In an interview with ESPN, TCU head coach Gary Patterson spilled the beans about interviewing for the head coaching position at Tennessee back in 2008. Patterson had just completed his 8th full season as the TCU head man, amassing a 73-27 record in that time span.
According to him, that just wasn’t convincing enough for Tennessee.
"Tennessee didn't think I could handle the big stage," Patterson said. "My wife and I went to dinner with them, and I could tell they had already decided on Kiffin. It was the same with Nebraska. I interviewed and could tell they had already decided on Pelini. I think a lot of these ADs now are more interesting in hiring guys who're going to win the podium than they are in hiring football coaches, and there's a lot more to it than that if you're going to win championships."
Patterson smiled when asked whether he would have taken either the Tennessee or Nebraska job had he been offered.
"It's sort of like the old Garth Brooks song. Sometimes the best prayers are unanswered prayers," Patterson said.
Mike Hamilton and Tennessee went on to hire Lane Kiffin, as Patterson eluded to. Kiffin went 7-6 in his lone season in Knoxville before bolting for the USC job.
To be fair, at the time TCU had just moved up from Conference USA to the Mountain West. They didn’t move into the Big 12 until 2012. Still, Patterson had already taken the program to heights that they hadn’t seen since the 1930s.
It’s interesting to play the “what-if” game here. What if Patterson had been offered the job in 2009? It sure sounds like he would have taken it. I’d bet things would be a lot more stable at the very least. The Vols have gone from Kiffin to Derek Dooley and now on to Butch Jones. It’s impossible to say how Patterson would have fared, but I would have loved to have seen him try.