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  • Tennessee, which has been turned downs several times already, has had a meeting with Washington State's Mike Leach about its coaching vacancy.
By Bruce Feldman
December 01, 2017

The latest twist in the wild Tennessee coaching search involves the Vols making a trip out to Los Angeles to meet with Washington State head coach Mike Leach, two sources told SI.

Word is the meeting with Leach and Tennessee AD John Currie lasted a few hours and went "very well," SI has learned. And I’m told there would be genuine interest in the Vols job from the Washington State head man. However this whole deal is complicated by the dynamic swirling around within UT’s leadership. We’ve heard from multiple sources there is a lot of in-fighting, finger-pointing and back-stabbing taking place amongst Tennessee brass. As SI reported earlier this week, there is a growing faction at Tennessee pushing to get Currie removed. Former Vols head coach Phil Fulmer is said to be one of those battling with Currie and that could muck up the process to reel in Leach.

Leach is also getting interest from Arkansas for its head coaching vacancy.

Leach, 56, is one of the most innovative and curious minds in football. His Air Raid attack is consistently one of the top offenses in college football. It would put a jolt in what has been a struggling group for much of the past decade. He’s done a remarkable job making a downtrodden Washington State team relevant again. He took over a program that had won just nine games in the previous four seasons and has won 26 games the past three years, including a 19–8 record in Pac-12 play. He had a similar impact in a decade at Texas Tech, although the Red Raiders’ program wasn’t anywhere near as down as Wazzu was.

In Leach’s last three seasons at Tech, his teams won 28 games and finished in the Top 25 all three years. However he was fired after a player made allegations of mistreatment. Leach later sued the school to try and get money he had been owed for his last year there, but the case was thrown out of court due to Texas’s sovereign immunity statute. A source told SI earlier this week that even though Currie is very intrigued with Leach, the fact that he has sued an employer before gives them pause. Leach had interviewed with the Vols once before for their head coaching job almost a decade ago when they ended up hiring Lane Kiffin.

The colorful coach is just the latest name to end up in the mix for the Vols vacancy. UT already has been turned down by Mike Gundy, David Cutcliffe, Jeff Brohm and Dave Doeren among others since it tried to hire Greg Schiano only to see that deal blown-up by a backlash from Vols fans.

Full disclosure: Bruce Feldman was Mike Leach's co-author on his book Swing Your Sword.

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