As multiple media outlets continue to mention Air Force coach Troy Calhoun as a possible candidate for the vacant head coaching job at Tennessee, Calhoun did his best to avoid the subject Wednesday night.
“I’m the coach at the Air Force Academy, and that’s it,” he said.
Calhoun looked like it, wearing a white shirt with a blue Air Force logo while taking in the men’s basketball game against BYU at Clune Arena.
Yet Calhoun’s name continues to surface in reports about the Volunteers’ vacancy.
According to espn.com, Texas defensive coordinator and head coach-in-waiting Will Muschamp is the Volunteers’ first choice to replace the departed Lane Kiffin. But the site lists Calhoun as another option. The Chattanooga Times Free Press and Knoxville News Sentinel also have mentioned Calhoun as a potential candidate.
Asked about the speculation, Air Force athletic director Hans Mueh said, “I really have no comment at all. All I know is what I’ve read on blogs.”
Tennessee is familiar with Calhoun. The school interviewed him last year, and he was the second choice behind Kiffin, who on Tuesday accepted an offer to become the head coach at USC.
Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton said Wednesday at a press conference that he hopes to have a new coach in place by the weekend as a live recruiting period begins Sunday.
“This is an absolutely critical time for our program as it relates to wrapping up recruiting and approaching signing day,” Hamilton said referring to Feb. 3, the day when recruits sign letters of intent. “We will work very diligently to bring closure to this process as quickly as possible so that we can bring the right head coach here for our student-athletes, for our university and for our fans.”
A 1989 graduate of the academy, Calhoun has led the Falcons to a 25-14 mark in three seasons. His tenure has been marked by three straight winning seasons, three straight bowl appearances and three straight top-four finishes in the Mountain West Conference, but also an 0-3 mark against archrival Navy.
Should Calhoun leave, the seemingly obvious choice to replace him would be Falcons defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter, another academy grad whose defense was one of the nation’s better units in 2009.
However, DeRuyter is considered a leading candidate for the defensive coordinator post at Texas A&M and reportedly interviewed with the Aggies on Monday. He also has been mentioned for the defensive coordinator post at Georgia and, if Calhoun went to Tennessee, DeRuyter could follow.
While Calhoun has strong ties to Air Force, academy officials have admitted they can’t come close to matching the financial package a school such as Tennessee likely would offer.
Last January, Calhoun agreed to a five-year deal that made him the highest-paid athletic department employee in academy history. The deal included a base salary of $725,000, annual benefits worth $110,000 and multiple incentive clauses. He reached one of the incentives in 2009 — receiving a bid to a non-BCS bowl game — that earned him 10 percent of his base salary.
The contract represented a hefty raise — especially by academy standards — as Calhoun made a base salary of $560,000 in 2008. Kiffin made $2 million in his first season at Tennessee.
Gazette staff writer David Ramsey contributed to this report