Tennessee hired former Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt in mid-December to take over for former coach Butch Jones, but new documents show that the path to get there was even more rocky that it seemed on Rocky Top.
According to text messages and emails obtained by 247Sports, former athletic director John Currie's final days on the job included overtures toward current Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy, current Washington State coach Mike Leach, former Mississippi State/current Florida coach Dan Mullen, current Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson and current NC State coach Dave Doeren.
"Have a tentative deal in place awaiting word from you/Prez," Currie wrote to chancellor Beverly Davenport, according to 247Sports. "Will be up early. Call whenever. Thank you."
It isn't clear whether Currie was referring to Schiano or Mullen at the time. But since Mullen became a target of SEC rival Florida when the Gators moved away from eventual UCLA coach Chip Kelly and was announced as its next coach on Nov. 26, it's likely that Currie was referring to Schiano.
Then, on the very same day, the infamous uprising against Schiano occurred in Knoxville., and whatever deal was in place fell apart in the midst of a social media firestorm.
That didn't sit well, and sent the administration into a wild frenzy that included a Gundy meeting with Currie in Dallas before deciding to stay with the Cowboys, Doeren staying in Raleigh and Leach as the backup (perhaps, multiple backup) plan.
Unlike the others, Leach was evidently interested.
"It was great to meet and talk to you," Leach wrote to Currie in a text message on Friday, Dec. 1, according to 247Sports, in a separate article detailing the coaching search. "You're a good man and I hope you come out of this OK and we can work together."
At that time, Currie had already been summoned back to Knoxville, and was suspended later that day. While flying back, however, Leach further expressed interest in the Tennessee job.
"Let me know if I can ever do anything for you," he wrote. "I truly wish I had gathered you up and we had the first of many beers together. I wish you and your family the best."
In the end, Tennessee wound up with Pruitt -- fresh off a two year stint that included two trips to College Football Playoff and eventually, the 2017 national title. It was a wild and crazy journey that ended with a hire that, at least so far, has provided much-needed stability to a program that was clearly in turmoil.
In addition to wild details on the coaching search, the Knoxville News Sentinel reported that Currie called Tennessee fans "wacko" in an exchange with a reporter after the Schiano backlash and that former Tennessee quarterback Joshua Dobbs questioned Currie about the validity of the Jon Gruden rumors. Just another day on Rocky Top.