Want Gruden? Get ready for sticker shock

By: Wally Hall
Published: Tuesday, November 20, 2012
Jon Gruden, who led Tampa Bay to a Super Bowl win nearly 10 years ago, is reportedly in the mix for job openings at Arkansas and Tennessee.
Photo by The Associated Press
Jon Gruden, who led Tampa Bay to a Super Bowl win nearly 10 years ago, is reportedly in the mix for job openings at Arkansas and Tennessee.

— Since being fired by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Jan. 16, 2009, Jon Gruden has been mentioned for every head football coach opening from UCLA to West Point.

Not to mention every NFL opening.

Gruden won the Super Bowl in his first year as head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2002, and even though he never won another playoff game, he has become a folk hero for college football fans as his popularity as an NFL analyst has skyrocketed. Now the latest - and this apparently was broadcast on CBS: Arkansas and Tennessee are in a bidding war for him.


He is reported to make $8 million from ESPN and $2 million from EA Sports for working part of a week nine months a year, and someone thinks he will take a cut in pay to work 365 days a year?

Yes, it is out there that Arkansas has made him an offer, a really good offer, and he has until Thursday to decide.

It is out there that his friend John Daly, the professional golfer and former Arkansas Razorbacks All-American, is trying to talk him into it.

That doesn’t mean he’s going to trade his status as ESPN’s elite NFL analyst, the guy who has surpassed even John Madden in popularity, to coach college football.

That’s like going from Air Force One to a King Air.

If he were going to downsize, it might be to the SEC, which is likely to have a shot at winning a seventh consecutive BCS championship now that Oregon and Kansas State have fallen from the ranks of the undefeated.

But schools might want to consider that 18 of Gruden’s 21 years as a coach were spent in the NFL.

He’s never really had to recruit.

He spent 1988 as passing game coordinator for Southeast Missouri, the 1989 season as wide receivers coach for University of the Pacific, and had the same job at Pittsburgh in 1991.

It took him just six years as an NFL assistant to become an NFL head coach.

He’s an NFL guy.

There is a huge difference in coaching styles in the NFL and college.

Some of college football’s greatest coaches have not made it in the NFL. Steve Spurrier, Nick Saban and Lou Holtz immediately come to mind, but the list is much longer.

The NFL is more about psychology and college football is more about relationships.

Gruden would definitely win the news conference, but it is anyone’s guess whether he would be successful on the college level since he has no experience as a head coach there.

Gruden, who is nicknamed “Chuckie” because of his resemblance to the doll by that name in the 1988 movie Child’s Play, took over a team at Tampa Bay that had been assembled by Tony Dungy, who now is also a big-time TV analyst.

Unless Jeff Long has an agreement with someone already, Tennessee’s firing of Derek Dooley on Sunday could impact Long’s search for a coach. The Vols’ athletic budget is about $10 million more per year than the Razorbacks, which would probably have to be the opening bid for Gruden.

Sports, Pages 17 on 11/20/2012