So who's next at Tennessee? This is not meant to be an exhaustive list of candidates, though it mentions most of the coaches Tennessee Athletics Director Mike Hamilton could consider, at least according to the public rumor mill so far.
WILL MUSCHAMP | Defensive coordinator and head coach in waiting, Texas Longhorns
It's a bit difficult to think of Muschamp taking the job, just because he's turned down so many opportunities (or reported opportunities) to leave Austin if he was so inclined. While he might be the front-runner in Knoxville, that doesn't necessarily mean he's going anywhere. Muschamp will be the first call Hamilton makes, but I doubt he'll be the last.
JON GRUDEN | Former head coach, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Gruden was mentioned for the Tennessee job more than once in 2008, but he turned it down to stay in Tampa. He was promptly fired after the season. But his new contract with ESPN (Heaven help us) could indicate that he's not eager to get back into coaching right now. Then again, Gruden was a graduate assistant for Tennessee to start his career.
MIKE LEACH | Former head coach, Texas Tech Red Raiders
Leach had his share of fans among the Tennessee faithful the last time their head coaching position became vacant. But there are plenty of reasons to think he won't get the job this time, including the Adam James situation and the fact that the Tennessee administration might be gun-shy about going with another ... um ... unconventional choice after how the last one turned out.
CHRIS PETERSON | Head coach, Boise St. Broncos
Peterson has been linked to almost every BCS head coaching opening from Mississippi State to Southern Cal since Boise defeated Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl, but he's never shown any interest in actually leaving Idaho to coach anywhere, much less anywhere east of the Mississippi River. A solid hire if Tennessee could get him, but I doubt they could.
GARY PATTERSON | Head coach, TCU Horned Frogs
Like Peterson, he gets mentioned for practically every major opening and never takes a job anywhere else. This year's undefeated regular season without a chance at the national title might change that, but it also might make Patterson less likely to jump; why leave a good situation for something less certain?
HOUSTON NUTT | Head coach, Mississippi Rebels
This seems about as likely as Nutt going to Kansas. Not because the jobs are equal, but why? He would change divisions but would only get away from Alabama in the standings; the Vols play the Tide every year.
BOBBY PETRINO | Head coach, Arkansas Razorbacks
Petrino, who's never shown a hesitance to change jobs, would probably be a candidate in any other situation. But I doubt Tennessee goes to a job-hopping coach when they've been put in this situation by a job-hopping coach.
KIPPY BROWN | Interim head coach, Tennessee Volunteers
He doesn't quite have the experience the Vols would be looking for in someone for the permanent position. He basically got the interim title by default.
DAVID CUTCLIFFE | Head coach, Duke Blue Devils
Phil Fulmer's best offensive coordinator, who now gets a great deal of the credit for Tennessee's solid years with Fulmer as head coach, has done a pretty good job at Duke. (He's 9-15 and went 5-7 in 2009. Again, at Duke.) But do Tennessee fans really want anything that resembles a return to the Phil Fulmer Era? If so, they could also turn to ...
JOHN CHAVIS | Defensive coordinator, LSU Tigers
Chavis downplayed the notion of moving up to the head coaching position when Fulmer was fired, so it's not clear if he's interested in being a head coach, or at least the leader at Tennessee. But Chavis' defenses were rarely anything short of solid in Knoxville, so he could get a look. But if the Vols really wanted to bring back the Fulmer days, they could ask ...
PHIL FULMER | Former head coach, Tennessee Volunteers
It's not a completely ridiculous idea. And by that, I mean, if everything else were to fall apart Tennessee might consider it. But there's a lot of bad blood left over from the end of Fulmer's first tenure in Knoxville. Part of the reason for that, remember, was two losing seasons in his last four years. That's not acceptable at Tennessee, which is why he got fired in the first place.
JIM LEAVITT | Former head coach, South Florida Bulls
At least until all of the allegations from his days in Tampa are figured out, Leavitt is too radioactive to hire anywhere. And the Vols don't have enough time to see what happens. If they run out of all other options, though ...
OTHER NAMES | Assorted
Troy Calhoun (Air Force), Randy Edsall (Connecticut), Mike Gundy (Oklahoma State). Grouped together because I'm not sure they have the cachet Tennessee is looking for. And why would you take Gundy when your last loudmouth got you in so much trouble?
TOM CABLE | Head coach, Oakland Raiders
Hey, it's where Tennessee went for its last leader. And he might be available.