- Odds have been released for the next head football coach at the University of Tennessee
- Louisiana’s Billy Napier leads the field of candidates at +300, with Coastal Carolina’s Jamey Chadwell right behind him at +350
- Read below for a complete list of candidates, odds, and a look at best and worst bets
If Jeremy Pruitt’s lack of success as head coach for Tennessee wasn’t enough to turn Volunteers fans sour on him, his dismissal amid allegations that he and his staff committed numerous NCAA violations will certainly leave a bad taste in their mouth.
Now, Tennessee finds itself in the familiar position of having to find another head coach for its seemingly rudderless football program. Although there have been a number of programs making changes at head coach since the end of the season, there is still an impressive shortlist of candidates that are available to take over in Knoxville, headlined by Louisiana head coach Billy Napier.
Jamey Chadwell has also catapulted himself into the discussion of every head coaching vacancy after his third season at the helm at Coastal Carolina. The Chanticleers were ranked as high as ninth in the AP Top 25 Poll this year and finished 11-1.
Odds to Be Next Tennessee Football Head Coach
Odds as of Jan. 19th
What’s the Deal With Billy?
Napier’s name has come up as a frontrunner for just about every Power Five head coach opening this offseason, but he has held off on making a move and remains with the Ragin’ Cajuns.
Crazy that Hugh Freeze, Billy Napier and Jamey Chadwell are ALL Tennessee natives.
— Connor O’Gara (@cjogara) January 18, 2021
Most recently, Napier chose not to pursue opportunities at Auburn and South Carolina, and the state of the Vols program is a far cry from that of the Tigers, in particular. Recent reporting has suggested that Napier is happy to take his time before deciding his next move, and Louisiana was a top-25 program for most of 2020.
The Nashville Tennesseean reported on Tuesday that Pruitt was fired for cause after the school discovered an undisclosed number of NCAA violations that took place on his watch. Napier was willing to pass on better jobs that didn’t involve him having to navigate sanctions due to his predecessor, so it would be surprising for him to change course for the Tennessee position.
Chadwell appears the better pick between the two favorites, even though he signed an extension with the Chanticleers at the end of this season. His previous buyout was just under $760K, but terms of his extension were not made available, and it’s not known what the current figure is. Still, Chadwell is from east Tennessee and would be a good fit as a coach that has proven he can do more with less.
Longest Odds, Best Bet?
Former Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele had just been hired on last week, and has already been named interim head coach.
Here’s how messed up Tennessee is. Gus Malzahn is sitting there, overqualified for the job, offering exactly the kind of stability that program needs … but they just hired Kevin Steele, the guy Auburn boosters tried to replace Gus with, so that’s off the table.
— Stewart Mandel (@slmandel) January 18, 2021
An important factor to consider in Tennessee’s current situation is that Phil Fulmer will also resign as athletic director once a replacement for him is found. The likelihood of letting a lame duck AD hire the next head coach on his way out seems minimal, particularly after he missed out on top candidates to replace Butch Jones in 2017 and ended up with Pruitt.
Steele had been a candidate to take up for Gus Malzahn following his dismissal from Auburn, but headed to Knoxville when the Tigers brought on former Boise State head coach Bryan Harsin. With a search for a new athletic director and questions about what is ahead for the football program in the wake of its violations, the pitch to outside candidates is not an easy one for Tennessee.
Cincinnati head coach Luke Fickell should be a name on the top of many programs’ head coach searches, but he has made his hay in the Midwest and appears more likely to stay in the region, rather than jumping into SEC waters.
The Jaguars have parted ways with Doug Marrone as the team’s head coach.
Since 2018, the Jaguars posted the worst record and were the most penalized team in the NFL. pic.twitter.com/JcFvLPzzIF
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 4, 2021
Former Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone also seems on course to enter the Nick Saban coach rehabilitation program at Alabama. The word out of Tuscaloosa is that he is in line to take over as the Crimson Tide’s offensive line coach next season.
The idea that Tennessee would re-hire Lane Kiffin is almost comical considering how he left the program for the greener pastures of USC a decade ago. Few fanbases are as rabid as Tennessee’s, and ten years probably still isn’t long enough to heal that wound.
Hugh Freeze should be clear of the NCAA restrictions he was tagged with after his release from Ole Miss, but he probably isn’t the person to hire in the face of incoming penalties brought on by Pruitt.