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Tennessee eyes Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy

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Mike Gundy turned down Tennessee in 2012, and it appears the Vols are willing to give the Oklahoma State head coach an opportunity to do it again.

Tennessee’s coaching search appeared to have zeroed in on Gundy Tuesday afternoon, one day after reports first emerged that the Vols were pursuing the 13-year head coach of the Cowboys. Multiple reports from the Tennessee side indicated that UT athletics director John Currie was interviewing Gundy in Dallas, in an effort to persuade Gundy to leave his longtime team and move to Knoxville.

Those reports were initially met with skepticism from the Oklahoma State side. However, there has since been confirmation from media in Stillwater that Tennessee is interviewing Gundy. One report indicated that Gundy is serious about leaving Oklahoma State after 13 seasons.

It remains a long shot, however, that Tennessee’s courtship of Gundy ends differently than in 2012, when Gundy used Dave Hart’s overtures to earn himself a payraise from the Cowboys. Tennessee moved on from that rejection and hired Butch Jones from Cincinnati.

Gundy has a handsome salary in Stillwater, earning $4.2 million per year. One report out of Oklahoma indicated that Tennessee was set to double that, to $8.4 million, but that seems doubtful.

A move from Oklahoma State to Tennessee would be shocking, as Gundy is a lifelong Oklahoman. He was born in Midwest City, Okla., and played college football at Oklahoma State. Much of Gundy’s coaching career has also been spent at Oklahoma State. He began as a wide receivers coach in 1990, the year after he graduated, and has spent the entirety of his career there, with the exception of five seasons in the late 1990s. After a four-year stint as the quarterbacks and receivers coach at Maryland, Gundy returned to Oklahoma State as offensive coordinator in 2000.

Gundy was actually a finalist for the head coaching job at the time, but was named offensive coordinator after Les Miles was named the head coach. When Miles left for LSU in 2005, Gundy was immediately named his successor.

In all, the 50-year-old Gundy has spent 26 of the last 31 years at Oklahoma State in various capacities.

In his 13 seasons as a head coach, Gundy has an overall record of 113-53, including 69-42 in Big 12 play. His tenure got off to a rocky start, with a 4-7 record in 2005, followed by back-to-back 6-6 regular seasons in 2006 and 2007. But after back-to-back nine-win seasons in 2008 and 2009, he led the Cowboys to a 10-2 regular season in 2010 and an 11-1 regular season in 2011, which saw the team win the Big 12 chamionship.

Oklahoma State has had three 10-win seasons — including bowl wins — since that 2011 season, and finished 9-3 this season.

By comparison, Miles was 28-21 overall and 16-16 in conference play in four seasons as Oklahoma State’s coach. He never finished higher than third in the Big 12 South.

There is some thinking that Gundy may have viewed his career as having reached a plateau in Stillwater, and be ready to make the jump to a program that is better equipped to compete for championships.

Tennessee was set to hire Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano on Sunday, before an angry response from UT fans and state politicians forced Currie to back out of the deal. On Monday, Duke head coach David Cutcliffe — a former offensive coordinator at Tennessee — declined to speak to UT about the coaching vacancy, saying he would rather finish out his career with the Blue Devils. The Vols have also spoken with or vetted several other potential hires, including former Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin, Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele, Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt, and Purdue head coach Jeff Brohm.

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