Mike Leach departing Pullman for Knoxville, Tenn., seemed entirely possible Thursday night. But on Friday morning, Tennessee’s complicated search for a new coach took another turn, one that most likely ensures Leach is staying with Washington State.
Tennessee athletic director John Currie has been put on leave by the school just a day after he was said to have met with Leach in California to discuss the Volunteers’ coaching vacancy. ESPN reports that Currie was instructed not to broker a deal with Leach or any other candidates before returning to campus.
Former longtime Volunteers coach Phillip Fulmer was named Currie’s replacement as Tennessee’s athletic director on Friday.
Multiple reports surfaced Thursday night linking Leach to Tennessee’s head coach position, and it appeared that Currie and the Volunteers had set their sights on prying him away from the Cougars.
Newy Scruggs of the Dallas/Fort Worth NBC affiliate KXAS-TV first reported that something was in the works to bring Leach to Tennessee.
Sources tell @NBCDFWSports that former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach is working on a deal to become the next coach at Tennessee. A deal could be announced Friday. I’m working on more details.
— Newy Scruggs (@newyscruggs) December 1, 2017
The Associated Press reported that a person with direct knowledge of the meeting said Leach and Currie met to discuss the Volunteers’ coaching vacancy.
Adding some real fuel to the fire was this tweet from Bruce Feldman of FOX Sports and Sports Illustrated, who co-authored Leach’s book, “Swing Your Sword: Leading the Charge in Football and Life.”
#Tennessee coaching search update: Source tells me the meeting with Mike Leach went very well. And… stay tuned.
— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) December 1, 2017
A litany of big names have been linked to the Tennessee job since the school fired previous coach Butch Jones on Nov. 12, and while Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano nearly had the job, it remains vacant after a controversy flared up over Schiano’s potential hiring. Apparently the search had gone on too long for the school to keep Currie in his post.
After Leach’s Cougars lost to Washington in the Apple Cup last weekend, Leach told reporters he expected to be still with WSU next season.
Something worth noting is that WSU is presently searching for a new athletic director after Bill Moos left for the University of Nebraska last month. Moos hired Leach at Washington State prior to the 2012 season, and the two were known to have a good relationship.
Leach is 38-37 with the Cougars, including 26-12 over the last three years. Before WSU, he spent 10 seasons at Texas Tech, going 84-43.