KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Washington State coach Mike Leach told former Tennessee athletic director John Currie that he would accept the job to be the Vols football coach, according to an email from Currie to UT administrators dated Nov. 30.
“He would make an excellent choice,” Currie emailed his bosses after speaking with Leach in Los Angeles. The Cougars coach, who went 9-4 last season, was in Southern California recruiting when the parties held a confidential meeting.
Problem was, an email from Tennessee chancellor Beverly Davenport revealed that she had asked Currie “not to pursue any discussions about employment with any additional candidates” because of the confusion from earlier in the day with another candidate.
The other candidate at that time was North Carolina State coach Dave Doeren.
Currie was already on thin ice after a snafu involving the would-be hiring of Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano five days earlier.
Tennessee fans protested reports of Schiano’s hiring, and well-publicized rejections from Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy and Purdue coach Jeff Brohm led up to Doeren’s interview.
Davenport’s email (3:14 p.m. ET, Nov. 30) informed Currie that “this morning we tried for six hours to contact you about the state of the search.”
An open-records request from SEC Country exposed a telling email exchange between Currie and his supervisors on Nov. 30, when his decision to interview Leach apparently led to Currie losing his job.
Currie reached a $2.5 million separation settlement Thursday that ended a suspension with pay that dated to Dec. 1.
Currie’s Nov. 30 email to Davenport in regard to hiring Leach was in response to Davenport’s email and a text message that Davenport had sent Currie earlier that day, requesting Currie return to Knoxville.
“I have been trying to call for 45 minutes to discuss situation but I understand from the text that I have been instructed to end my visit with Coach Leach and return to Knoxville,” Current said in an email to Davenport, UT president Joe DiPietro and general counsel Matthew Scoggins at 4:55 p.m. ET on Dec. 30.
“Although I have not offered the job or discussed terms with him, he told me that he would take the job if offered … “
Currie’s email explained that a wifi outage on a Delta flight that originated in Raleigh, N.C., prevented him from communicating with the UT administrators earlier that day.
Currie penned that he was still working to get a “deal done” with Doeren:
“I had every intention of being able to communicate and that we could still get a DD deal done while I was traveling but without an immediate answer, the negative social media assaults against him and the media news of their negotiating with NCSU, I was concerned that I needed to be in position to meet with other candidate [sic] including Coach Leach, who was in LA recruiting.”
Davenport met with Currie at 9 a.m. Friday, Dec. 1, and suspended him.
Former Vols coach and first-ballot College Football Hall of Fame selection Phillip Fulmer was announced as Tennessee’s athletic director at a news conference later that day.
Six days later, Fulmer announced the hiring of current Vols coach Jeremy Pruitt.