Tennessee Football: Candidates If Charlie Strong Says No

Stephen Williams@SteveO_WilliamsContributor IIIDecember 5, 2012

Tennessee Football: Candidates If Charlie Strong Says No

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    Charlie Strong is now the leading candidate for the Tennessee job and the ball seems to be in his court. Louisville is making a last minute pitch to try to keep him. Meanwhile, all the Vols can do is sit and wait to find out Strong's decision.

    While conventional wisdom says Strong will take the Tennessee job, Tennessee and its fans need to prepare themselves just in case Strong says no.

    Every athletic director has a plan when conducting a coaching search. If a candidate turns down an offer, there is always someone else on the list that will be pursued.

    Dave Hart is no exception.

    Should Strong turn the job down, let's take a look at who would be on the short list.

Larry Fedora

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    The North Carolina head coach has long been rumored to be on the Tennessee short list, and reports even emerged, at one time this week, that Fedora had interviewed with the Vols.

    Those reports have since been shot down, but if Strong doesn't accept the job, expect the 50-year-old coach to receive a call from the 865 area code.

    Fedora has only been at North Carolina for one season, but led the Tar Heels to an 8-4 record this year. Last season, he took Southern Miss to a 12-2 record and a Conference USA championship. After his exit, the Golden Eagles were 0-12 in 2012, and fired first-year head coach Ellis Johnson.

    The Tar Heels coach spent three seasons as the offensive coordinator at Florida, and has coached at several schools in the southeast, so he would bring some southern familiarity with him.

Kirby Smart

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    Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart has stated that he intends on hiring a coach that has head coaching experience. Obviously, that eliminates Kirby Smart right off the top. However, the longer the search continues, the more desperate people get (i.e. Derek Dooley).

    Smart has long been thought of as one of the best assistants in the entire country and has been mentioned for numerous jobs over the last few years. Something hasn't been right about those jobs because he has elected to stick with the Crimson Tide each time.

    The 36-year-old comes from the Nick Saban tree, which hasn't been all that kind to the University of Tennessee.

    Would the Vols go after another Saban disciple? I don't think they want to, but sometimes desperate times call for desperate measures.

Butch Davis

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    Butch Davis has a track record of success at both of his college stops. He was 51-20 in six seasons at Miami and won three conference championships.

    At North Carolina, Davis put together three consecutive eight-win seasons at a basketball school.

    The reason Davis isn't employed right now is because he comes with major red flags. North Carolina is dealing with NCAA issues due to academic scandals that happened under Davis' watch.

    With Tennessee recently having two years added on to its NCAA probation, the Vols would be hard pressed to hire a coach with a history with the NCAA. The guy is a proven winner though, and as we said before, desperate times...

Phillip Fulmer

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    The architect of the great Tennessee teams of the nineties and early-2000s was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame back in May after an illustrious career patrolling the sidelines in Knoxville.

    The former Volunteer head coach won 152 games and lost just 52 in his 17 seasons, including nine 10-win seasons and a national championship.

    Since the Vols let him go after the 2008 season, Fulmer has been out of the coaching world and done some time in the broadcasting scene. His name has continued to surface every year with different coaching searches.

    Does he want to get back into the coaching world? Would Tennessee be able to swallow its pride, and bring back the man that took this program to dominance almost two decades ago?

Mystery Candidate

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    Tuesday, Arkansas hired former Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema as its new head coach. Throughout all of the rumors and articles written about the Razorbacks' search, Bielema's name was not one that was consistently included.

    However, when the time came to make a hire, the allure of the SEC and the money that comes with it were enough to get him to make the move to Fayetteville.

    Dave Hart surely has a list of coaches he would like to talk to if it gets to that point, and it's likely there are names on that list that would surprise most people.

    In a coaching search, especially one as wild as this one has been, you can never count out the potential of a wild card coming out of nowhere.

    Perhaps, that's what will happen in Knoxville.