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Rumorology First Round: Grumors

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Kicking off the bracket with an entry that may never die.

Other than recruiting, nothing has thrived in the message board era quite like coaching rumors.

For one, it gives every fan base a chance at fantasy drafting. Wish fulfillment. Your job is special. Every coach in America wants it, and anybody is better than the bum you just fired, right?

What’s more, searches are generally full of leaks from all sides, sometimes for strategic reasons. Agents want their clients to seem desirable, and athletic departments want to try and throw competition for an intended target off the sent. If one school thinks another is interested, maybe they have to sweeten their offer a bit. Or maybe a coach just wants to make sure his current job is aware he may have other options, and needs a little more incentive to stay home.

And since the discovery of FlightAware, you can try and get an idea for who’s coming and going from where. All-in-all, the process makes for any number of insane stories, some true, some partially true, some complete fantasy.

But before we vote on our first-round match-ups, let’s get to know our seeds.


1. Jon Gruden to Tennessee

Since the turn of the century, the University of Tennessee has gone through four coaching changes, and the one constant in all of them has been Jon Gruden. He won a Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Bucs, and then became the voice of Monday Night Football when that was over, before only recently going back into coaching with the Oakland Raiders last year.

He got his start in Knoxville as a grad assistant in the 80s, and reportedly met his wife there. He’s always had his eye on the job!

Or so Vols fans convinced themselves in 2008 when they fired long-time head coach Phil Fulmer. Or a year later, when Lane Kiffin spurned them. Or after canning Derek Dooley. Or Butch Jones. Heck, in 2017 on the day of the UT-LSU match-up the popular restaurant Calhoun’s had to apologize when a rumor spread on social media that Gruden was spotted there.

It’s maybe the most persistent coaching rumor in the message board era, and one that may yet still live whenever the Jeremy Pruitt Era peters out.

2. Nick Saban to Texas

When Alabama’s 2013 championship hopes died with the Kick Six, there was MUCH consternation in Tuscaloosa. Despite back-to-back national titles previously, a veteran Alabama team brimming with talent had lost the SEC West to Auburn, and would later mail in the Sugar Bowl in a loss to Oklahoma.

Over the course of a weekend that December, rumors began to spread heavily that Nick Saban’s agent, Jimmy Sexton, had reached out to the University of Texas — then in the death rattle of the Mack Brown Era — to let them know that if they had an opening, Alabama’s head coach would be interested.

The details ranged anywhere from Saban getting a percentage of Longhorn Network revenue to Texas boosters “wiping away” significant debts Saban had occurred from poor investments.

It didn’t take long for Brown to insist he wasn’t going anywhere and Alabama announcing a fat extension for its coach that made him the highest-paid coach in the country, and happened to include a few perks like paying off Saban’s house and arranging some stakes in car dealerships. Brown later announced his retirement shortly after Saban’s new deal was announced.

3. Les Miles to Michigan

Once upon a time, it was said that LSU’s former head coach, a former Wolverine offensive lineman, would “crawl over broken glass” to be the Wolverines’ head coach. In November of 2007, Lloyd Carr announced his retirement and it didn’t take long for Miles’ name to be at the center of speculation, all during the week of the SEC Championship.

By that Friday, it was wildly speculated that Miles would be leaving for Ann Arbor after the game — to the extent that LSU’s team had heard the rumors by their walk-through. That Saturday, ESPN’s College Gameday produced this segment:

Shortly thereafter, LSU message boards caught fire that “not so fast my friend!” reportedly upset with the media reports, Miles had cut off talks with Michigan. A few hours later, he and LSU AD held the infamous “Have a Great Day” presser.

Flash forward four years, after another 10-win season, Michigan happened to come open again. This one saw Baton Rouge radio hosts Tommy Krysan and Chris Landry outright report that Miles would be leaving, with Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini a “done deal,” during postgame of the Tigers’ Cotton Bowl win over Texas A&M. A few days later, local media would camp outside of a Voodoo Barbecue near campus as Miles was rumored to be meeting with Michigan.

But Miles stayed.

