Mike Bajakian Rumored to be a Candidate at Bowling Green

Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

The Vols' offensive coordinator could be moving up in the world.

Dave Clawson, the gift that keeps on giving.

Just days after taking away a lifetime of good jokes from Tennessee fans who still (and, begrudgingly, probably incorrectly) held him primarily responsible for the downfall of the program in 2008, Clawson is no longer the punchline after a MAC title, a huge upset win over Northern Illinois, and a step up the ladder to the ACC.  Wake Forest chose the Clawfense to fill its vacancy after 13 years of Jim Grobe.  And now, the joke could be on us again:  there are rumors suggesting current Vol offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian is a candidate to replace Clawson as the head man at Bowling Green.

CoachingSearch.com is reporting it this morning, which was retweeted by a number of Knoxville media.  As we painfully know, coaching searches are truth surrounded by fiction, and at this early stage it's impossible to separate one from the other, so stay tuned.

Let's say first of all that this would obviously be a step up for Bajakian, so a preemptive congratulations to him if he does land the job.  Now let's talk about the bad news.

First there's the wrinkle of what this move could do to Tennessee's recruiting class, currently ranked second in the nation.  I'm not the recruiting guy around here, but Bajakian is not the primary recruiter for the Vols and has not been the lead guy on much of UT's 2014 class, still ranked second in the nation.  Wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni is Tennessee's recruiting coordinator and the lead recruiters among the assistants have been Tommy Thigpen, Steve Stripling, Mark Elder, and Robert Gillespie according to 247's Coach Rankings.  The fact that the Vols don't have a quarterback in this loaded class would also ease the immediate impact of a potential Bajakian departure.

The real frustration here is the revolving door in Knoxville that doesn't seem to stop no matter who the head coach or athletic director is.  Here are Tennessee's coordinators going back nine years now:

  • 2005:  Randy Sanders, John Chavis
  • 2006:  David Cutcliffe, John Chavis
  • 2007:  David Cutcliffe, John Chavis
  • 2008:  Dave Clawson, John Chavis
  • 2009:  Jim Chaney (Lane Kiffin calling plays), Monte Kiffin
  • 2010:  Jim Chaney, Justin Wilcox
  • 2011:  Jim Chaney, Justin Wilcox
  • 2012:  Jim Chaney, Sal Sunseri
  • 2013:  Mike Bajakian, John Jancek
Only twice in the last nine years have the Vols had the same playcaller and the same defensive coordinator for two consecutive seasons, and it's been two and only two.  The days of long-term appointments at those positions may be gone in college football, but they're long gone in Knoxville.

Bajakian has been Butch Jones' offensive coordinator every step of the way, from Central Michigan to Cincinnati to Knoxville.  It's unfair to compare what he did in 2013 to what we saw in the recent past with Tyler Bray and three receivers who accounted for almost 500 yards in the NFL this weekend alone.  The Vols were also hampered by injuries at quarterback this fall.  Tennessee finished 95th nationally in yards per play and we are probably still a little soured by a bad performance against Vanderbilt that cost us bowl eligibility.  But Bajakian also called a brilliant game against Georgia and put Tennessee in position to win the South Carolina game, which we did.  The struggles and successes of Team 117 kind of belong to the whole with a new coaching staff and a rebuilding project underway.

So if this happens I'm sure there will be some who'll say, "Eh, I didn't like the guy anyway!", but again I think it's way too early to say something overly positive or overly negative about Bajakian.  There's clearly enough to like for Bowling Green to be interested (this is where the Dave Clawson joke used to go, because why would you have hired that guy after what he did in Knoxville in 2008, but I can't make that joke anymore and I hate it).

I think the bigger thing Tennessee needs is consistency, though again you can't fault an offensive coordinator who steps up to take a head coaching job.  Maybe Butch would promote from within if that did in fact happen, or who knows, maybe Jim Chaney is finding Fayetteville a little less to his liking than Knoxville?

If this goes down there will be plenty of time to figure out where we go next.  For now, it is unfortunately just another offseason for us around here.  Hold your breath until signing day.
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