current Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy, considered a finalist for the Tennessee job, was set to be announced as Arkansas’ new coach, before the news of Bielema leaving Wisconsin broke.
The Vols’ vacancy is thought be down to Gundy, Louisville’s Charlie Strong and North Carolina’s Larry Fedora.
http://ESPN.com<’s Chris Low was reporting that Strong had emerged as UT’s favorite among the three after what has been reported as an interview with school officials late last week. The former Florida defensive coordinator for Urban Meyer is in his third year at Louisville.
Strong has a 24-15 record in his third season at Louisville, where he’s led the Cardinals to a Bowl Championship Series bowl berth this season. Louisville (10-2) plays Florida in the Sugar Bowl. Strong formerly served as the Gators’ defensive coordinator, interim head coach and assistant head coach in eight years on Florida’s coaching staff from 2002-09 after serving under Lou Holtz at South Carolina.
If Strong were to receive an offer from Tennessee it is presumed Louisville would also try to keep the head coach , who has revitalized the Cardinals.
A Tuesday report from the Charlotte News and Observer noted sources indicating Fedora had neither been interviewed nor been contacted by Tennessee officials or anyone representing the university while http://VolQuest.com was reporting that an interview was expected to take place Tuesday between UT officials and Fedora in New York.
Fedora went 8-4 this season at North Carolina, his first year at the school. He won the 2011 Conference USA championship at Southern Miss, before being hired away by the Tar Heels.
Gundy, who has a 62-35 record in his seventh season at Oklahoma State, reportedly hosted Tennessee Athletic Director Dave Hart for an interview Sunday in Stillwater, Okla., according to http://VolQuest.com .
Bielema wasn’t mentioned in connection with the Arkansas job until the news broke that he had been hired. He went 68-24 in seven seasons at Wisconsin, where he led the Badgers to four seasons of double-digit wins, including a third-straight invitation to the Rose Bowl after Wisconsin went 8-5 this season and won the Big Ten championship.
Malzahn led Arkansas State to an 8-3 record this season.
He stepped down as offensive coordinator at Auburn to take the Arkansas State job in December of last year. A year later he’s headed back to Auburn as the new head coach to replace Gene Chizik, who was fired after a 3-9 season just two years removed from a BCS National Championship in 2010.
Neither Bielema or Malzahn were considered serious candidates for the Tennessee opening, but both Gundy and Strong were considered for the two other SEC job openings after Gundy interviewed with Arkansas and Strong’s name was rumored to be in the running for the Auburn opening.
That leaves Tennessee with seemingly all three candidates still on the board in Gundy, Strong and Fedora.
Gundy made $3.275 million at Oklahoma State this season, and has a $3 million buyout clause in his contract. Strong is making $2.3 million at Louisville, with a $2.2 million buyout.
Fedora is the lowest paid candidate, making $1.7 million in his debut season at North Carolina. He has a $2.35 million buyout clause in his contract.
VolQuest reported late Monday night that Tennessee’s timetable aimed to have a coach hired by Thursday.