The hiring of Mike DeBord as Tennessee’s offensive coordinator is no longer a rumor. It’s a fact. InsideTennessee has confirmed through multiple sources that DeBord is The Guy, with only the official announcement still pending.
DeBord, who turns 59 years of age on Saturday, joins the Vol staff after a two-year stint as the sports administrator for the University of Michigan's Olympic sports teams. This job involved working with the field hockey, men's and women's cross country, men's and women's gymnastics, men's and women's track and field, and men's and women's tennis programs.
DeBord has three decades of experience coaching football, too. Most notably, he was Michigan’s offensive line coach from 1992-1996 and its offensive coordinator from 1997-99. His first year as offensive coordinator saw the Wolverines capture the ’97 national title. One player he helped fine-tune was a lanky quarterback named Tom Brady, now winning Super Bowl titles for the New England Patriots.
DeBord left Ann Arbor in 2000 to accept the head coaching reins at Central Michigan University. His offensive coordinator was a holdover from the previous staff named Butch Jones. When DeBord resigned after posting a four-year record of 12-34, the job fell to Brian Kelly and then to Butch Jones.
Fourteen years after DeBord hired Jones as his offensive coordinator at CMU Jones returned the favor by hiring DeBord as his offensive coordinator at Tennessee.
Oddly enough, DeBord came within a whisker of being hired by Tennessee seven years ago. When David Cutcliffe left the Vols’ offensive coordinator position following the 2007 season to become head man at Duke all signs pointed to DeBord as the next Tennessee coordinator. Consider:
Vol head coach Phillip Fulmer was 57 years old at the time and DeBord 51, making them contemporaries. DeBord also was a contemporary of Vol defensive coordinator John Chavis (51), defensive line coach Dan Brooks (56), defensive ends coach Steve Caldwell (52) and secondary coach Larry Slade (55).
Conversely, the “other” leading candidate for the offensive coordinator vacancy was baby-faced Dave Clawson. At 40 years of age he was young enough to be Fulmer’s son.
Like Fulmer, DeBord was a former offensive lineman (four-year starter at Manchester College) who cut his coaching teeth teaching O-line play. A run-first guy, his offensive philosophy fit perfectly with Fulmer’s “pound the rock” approach. Fulmer came to Tennessee from Vanderbilt; DeBord joined Michigan’s staff from Northwestern, the Big Ten’s version of Vandy (awesome academic program, awful football program).
Like Fulmer, DeBord experienced great success as an offensive coordinator. Fulmer’s first year as OC at Tennessee saw the 1989 Vols go 11-1, win the SEC championship and finish No. 5 nationally. DeBord’s first year as OC saw the 1997 Michigan Wolverines go 12-0, win the Big 10 championship and finish No. 1 nationally.
Fulmer coordinated Tennessee’s offense for four years, during which the Vols posted a 38-9-2 record, then accepted the head coaching position at Tennessee. DeBord coordinated Michigan’s attack for five years, during which the Wolverines posted a 52-11 record, then accepted the head coaching position at Central Michigan.
Given their similar ages, backgrounds and philosophies, Fulmer and DeBord seemed to be a match made in Heaven back in 2008. When Fulmer shocked the world by hiring Clawson, thousands of observers were scratching their heads.
Given the youthful makeup of Butch Jones’ 2015 offensive staff, some fans may be scratching their heads at the hiring of DeBord. Running backs coach Robert Gillespie is 35. Receivers coach Zach Azzanni is 38 and tight ends coach Mark Elder is in the same ballpark.
Regardless, DeBord is on board, bringing loads of football experience to the Vols. A graduate of Wes-Del High School in Delaware County, Indiana, he was a team captain and honorable mention NAIA All-American at Manchester College in 1977. He received a master’s degree from Ball State in 1981 and was inducted into the Indiana Football Hall of Fame in 1995.
DeBord began his coaching career in 1982, with stops at Franklin College, Fort Hays State University, Eastern Illinois, Ball State, Colorado State and Northwestern before landing at Michigan.
Following his stint as head coach at Central Michigan DeBord returned to Ann Arbor in 2004 to serve as Michigan’s special teams coordinator and recruiting coordinator. After two years in that role, he was promoted to offensive coordinator and tight ends coach in 2006. When Wolverine head coach Lloyd Carr retired following the 2007 season DeBord was not retained by new head man Rich Rodriguez.
DeBord spent the 2009 season as assistant offensive line coach for the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks. He was tight ends coach for the Chicago Bears from 2010-2013. He then returned to Michigan as Olympic sports administrator.
Insider Report: DeBord hire, recruiting celebration