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    UT athletic director John Currie shares his favorite Pat Summitt memory

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    John Currie ‘excited’ about Phillip Fulmer hiring

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    Vols athletic director John Currie on his first few months

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    John Currie, Big Orange Caravan

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    John Currie returns to Tennessee

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    Chancellor Beverly Davenport on finding John Currie

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    Tennessee coaches discuss new athletic director

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    Tennessee’s Holly Warlick speaks with newly named AD John Currie

 

Tennessee’s introductory press conference for coach Butch Jones had just concluded, and I was ready with instant commentary.

I stared into a video camera and said something like, “The new coach doesn’t look like Jon Gruden.”

A colleague told me later that then-UT athletic director Dave Hart was watching nearby and shook his head and frowned when I mentioned Gruden, who had been rumored as a possible hire.

Five years later, UT athletic director John Currie has fired Jones and begun his search for a replacement. Yet, after all that time, the Gruden rumor is still alive.

Never mind how unlikely it might seem that the former NFL coach would leave his lucrative job as an analyst for “Monday Night Football.” I don’t believe a rumor can survive that long without some substance.

That’s why my three-coach wish list for Tennessee begins with Gruden. It also includes Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen and Central Florida’s Scott Frost.

Now, back to Gruden.

Perhaps, the college coaching rumors have been fueled by nothing more than Gruden telling a friend, “Man, I would like to try college coaching some day, maybe somewhere  like Tennessee.” I also could fill up more than one column with reasons why Gruden wouldn’t want to coach college football.

However, a college job could provide him with a rare opportunity. He could match his Super Bowl triumph at Tampa Bay with a college national championship.

Despite how long Tennessee has been muddling along from the middle to the bottom of the SEC East, the program doesn’t lack potential.  It just needs the right coach.

Gruden has never been a college head coach, but he obviously knows football – offense, in particular. And don’t think he couldn’t recruit. In our celebrity-crazed world, just a phone call from Gruden could send shock waves through a high-profile recruit’s neighborhood.

The other candidates on my short list can’t match Gruden’s celebrity status. But their records speak for themselves.

Mullen is 68-45 in nine seasons at Mississippi State, where nobody has done it better.

Tim Tebow won the Heisman Trophy when Mullen was the quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator at Florida. Dak Prescott was good enough to start for the Dallas Cowboys as a rookie quarterback after playing under Mullen at Mississippi State.

Frost also knows something about offense and quarterbacks. He quarterbacked Nebraska to the national championship in 1997 under coach Tom Osborne, one of the game’s great play callers. He also worked as an assistant coach under offensive guru Chip Kelly at Oregon.

Although Frost is in only his second season as a head coach, he’s one of the hottest coaching candidates in the country. Maybe that’s because he took over an 0-12 UCF team and improved it to 6-7 a year later. Now, it’s 9-0 and ranked 12th nationally.

Either Frost or Mullen would be a hiring coup for Tennessee. But neither would turn heads like Gruden.

Just in case the Vols lure him out of the TV booth, I’ve got the lead to my video ready: “Tennessee’s new coach looks a lot like Jon Gruden.”

John Adams is a senior columnist. He may be reached at 865-342-6284 or john.adams@knoxnews.com. Follow him at: Twitter.com/johnadams@kns.