On Nov. 12, then-Tennessee athletic director John Currie stood at a podium and read from prepared notes as he announced the firing of football coach Butch Jones.
It was a reluctant move for the first-year Vols AD. While most fans had wanted Jones out since a 41-0 loss to Georgia on Sept. 30, Currie stood by Jones, giving the fifth-year coach every opportunity to save his job. But after a 50-17 loss to Missouri, which dropped Tennessee to 0-6 in SEC play, Currie had to pull the plug.
“We will begin an exhaustive search to identify a coach of the highest integrity and vision to propel Tennessee to championships,” Currie said that Sunday afternoon. “This is an extraordinary and special place with unique opportunities and a tradition of excellence. This coaching search will be my sole focus, and I will be in regular contact with Chancellor [Beverly] Davenport. I want to emphasize my commitment to hiring the best coach for the University of Tennessee.”
Currie said he would not be hiring a search firm, a somewhat unusual move in modern coaching searches but hardly unprecedented. He talked about the reasons for the change, what Tennessee wanted in its next coach and how the program presented “a wonderful opportunity” for its next leader.
“None of us want to be in this position, but we are in this position,” Currie concluded the news conference. “And now we move forward.”
Currie began a search that will go down as the messiest in recent college football history.
Tennessee still doesn’t have a coach, but Currie and the school parted ways on Friday after Currie returned from Los Angeles, where he had met with Washington State coach Mike Leach the night prior. Currie’s ouster came amid rumors of internal sabotage, just six days after a fan revolt resulted in Tennessee backing out of a deal to bring Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano to Knoxville.
What has happened in the 19 days between Currie’s news conference and his own departure will go down in Vol infamy.
Here’s a look back.
Phase 1: A wide net is cast
Tennessee’s coaching search began like many do, as Currie cast a wide net and began gauging the interest levels of potential candidates. The #Grumors started immediately, as Tennessee fans hoped ESPN analyst Jon Gruden would return to the place where he started his coaching career as a graduate assistant in 1986. One Grumor had Gruden and Tennessee legend Peyton Manning dining together at a Knoxville restaurant. Other Vol fans hoped…