Tennessee Fans Speculating Team May Hire Former Rival

By Jason Hall

January 26, 2021

Penn State coach James Franklin drew the ire of Tennessee fans during his three seasons at in-state rival Vanderbilt, but some seem to be changing their tune years later.

On Monday (January 25), AtoZSports' Zach Ragan shared a screengrab showing a flight tracker of a plane reported to be owned by Tennessee alum and donor Jim Clayton flying from Knoxville, Tennessee to State College, Pennsylvania, where Penn State's campus is located.

Speculation grew that the flight was in relation to Franklin being considered for the Vols' head coaching vacancy.

Franklin led Vanderbilt to its most successful three-year run in program history, with the Commodores making bowl game appearances each year, finishing with nine wins during both of his last two seasons, and going 2-1 against Tennessee, who owns a 77-33-5 advantage all-time in the annual matchup.

Naturally, Franklin's uncharacteristic success in the rivalry, as well as his brashness to challenge Tennessee both on the field and in recruiting within the state created a mixed reaction among Volunteer fans.

It's worth noting that Tennessee has not confirmed any potential candidates since hiring Danny White as its new athletics director last week.

Former head coach Jeremy Pruitt, assistant coaches Brian Niedermeyer and Shelton Felton, and several other staff members were fired following an investigation into alleged NCAA violations committed by the football program during his tenure.

During Tuesday's (January 19) broadcast of 'The Dan Patrick Show,' host Dan Patrick said SEC sources indicated that the Tennessee coaching staff "put money into McDonald's bags and gave them to the recruits when they came on campus."

Last month, Tennessee's compliance department launched an investigation into improper recruiting practices within its football program, ESPN reports. Compliance department officials reportedly interviewed current players, recruits, assistant coaches, student volunteers and other members of the athletic department in relation to the accusations facing the football program, with interviews beginning in November.

Sources told ESPN that they weren't sure whether NCAA officials had interviewed student-athletes and coaches or whether information regarding possible violations was turned over to the NCAA at the time of the report.

Former Tennessee linebacker and veteran assistant coach Kevin Steele, who was hired as a defensive assistant earlier this month, was named acting head coach in Pruitt's absence.

Photo: Getty Images


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