Where Is Tommy Tuberville Heading?

Ben GibsonSenior Analyst IDecember 4, 2009

AUBURN, AL - NOVEMBER 24:  Head coach Tommy Tuberville of the Auburn Tigers celebrates after his team's victory over the Alabama Crimson Tide at Jordan-Hare Stadium on November 24, 2007 in Auburn, Alabama. Auburn defeated Alabama for their sixth straight win over the Crimson Tide.  (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)
Doug Benc/Getty Images

He may be the brass ring in the coaching carousel, yet Tommy Tuberville remains silent as Louisville, Virginia, and Notre Dame all begin their searches for a new coach and a new direction.

Sure, the rumor mill is in full circle, connecting for the former Auburn coach with all three jobs at one time or another, but those wild predictions remain just that. 

Tuberville has yet to speak to the media nor has a program even publicly announced an interview with the potential candidate.

It may be early, but honestly, what are they waiting for?

After all, Tuberville is one of the few potential candidates that is ready right now.  While other hot names like Chris Petersen, Brian Kelly, Charlie Strong, and Skip Holtz all have games remaining on their respective schedules, Tuberville has been sitting at home for a year waiting to break back into his coaching gear like Mike Shanahan and Jon Gruden.

Programs hate transitions, the best college football teams need consistency at the top.  It is this time of uncertainty that blue-chip recruits get nervous about the commitments they made to the recently deposed coach. It is when donors and fans need to feel inspired and confident in their new choice.

Everyone hates uncertainty and patience is not always seen as a virtue.  As long as the office of the head coach remains empty, doubt begins to creep in.  Ultimately, the biggest responsibility of these athletic directors is simple: get it right.

There are many reasons to think that Tommy Tuberville can get it right.

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Tuberville's record speaks for himself, the long-time SEC coach has a career record of 110-60, an undefeated season under his belt and a dominating record over rivals school in his time at Ole Miss and Auburn.

Indeed, Tuberville is 5-2 in his career against top 5 teams and won 9 of his last 15 games against the top 15 in his last few years before a struggle in 2008.

In total, Tuberville has done a solid job in recruiting and developing talent in his 14 seasons.  34 players under Tuberville earned All-SEC honors and two SEC Players of the Year. 

So then, what's the problem? 

Well, for all the good qualities Tuberville has, there are some question marks.  Granted, he may still be the best candidate, but is he really as much of a sure thing as people think?

After all, Tuberville has been recruiting in the SEC his entire career.  It is easy to get kids to come play in the premiere conference in football, it might be quite harder when it comes to the Big East or the ACC.

Also, Tuberville would have to recognize where football stands on the totem pole for both Louisville and Virginia. 

Obviously, both of these schools would like to be good at football, but it is not the No. 1 priority for either administration.

Whatever transpired at the end of Tuberville's career at Auburn, it certainly has to raise a red flag with potential employers.  That is not to say it should stop them from hiring him, but it may be a concern that needs to be dealt with in the interview room.

While all these things swirl around Tuberville, the question remains where will he land?

If Tuberville becomes the next coach at South Bend, it will be a surprise to the fans.

It is clear that Notre Dame have their Irish eyes set on Brian Kelly, head coach of the Cincinnati Bearcats.  If he were to turn them down (which he won't), Tuberville very well could be considered but by that point his name may be off the board.

If Tuberville were to go to Virginia, he would have to deal with tougher academic standards and an atmosphere quite different from what he experienced in the SEC. 

Now granted, Auburn obviously has academic standards as well and Virginia has proven to have a strong home field advantage when the product is good, but this would be quite a different challenge for Tuberville.

Will he have the patience and the passion to turn a program around like he was about to do at Ole Miss when the school was coming off scholarship sanctions?

More importantly, if Tuberville were Virginia's first choice, why no movement?  Former coach Al Groh was pretty much a lame-duck after a season opening loss to William & Mary.  They must have spoken to him at least informally during the season to gauge interest.

Perhaps Virginia would like to speak with Mike London first and if the former coordinator said yes, the Cavaliers may make him the new head of the football program.

Then there's Louisville and now Kansas, who just recently let go of their coach Mark Mangino.  Both of these schools are basketball schools, and if Tuberville were to go there, he would have to become accustomed to playing second fiddle to Rick Pitino or Bill Self.

The Big East proposes an interesting challenge because it is wide open.  Were Cincinnati to lose Brian Kelly, the vacuum of power would allow the Cardinals to reassert itself in the conference and perhaps even the national championship picture.

The Big XII is loaded with Oklahoma, Texas, Oklahoma State and a resurgent Nebraska team with the always fun-to-watch Texas Tech Red Raiders thrown in for good measure. 

Kansas may be a good program but it is also in a highly competitive conference, much like the one Tuberville has his prior coaching experience in.

Ultimately, there are pros and cons towards all the options and the decision of what will happen to Tuberville depends on the man as much as it does the programs with the recent openings.

At this point, Virginia is probably still the favorite to land Tuberville if anyone does.  He brings the instant name recognition and credentials needed to jump start a program in apathy.  Yet the rumors have remained just that and Virginia fans no better than to get their hopes up.

Earlier this year, Virginia basketball fans dealt with rumors that Athletic Director Craig Littlepage would hire Minnesota coach Tubby Smith.  This was the second time those rumors had come about and both times they proved to be completely false.

Will Tuberville be a similar mirage?  The problem is that no one really knows.  The situation is being kept extremely quiet, that way if there were a rejection from Tuberville that Virginia can save some face.  Silence is far from golden for Virginia fans who desperately want a big name hire this off-season.

It may be quiet in Charlottesville, Va., but is it the calm before the storm?

Tuberville is the brass ring, hopefully Virginia is reaching because this may be the season they can finally reach it.