4. Bill Parcells to Alabama

Before Saban arrived in Tuscaloosa, the Tide were awash with coaching rumors across four hiring cycles from 2001 through 2006. The last one, which eventually yielded Saban, was particularly frenetic. I’ll let Alabama fan and friend of the site Greg Dawkins fill us in:

Fresh off a spurning from (then-West Virginia head coach) Rich Rodriguez because Rita Rod & her big hair found Alabama unsavory compared to West Virginia, Alabama message board Tider Insider (I think) members eschewed popular sentiment for Jeff Tetford, Cutcliffe, and rumors of Spurrier playing golf at North River YC, and swung for the fences. Flighttracker had the UA jet in Dallas, which could only mean one thing: BIG TUNA! (he had just retired from Cowboys). Parcells was offered 10M/year to come to the Capstone, according to message board warriors.

5. Bob Stoops to Florida

Stoops was a wunderkind defensive coordinator for the Florida Gators in the late 90s, and parlayed that into a very successful stint at Oklahoma. So when Steve Spurrier left the program after the 2001 season, Gator fans felt it was fait acompli that Stoops would be the successor. He was less discussed when Ron Zook was let go three years later, as Florida more directly targeted Urban Meyer, but Stoops’ name was always on the hopeful fingertips of the online Gator faithful.

6. Jack del Rio to LSU

I heard his daughter’s at LSU this year. And she’s hot.
-PodKatt

These things can die hard, and if you ask enough LSU fans you’ll still find some that believe that the former Jacksonville Jaguars and Oakland Raiders head coach can be successful in Baton Rouge. It is true that del Rio got his coaching start with the New Orleans Saints and met his wife during that time — and when Saban left LSU in 2004, del Rio expressed some interest in the job. He got off to a hot start in Jacksonville, and had been set to interview when his agent reminded him that the Jaguars would likely consider that a very costly breach of contact. Word was he sat in his car outside a McDonalds in Florida while LSU leadership sat inside waiting for him.

But when rumored openings came up again in the aforementioned 2007 and 2011 seasons, despite significant luster loss, people still believed in del Rio.

7. Chip Kelly to Florida

Florida fans want to win, but as much under Spurrier and Meyer they also got used to doing it with flashy, explosive offenses. Like the kind Chip Kelly ran at Oregon from 2007 until he left in 2012. And offense was a quality missing from both of Meyer’s successors, so Kelly was high on the wish list for Gator openings in 2014 and 2017.

8. Houston Nutt

Another Jimmy Sexton client, the Right Reverend was an ace at using other jobs for leverage during his long tenure as head coach at Arkansas. Emeritus of Arkansas Fight Doc Harper is here to explain the time Nutt was rumored to be Nebraska’s head coach:

The Nebraska one was a legit story. After a roller-coaster ‘03 season when UA surprisingly made the top 10 in September and then promptly lost every game in October in various Arkansas ways, we beat Mizzou in the Independence Bowl and the Huskers were interested. There was a Nebraska plane on the ground in Arkansas to take him to Lincoln but some swear there was never an official offer made to Nutt. There was a ton of drama about what Nutt would do because he still had a lot of support from the fans at that time, but he ended up not getting on the plane. It did piss a lot of people off that he seriously considered it and it was part of his eventual undoing because they started distrusting him.

Nutt would also flirt with the University of Miami a few years later, and was also reportedly Saban’s personal suggestion to succeed him at LSU.


Poll

Which rumor was crazier?

This poll is closed

  • 83%
    1. Jon Gruden to Tennessee
    (125 votes)
  • 16%
    8. Houston Nutt
    (25 votes)
150 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Which rumor was crazier?

This poll is closed

  • 70%
    2. Nick Saban to Texas
    (102 votes)
  • 29%
    7. Chip Kelly to Florida
    (42 votes)
144 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Which rumor was crazier?

This poll is closed

  • 38%
    3. Miles to Michigan
    (55 votes)
  • 61%
    6. Jack del Rio to LSU
    (87 votes)
142 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Which rumor was crazier?

This poll is closed

  • 77%
    4. Bill Parcells to Alabama
    (111 votes)
  • 22%
    5. Bob Stoops to Florida
    (32 votes)
143 votes total Vote Now

Voting will run for three days, until midnight on Saturday.