Jon Gruden’s denial isn’t ending the speculation that he could become the next head football coach at the University of Tennessee.
Within a couple hours of Gruden saying that he had not been offered an ownership stake in the Cleveland Browns in exchange for coaching Tennessee, Mike Freeman of CBS reported that Gruden may meet with the Tennessee Volunteers’ athletic director later this week.
What Gruden specifically denied was a report that Browns owner Jimmy Haslam, a Tennessee graduate whose brother is the governor of Tennessee, had offered Gruden a piece of the Browns. Gruden didn’t pull a Nick Saban and say “I’m not going to be the coach of Tennessee,” not that anyone believes any coach anymore after Saban infamously lied about taking the Alabama job.
The report about Haslam’s role in the Volunteers’ coaching search is farfetched for a number of reasons, including the fact that the NCAA wouldn’t allow a booster to give a coaching candidate part of his business, and the fact that Haslam is probably too busy considering his own football team’s future to worry about his alma mater’s next coach. But that doesn’t mean there’s no truth to the many reports that the University of Tennessee would like to lure Gruden.
However, if Gruden does leave the Monday Night Football booth to return to the sideline, most indications are that it would be an NFL sideline. Gruden’s name surfacing in the college coaching carousel is likely just an appetizer before the talk of Gruden returning to the NFL heats up.