KNOXVILLE – Tennessee is entering Week No. 3 of its coaching search after former coach Derek Dooley was dismissed on Nov. 18.
With all the potential candidates through their regular season and interviews reportedly already underway, the hire could be made at some point this week.
Charlie Strong (head coach, Louisville)
Quick bio: Strong was known as one of the top defensive coordinators in the SEC after stints at that position with South Carolina (1999-2001) and Florida (2002-09). He took over as Louisville’s head coach in 2010 and has a 24-14 overall record, including a 10-2 mark in 2012. Read more on Strong here.
Why: He’s a strong recruiter with ample experience in the SEC and in the southeastern region in general. He’s built Louisville into one of the top programs in the Big East in three years.
Why not: There aren’t a ton of negatives on Strong, but others (Arkansas and Auburn) will be coming for him, too. Louisville’s AD has vowed to match any offer for him. Three years of head coaching experience isn’t a ton.
Update: Strong defeated Rutgers to secure the Big East title this past weekend. Tennessee reportedly met with him at some point after that, but that meeting hasn’t been confirmed by either side.
Al Golden (head coach, Miami)
Quick bio: Golden played tight end at Penn State and with New England Patriots before breaking into coaching. He worked his way through the ranks before landing his first head-coaching gig at Temple in 2006. The Owls were 3-31 in the three years before he was hired, but by 2010 he led them to an 8-4 season. He took over as the head coach at Miami in 2011 and has posted a 13-11 record in two seasons.
Why: The way he turned Temple around was one of the most impressive things in college football in recent history. He’s done all he can despite dealing with NCAA issues in Miami.
Why not: He’s been at Miami for only two seasons and has said he’s committed to getting the program through its current NCAA problems. He’s been dealt a tough hand at Miami, but his overall record won’t thrill some at UT.
Update: Golden is still believed to be one of AD Dave Hart’s targets, but he has repeatedly said he’s committed to Miami
Jimbo Fisher (head coach, Florida State)
Quick bio: Fisher got his first major job as the offensive coordinator at LSU in 2000. He left in 2006 to take the same position at Florida State and was made the head-coach-in-waiting to then coach Bobby Bowden in 2007. He took over for Bowden in 2010 and has a 29-9 record. Read more on Fisher here.
Why: He was at Florida State at the same time current Tennessee AD Dave Hart was the AD for the Seminoles. He’s a proven winner and recruiter who also knows the SEC.
Why not: He’s already coaching a powerhouse that is situated in fertile recruiting ground. Most would view Florida State as a destination job, so it might not be easy to pull him away for a rebuilding effort at Tennessee.
Update: Noles247, an affiliate of 247Sports, reported on Monday afternoon that Fisher plans to stay with the Seminoles. That hasn't been confirmed or backed up by a raise or an extension at this point, but that doesn't sound promising for UT's chances.
Mike Gundy (head coach, Oklahoma State)
Quick bio: Gundy has been the head coach at Oklahoma State, his alma mater, since 2005 after spending two prior stints at OSU as an assistant. He’s been named the Big 12 coach of the year (2010) and the national coach of the year (2011).
Why: While Oklahoma State has been relatively successful in recent years, it doesn’t have the overall prestige or tradition of Tennessee. Some reports indicate that he has a less-than-perfect relationship with OSU AD Mike Holder.
Why not: He’s been at Oklahoma State for 24 total years as a player and coach. He has a great contract that pays him approximately $3.3 million per season and Oklahoma State has top-notch facilities and has been to six straight bowls, including a win in the Fiesta Bowl last season.
Update: Gundy didn’t confirm or deny a reported interview with the Vols on Sunday, saying he’d prefer to talk about Oklahoma State football when asked about it on a teleconference Sunday night.
Larry Fedora (head coach, North Carolina)
Quick bio: Fedora is viewed as a top offensive mind who got his start as an assistant for Baylor, Florida and Oklahoma State. He took over as head coach at Southern Mississippi in 2008 and put up an impressive 34-19 overall record in four years, including a 12-2 mark in 2011. He was 8-4 (5-3 ACC) in his first season at UNC, but the team is ineligible for postseason play due to infractions that occurred before his tenure.
Why: Though Tennessee has a few NCAA issues itself, Fedora could escape the scholarship reductions that were put on UNC by the NCAA in March. He makes in the neighborhood of $2.5 million, meaning Tennessee could afford to give him a nice raise.
Why not: Leaving a program after just one season is generally not too well accepted by fans and in the coaching community. Just ask former Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin.
Others to watch: Butch Jones (head coach, Cincinnati), Bret Bielema (head coach, Wisconsin), Gary Patterson (head coach, TCU), Jim Mora Jr. (head coach, UCLA), Bob Stoops (head coach, Oklahoma)
Daniel Lewis covers Tennessee football for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @Daniel_LewisCBS.
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