The man with the unenviable task (of trying to explain that Jon Gruden isn’t a viable option to fans) in Tennessee is Athletic Director John Currie. (He also has to make a hire, which isn’t easy in its own right.) The former Kansas State AD was hired last February and by all accounts was hoping not to have to make a coaching change this season. But with the Volunteers needing a win over Vanderbilt this weekend to avoid going winless in SEC play for the first time in school history, Currie didn’t have much choice.
Tennessee’s search – perhaps due to the bizarre, decades-long love affair between the fan base and Gruden – has sort of taken a backseat to Chip Kelly musings, but Currie’s name popped up yesterday in relation to his old school.
(Bear with me, this gets a little messy as most coaching rumors do. Welcome to the end of the college football season!)
The reason? Current Oregon defensive coordinator and former Wildcats assistant Jim Leavitt. Last week, Brett McMurphy reported that there was a plan in place for Leavitt to replace Bill Snyder at the end of this season, but that Snyder nixed the deal. This deal was brokered while Currie was still there. Kansas State quickly refuted the report, Murphy stood by it, Snyder made a strange comment about how he would’ve loved to have Leavitt back in Manhattan as a position coach last offseason and it all led local reporters to do some digging.
And now, thanks to the Topeka Capital-Journal, we have some Leavitt-related emails from Kansas State. Last November, Currie and other K-State administrators were passing around an article that mentioned Leavitt, then Colorado’s defensive coordinator, as a coach who doesn’t get enough attention for head coaching jobs.
About a month later, Leavitt became Oregon’s defensive coordinator. From Sherman Smith’s report for the Capital-Journal:
When Leavitt was hired by Oregon in mid-December, his contract included a clause that allows him to leave for K-State without paying a financial penalty. Currie sent an email Dec. 15 to Lannou and deputy athletic director Laird Veatch with a link to an Oregonian story announcing the hire.
“Will be interesting to see how he answers the question,” Currie wrote.
Interesting provision, that. There are more joking emails that certainly make it seem like a) members of the K-State administration were enamored with Leavitt, and b) Snyder was viewed as sort of a road block. (I’ll never understand why people continue to do this stuff via email when they knew they’re subject to open records requests.) We also know Leavitt took steps to ease a potential return to Manhattan. Those are the data points, draw your own conclusions.
One of mine: We call this “silly season” because of all of the pining, gossiping and flight-tracking by fans, but don’t underestimate just how silly things may be behind the scenes. I don’t know if a Snyder-to-Leavitt succession plan is a good one — I like it more than a Snyder-to-Snyder plan, but I’m not a K-State fan – but I do know joking about the plan you might have in place is probably best done in person.
Maybe Leavitt should go to the top of Tennessee’s list when Currie has to break the news that a Corona pitchman/TV QB guru who hasn’t coached for a decade and already makes a coach’s salary isn’t coming. It certainly doesn’t seem like Leavitt is headed to Manhattan now.
A few other notes as the carousel spins (reminder, we’re tracking head coach changes here):
>>Yahoo’s Pat Forde reports that Florida is readying a Plan B if it can’t land Chip Kelly. ESPN is reporting that it's between UCLA and the Gators for Kelly We posted an update yesterday on Kelly and Florida here. (Premium)
>>Brent Zwerneman of the Houston Chronicle reported Tuesday that Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin will be fired regardless of the outcome Saturday night against LSU. The Aggies are currently 7-4 (4-3 SEC) but have finished 8-5 the past three seasons, putting Sumlin and Texas A&M in the tricky Pelini Zone.
#TAMU staff found out coming off the practice field last night abt the report that Kevin Sumlin would be fired after the LSU game: “For our players to find out about it like this, that it doesn’t matter if we win SAT night at LSU, it’s really shitty." https://t.co/VgLChS5vQj
— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) November 22, 2017
>>Frank Solich and the Ohio Bobcats needed help from Kent State last night to win the division and didn’t get it as the Golden Flashes lost 24-14 to Akron. FootballScoop.com is reporting that Kent State coach Paul Haynes will not return next season.
The Grab Bag
- Good read from ESPN on college football's "super fans."
- Interesting read on how to start a rivalry from Tampa Bay Times columnist Martin Fennelly ahead of UCF-USF.
- A deep dive and "longread" on Wisconsin football, and its remarkable consistency. Save that one for a long car ride or when you need 15 minutes to just zone out over the next couple of days.
- ICYMI: Some really good comments from David Knevel on his last game, Nebraska extended a crowd-pleasing in-state offer to a 2019 prospect and Bill Moos is ready to go all-in on the Iowa rivalry.
Today's Song of Today
Brandon is the Managing Editor for Hail Varsity and has covered Nebraska athletics for the magazine and web since 2012, Hail Varsity’s first season on the scene. His sports writing has also been featured by Fox Sports, The Guardian and CBS Sports.