Arkansas or Tennessee? Both Programs Have Upside If Jon Gruden Is Serious

Barrett SalleeSEC Football Lead WriterNovember 19, 2012

Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Jon Gruden
Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Jon GrudenAl Messerschmidt/Getty Images

The Jon Gruden sweepstakes is on.

Tennessee fired head coach Derek Dooley on Sunday, one day after his Vols got embarrassed 41-18 by Vanderbilt on Saturday night in Nashville. The move officially puts Tennessee in the coaching market, joining Kentucky and Arkansas as SEC schools looking for head coaches this offseason.

According to, former Tampa Bay Buccaneers and current ESPN NFL analyst Jon Gruden has drawn the attention of both Tennessee and Arkansas.

Arkansas fans have gone so far as to post songs on YouTube hoping to convince the Super Bowl champion head coach to come to Fayetteville.

The likelihood of "Chucky" landing in the SEC, or anywhere in college, isn't likely; and hiring a coach who hasn't been a head coach at the college level may not be the best idea anyway. But if he were to choose either of the two schools, he would be stepping into a good situation.

At Tennessee, he'd be headed to one of the most prominent SEC schools over the last decade-and-a-half and a program that is desperate to win, as proven by its dedication to upgrading its facilities.

The program has been itching for a winner ever since Lane Kiffin was announced as its head coach prior to the 2009 season. That was, ironically, the move that sent the Vol program into the current state of tumult.

Tennessee has won two SEC championships and five SEC East titles since the conference created the SEC Championship Game in 1992, but it hasn't won the conference since 1998.

Tennessee recently opened its doors on one of the most magnificent training centers in college football, which rivals—or perhaps even surpasses—some of the facilities in the NFL.

Also, Gruden would be inheriting a roster that is still relatively loaded with talent. The Vols could return four starters on their already stout offensive line, essentially their entire rushing attack, two potential NFL wide receivers and a solid foundation on defense with linebackers A.J. Johnson and Curt Maggitt.

It would take some work—particularly on defense—but turning things around on Rocky Top quickly isn't out of the question.

Arkansas has great facilities too, but it would be a little more of a challenge, mostly because the Razorbacks have been fighting for relevancy in the SEC West ever since they joined the conference in 1992.

Well, that, and the fact that the Hogs will likely be losing quarterback Tyler Wilson, leading rusher Dennis Johnson, leading receiver Cobi Hamilton, haven't been able to protect the quarterback and struggle with everything associated with defense.

But if you're to believe the report, Arkansas is willing to make its next head coach the highest-paid coach in the SEC, which is certainly reason enough to take a chance, even if you're taking over a team that is losing a lot of firepower.

Jon Gruden coaching rumors seem to be an annual occurrence in college and pro football. Is this year different? We'll see. 

But both programs have tremendous upside, and if they get into a bidding war for Gruden, it will be interesting to see which program wins out.