KNOXVILLE – The agent of ESPN analyst Jon Gruden has dismissed as "fantasy" published reports that his client was interested in becoming the next head football coach at Tennessee.
“I haven’t said anything because there’s been nothing to say,” Bob LaMonte told the Knoxville News-Sentinel on Friday. “This, to me, is just a fantasy world.”
The Chattanooga Times Free Press published a story Friday morning indicating that a “very lucrative” offer had been made to Gruden by Tennessee, and that there was no firm deadline on when Gruden will make a decision.
But LaMonte said he had never heard from Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart until this morning, when the latter called.
“He just said there had been a lot of rumors and he just wanted to clear the air,” LaMonte told the News-Sentinel. “I said, ‘Thank you for the call. I appreciate it.’ He said thank you and that was it.”
Tennessee is not expected to release any official statement until the conclusion of the search.
Gruden last coached in the NFL in 2008 and has been employed by ESPN since 2009. His name has frequently been linked to Tennessee's opening because he began his coaching career as a graduate assistant in Knoxville in 1986 and his wife Cindy is a graduate of the University of Tennessee.
With Gruden reportedly out, the search will likely switch its focus to other candidates.
Louisville coach Charlie Strong, Miami coach Al Golden, North Carolina coach Larry Fedora, TCU coach Gary Patterson, Cincinnati coach Butch Jones, Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy, Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher, Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops and former North Carolina coach Butch Davis are among the candidates thought to be on Hart’s potential interview list.
Hart indicated on Nov. 18, the day former coach Derek Dooley was dismissed, the potential of interviewing coaches in New York City during the festivities surrounding the National Football Foundation Hall of Fame inductions this coming weekend.
All of the listed potential candidates will have completed their regular season by Saturday evening, making it possible that Hart could interview multiple candidates and have a decision by early next week.
Hart did not confirm a timeline on making the decision, but did have some comments on the process as it began on Nov. 18.
"I think a lot of in the past, a lot of hires of this nature occur sometime in the month of December,” he said. “Some (potential candidates) will continue to play into deep into the postseason. December is a critical month."
Daniel Lewis covers Tennessee football for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @Daniel_LewisCBS.