Jon Gruden to Tennessee: Where and How These Rumors Picked Up Steam

Barrett Sallee@BarrettSalleeSEC Football Lead WriterNovember 2, 2012

Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Jon Gruden
Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Jon GrudenAl Messerschmidt/Getty Images

It has become one of fall's finest traditions, along with Octoberfest, leaves changing colors and Halloween.

Jon Gruden coaching rumors.

It seems like every program has had them, and the one that's at the forefront this season is Tennessee.

The Gruden-to-Tennessee rumor picked up serious steam over the last 7-10 days, and it's no coincidence that the rumors popped up in the midst of a winless month on Rocky Top.

However, before we go into the specifics of how this specific rumor started, let's first examine why it seems stronger this go 'round than it has in previous years at other programs or NFL franchises.

The reason is simple. Gruden has Tennessee ties.

He was a graduate assistant with the Vols in 1986-87 under former head coach Johnny Majors. Furthermore, his wife was a former Tennessee cheerleader and returns to the region often in the offseason, according to an article in April in the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

He's familiar with the area. That's a start. However, generally speaking, coaches are nomadic by nature. Therefore, that's really a non-starter for me.

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After Tennessee lost to Alabama two weeks ago, the Gruden-to-Tennessee rumor picked up serious steam. Several people claimed on message boards that a deal was "already done."

To fuel the fire, someone with the means and Internet savvy to pull off such a prank pointed the URL directly to the Tennessee athletic department web page. That has since been changed to lead to a Facebook page supporting the hire of Jon Gruden, which has more than 11,000 "likes."

Over the weekend, the rumor kicked into overdrive when a Tennessee fan on a flight to Phoenix spotted Gruden supposedly watching the Tennessee versus South Carolina game and taking feverish notes.

Even if it's true, and Gruden was using his time at 30,000 feet to study some film on Tennessee and South Carolina, that doesn't necessarily mean that he's scouting the Vols for purposes of evaluating his future personnel. 

It could just mean that, as the color commentator for ESPN's Monday Night Football, he's scouting players that he may be talking about on the air in the coming years.

If that wasn't enough, Alabama added more fuel to the fire by sending out Gruden-themed flyers to potential student athletes. These flyers focused on Gruden's statement on Monday night that the San Francisco 49ers remind him of Alabama's athletes.

Could Alabama head coach Nick Saban—a man who's always interested in controlling the message—be using the words of his future rival to try to sway recruits? Perhaps, and I wouldn't discount the possibility entirely.

Will Gruden be roaming the sidelines in Knoxville? We'll see, but just because the Tennessee rumor has picked up steam doesn't mean it won't elsewhere before the end of the season.

Until he has signed on the dotted line or coaches not named "Jon Gruden" have filled up the available jobs, you're going to hear more about Gruden several teams in 2013.