David Cutcliffe helped coach Tennessee football to the 1998 national championship, the program’s top achievement since its famed coach, Gen. Robert Neyland, retired in 1952.
But now that the Vols program in the midst of a prolonged coaching search, Cutcliffe isn’t planning to leave his job as Duke’s head coach to take over at Tennessee.
In a text message, Cutcliffe said he is “not interested” in the Tennessee job, which came open when the school fired Butch Jones on Nov. 12 after five seasons.
Cutcliffe, 63, has been on the road conducting home visits with Duke recruits since Sunday, the day after the Blue Devils won, 31-23, at Wake Forest to achieve bowl eligibility for the fifth time in six seasons.
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Sunday is the same day Tennessee’s search for Jones’ successor took a bizarre twist. Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano signed a memorandum of understanding to become Tennessee’s coach, but when word of his impending hire became public, Volunteers fans reacted harshly to Schiano, who was an assistant coach at Penn State while Jerry Sandusky was a defensive coordinator there, via social media and in person on campus. The two sides backed away from the deal.
Though reports surfaced on Monday that Tennessee would turn to Cutcliffe as a candidate, Cutcliffe said he is focused solely on continuing to build and maintain the Duke program he’s dramatically turned around over the last decade.
This is the third Tennessee head coaching search since Cutcliffe became Duke’s coach in 2008.
Cutcliffe worked as a Tennessee assistant coach from 1982-98 and in 2006-07. He was the offensive coordinator for the 1998 Tennessee team that went 13-0 and won the national championship. After his first head coaching stint at Mississippi, Cutcliffe returned to Tennessee as offensive coordinator for two seasons before becoming Duke’s head coach for the 2008 season.
During his 10 seasons at Duke, the Blue Devils have been bowl eligible five times In the eight seasons prior to Cutcliffe’s arrival, Duke posted just 10 total wins.
Duke won its last two regular season games this season to even its record at 6-6 and become bowl eligible. In 2012, when Cutcliffe led the Blue Devils to the Belk Bowl, Duke played in a bowl game for the first time since 1994.
Last May, Duke and Cutcliffe agreed to a contract extension through the 2020 season.
Cutcliffe’s career record as a head coach is 102-96, including 58-67 at Duke. The Blue Devils went 15-33 over his first four seasons but are 43-34 since then.