Last night, it was rumored that Jon Gruden had been offered the head coaching gig at Tennessee. This is about par for the course with everyone’s favorite excitable ESPN announcer: at some point during the season, Gruden’s name is going to come up when you’re talking about high-profile job openings. But there was a unique wrinkle to this latest Gruden rumor.
According to WREG in Memphis, to sweeten the pot, Gruden was also offered a stake in the Cleveland Browns. Yes, the NFL’s Cleveland Browns.
Confused yet? WREG will clarify for you:
Part of the offer is Gruden getting a piece of the NFL’s Cleveland Browns, who were recently bought by Jim Haslam, one of UT’s biggest boosters who played on the Vols’ national championship teams in the early fifties. He’s also the father of Tennessee governor Bill Haslam.
That’s a pretty weird (but powerful) intersection of offices. You have the Volunteers’ football program, one of the most storied in the country and one that bought out its just-fired coach for $5 million. Then you have the Browns, a franchise that, despite putting out a consistently terrible on-field product, was sold to Haslam for over $1 billion. For good measure, Tennessee’s state government is thrown in there as well.
But would such a messy coagulation of power be legal? Besides setting a dangerous precedent for future negotiations with high-profile Division 1 head coaching candidates, giving a fish — even one as big as Gruden — stake in an NFL team can’t possibly fall within NCAA guidelines, can it?
Current NCAA rules would prohibit this Gruden-Browns nonsense unless the ownership stake was first donated to Tennessee.
— John Infante (@John_Infante) November 28, 2012
“Unless the ownership stake was first donated to Tennessee.” In other words: it’s technically illegal, but there’s a workaround.
The Browns, for their part, are denying the story. So too is Gruden, who did his Wednesday morning hit on Mike and Mike and found himself answering questions about the Tennessee job right off the bat. He answered the initial questions with a vehement “no,” re-iterating that he’s happy where he is (Monday Night Football) before crankily moving the conversation to the Redskins-Giants game.
Still, this isn’t the first time an employee of ESPN issued an on-air denial, only to later take the job he said he wasn’t taking. And for Tennessee fans, even though Gruden seems like a dream hire, we wouldn’t jump on the boat so quickly: remember the last time a former Raiders coach led your program? Yeah.