Tennessee Interested in Butch Jones, Kirby Smart

By Patrick Schmidt
Matthew Emmons – US PRESSWIRE

Cincinnati head coach Butch Jones and Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart are the latest coaching candidates for Tennessee, according to ESPN’s Joe Schad.

The coaching  search for Tennessee has recently been under fire after the tean was turned down publicly by three candidates in the past few days. The school has been shooting for big names and come up empty to this point, and are now on their fourth and fifth options.

Louisville head coach Charlie Strong and Oklahoma State head coach were the latest to rebuff athletic director Dave Hart in his quest to find the replacement for Derek Dooley, that started with Jon Gruden turning down the school’s offer to leave the Monday Night Football booth.

Jones earned a share of the Big East title this past week for the second straight year, and has won 19 games over the past two seasons for the Bearcats, but could leave the program one year after signing a three-year extension.

One of the hottest coaching candidates in the country, Jones has previously drawn interest from Kentucky, Purdue and Colorado. However, he is still with Cincinnati; that said, Tennessee is a job far superior to those aforementioned jobs, and perhaps this is the one he ultimately takes.

Smart, 36, has been the Alabama defensive coordinator since 2007, and has had the Crimson Tide ranked perennially among the elite defenses in the nation under his watch–including this year, where Crimson Tide made their way to national championship for the third time in the last four years.

Auburn interviewed Smart earlier this week who, according to some reports, turned down the school’s offer. The school then hired Gus Malzahn, who was the school’s offensive coordinator in the 2010 championship season.

Would Smart leave Alabama a month before the national championship game to lead one of Alabama’s oldest rivals?

It’s an interesting question, and one we may have an answer to shortly.

If I’m Tennessee, I’m praying that Smart takes this job if it’s offered. I also have a feeling if it’s Jones to be hired, the fans will revolt and call for Hart’s firing.

Tennessee may have to turn back the clocks and bring back Phillip Fulmer, or turn to the dark side and consider Bobby Petrino if anymore candidates turn down this job.

Follow me on Twitter @PatrickASchmidt

Patrick is a diehard Chicago sports and an avid college football fan, and the host of “The Wake-up Call,” a weekly sports show on Sportstownchicago.com airing live on Wednesday mornings from 8-10. View his show’s website here.

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