During Tennessee's fraught coaching search, Washington State head coach Mike Leach was named as a potential candidate. Based on newly released messages between Tennessee officials and former athletic director John Currie, it appears that Leach was set to take over the Vols if offered.
Currie was fired in the middle of the search. He attempted to hire Ohio State defensive coordinator, a move that was met with a wave of backlash from Vols fans.
While the outcry didn't cause his immediate dismissal, ultimately Tennessee removed him after some of his next moves. SEC Country uncovered numerous messages via a record request.
One of the most juicy tidbits is that Mike Leach told John Currie that he would take the Tennessee football job.
Washington State coach Mike Leach told former Tennessee athletic director John Currie that he would accept the job to be the Vols football coach, according to an email from Currie to UT administrators dated Nov. 30.
“He would make an excellent choice,” Currie emailed his bosses after speaking with Leach in Los Angeles. The Cougars coach, who went 9-4 last season, was in Southern California recruiting when the parties held a confidential meeting.
“Although I have not offered the job or discussed terms with him, he told me that he would take the job if offered … “
His pursuit of Leach might have also been the straw that broke the camel's back. Currie flew from Raleigh, where he spoke to NC State's Dave Doeren, to Los Angeles, where Leach was recruiting.
According to the e-mails, Tennessee chancellor Beverly Davenport told Currie that she was unable to reach him for "six hours" as he was traveling. Currier claimed that the WiFi on his plane was down.
Problem was, an email from Tennessee chancellor Beverly Davenport revealed that she had asked Currie “not to pursue any discussions about employment with any additional candidates” because of the confusion from earlier in the day with another candidate.
The other candidate at that time was North Carolina State coach Dave Doeren.
An open-records request from SEC Country exposed a telling email exchange between Currie and his supervisors on Nov. 30, when his decision to interview Leach apparently led to Currie losing his job.
Ultimately, Currie was replaced by longtime Vols head coach Phil Fulmer. He went with a much more standard operating procedure SEC hire, tabbing Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt as the next Vols coach. Leach stayed at Wazzu, where he signed a $20 million contract extension in December.
Pruitt certainly has a pedigree, knows the SEC, and is recruiting well. However, if the Vols fail to take the next step, especially on offense, this whole fiasco could leave fans wondering what might've been.