Former Tennessee quarterback and current Denver Broncos head coach Peyton Manning is reportedly the favorite candidate to replace Derek Dooley as head coach of the Volunteers, according to sources close to the university's athletics department.
"We wanted Jon Gruden and Charlie Strong, but this whole time we've been testing the waters with Peyton to see if he'd come back to his alma mater," said a top Tennessee booster. "He's one of the best head coaches in the NFL and he's a Volunteer legend. He's the dream hire. We'll hope he'll want the challenge of restoring his school to greatness."
Manning refused to address the Tennessee job this week to reporters.
"I only have one focus and that's beating the Oakland Raiders on Thursady," he said.
But Manning's non-denial denial did nothing to squelch the rumors, nor did his joking demeanor.
"Also, I'm not the head coach of the Denver Broncos. John Fox is," he said to uproarious laughter.
Manning coached the Indianapolis Colts to eleven seasons of 10 wins or more and has the Broncos in line for a division title this year in his first season at the helm.
"He's the best I've ever been around," said Jim Caldwell, an assistant coach under Manning in Indianapolis. "Tennessee would be lucky to get him."
Volunteers athletics director Dave Hart has reportedly made it known that Tennessee would be open to allowing Manning to continue his side job of NFL quarterback.
"He's a talented person who has shown he can handle both," said a department source. "As long as he's coaching the boys up during the week and on Saturday, he can do whatever he wants on Sundays."