That just ain't gonna happen. Director of athletics Dave Hart didn't get to his position in Knoxville by funneling every note and phone call out to anyone willing to listen or by rushing to judgment on key people.
What does Hart stand to gain by allowing anyone to know contract terms negotiated? Why would he trust anyone at a school that just hired him a year ago, especially when he's had to lay off a double-digit number of people en route to merging men's and women's athletics departments?
One thing Hart has somewhat in his favor is time. Even though the coaching search is at Day 10, there's still weeks before any Class of 2013 prospects sign on the dotted line and even longer before any Volunteer may declare for the NFL Draft.
After Lane Kiffin flew off to Southern California, it was less than 72 hours for then-AD Mike Hamilton to clean up, hit the interview circuit and tab Derek Dooley as head guy. The time of the 2012 search more closely resembles 2008 when Phillip Fulmer was relieved weeks before the season's end with National Signing Day months instead of weeks away.
Credible sources on the other end of the coaching search are who InsideTennessee is going to mostly trust, and we're told that the pursuit of Jon Gruden has been relentless, but Gruden appears to be passing on what Tennessee has to offer. Others tell us Hart has yet to commence the interview process but that is changing very soon. Things should move quickly after that as multiple coaches are foaming at the opportunity.
Piling up enough cash to turn the head of a Super Bowl champion coach that's making roughly $4 million per year to simply talk football was never going to be easy. The shoe and apparel company that sponsors Tennessee, adidas, has even reached out to the Gruden Camp to show how iconic it could be if he took over the Orange & White Organization.
Long story short, InsideTennessee feels the ball is in Gruden's court if he wants to get serious. However, it is unrealistic to think that will happen.
Some dogs just don't hunt no matter how excited recruits and fans would be if Gruden signed on for the top spot.
So, assuming Gruden and his family don't change their minds, where does Tennessee go from here?
Here's a list of coaches that IT feels like have been completely eliminated or are unrealistic candidates presently: Art Briles, David Cutcliffe, Larry Fedora, Jimbo Fisher, James Franklin, Mike Gundy, Brian Kelly, Chip Kelly, Gary Patterson, Nick Saban and Bob Stoops. Names like Todd Grantham, Greg Roman and even Kirby Smart seem more realistic than that group.
Some coaches will pedal the predicament Tennessee is in into a raise. The Knoxville job is considered the No. 1 college job available. After 34 losses in five seasons, desperation appears to be hitting an all-time high.
The short list of coaches that IT believes have a shot at an interview with Hart includes, but is not limited to, Cincinnati's Butch Jones, Miami (Fla.)'s Al Golden, Louisville's Charlie Strong and Texas Tech's Tommy Tuberville.
Reportedly, Jones turned down the Kentucky job before the Wildcats announced for former Florida State coordinator Mark Stoops. On the surface, given his career record, Golden may not be the game-changing fit that Big Orange Country needs, and he may simply get a raise out of his name being floated.
Darrell Hazell is a sleeper name to keep on the list. He took over the Kent State program in 2011 and has the Ohio-based school sitting at 11-1 this fall and competing in the MAC championship versus Northern Illinois on Friday.
Jim Mora Jr., like Fedora, has only been at his current post one season. Even though times are changing with coaches staying put a minimum of three seasons, it seems far-fetched that Mora would bounce out of Los Angeles for the Smokies unless he is terribly unhappy at UCLA, has issues with his athletics director and doesn't believe he can win there.
Schools moving from one conference to another could definitely affect this search, most directly point toward Strong. Louisville leaving the Big East for the Atlantic Coast Conference means a tougher slate and an easier sale to recruits hoping to play in the NFL. Are the Cardinals ready for all that? The answer is coming.
No matter the hire, maintaining optimism through the gauntlet that is the 2013 schedule will be next to impossible, especially if several rising seniors choose to not return. Fixing a defense void of confidence and rebuilding a record-setting offense to go face Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Oregon and South Carolina is an absolute challenge.
Tennessee's fourth coach in six seasons better have his lunch pail under his arm the second he gets off the plane at McGhee Tyson Airport.
In the meantime, the staff members are circling the country to speak with recruits, whether they are committed to Tennessee, committed to other schools or completely open. Two schools that assistants appear to be hammering from the standpoint of coaxing a flip are Auburn and Florida State. From Alabama to Georgia to the Washington, D.C., area, Tennessee is hitting up a number of young men that have pledged to be Tigers or Seminoles. We will have more details in Gate 21, Vol. 36.
Those coaches are selling what Tennessee has to offer no matter the head coach — facilities, fan base, impact potential, tradition, SEC football, etc. Their pitch could be made much easier if they knew their futures, the type schemes the Vols will use and how concrete an offer on the table is. Also, keep in mind that, according to the NCAA calendar, Dec. 16 marks a quiet period and the dead period runs Dec. 17-Jan. 3.
The National Letter of Intent signing period for midyear junior college prospects runs Dec. 19-Jan. 15. That directly affects the Volunteers as they covet the Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College defensive trio of Ben Bradley, De'Vondre Campbell and Toby Johnson. (Note: the NLI day for the regular period commences Feb. 6).
Below is some YouTube video of some of what IT believes are top candidates:
Jim Mora Jr.