Mike Leach Was Willing Take Tennessee HC Job, Released Messages Show

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistMarch 23, 2018

TUCSON, AZ - OCTOBER 28:  Mike Leach head coach of the Washington State Cougars reacts during the game against the Arizona Wildcats at Arizona Stadium on October 28, 2017 in Tucson, Arizona.  (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)
Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

The University of Tennessee's pursuit of a new head football coach was a mess, but the program apparently had a chance to hire an established head coach in Mike Leach.

"Although I have not offered the job or discussed terms with him, he told me he would take the job if offered," former athletic director John Currie said of Leach in an email, per Blake Toppmeyer of USA Today.

School chancellor Beverly Davenport was apparently unaware of the meeting with Leach, asking Currie "not to pursue any discussions about employment with any additional candidates."

Currie was later fired, while Tennessee hired Jeremy Pruitt on Dec. 7 after a 26-day search.

Although Pruitt, the former defensive coordinator for Alabama, could end up being a successful head coach, the Volunteers had been looking far and wide for bigger names and established coaches for nearly a month to replace Butch Jones.

The team was set to hire former Rutgers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano, but fan protests about his past led the school to back out of a deal.

From there, Tennessee targeted David Cutcliffe, Mike Gundy, Jeff Brohm and Dave Doeren, among others, who all decided to stay at their current schools.

Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson was also linked to the job via texts from his agent, but Johnson denied knowing about the messages and said he didn't have interest in the job, per Ken Sugiura of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“I didn’t know anything about that,” Johnson said, per Sugiura. “I’m sure that’s Jack being an agent. But it never got mentioned to me.”

According to the uncovered messages, Doeren might have also been willing to make the move if not for confusion.

"Let's get this done," the North Carolina State coach's agent, Jordan Bazant, said in a message to Currie. Doeren received a new deal from his own school a few days later after a lack of response from Tennessee.

Newy Scruggs of NBC Sports then reported in November that Currie was working on a deal with Leach and an announcement could be made soon, but the AD was fired the next day.

Former coach Phillip Fulmer took over as athletic director and finally hired Pruitt.

Leach will remain at Washington State, where he has a 26-13 record over the last three seasons after going 12-25 in his first three. He has a 122-81 overall record in 16 seasons between Texas Tech and the Cougars.